The Houston Astros and Red Sox series is no way near as contentious as Astros-Yankees. At least not yet. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
J.D. Martinez used to be an Astro. Now, he's one of the most feared hitters in baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Red Sox manager Alex Cora knows the Houston Astros better than almost anyone. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
The Astros are one of the most tight-knit teams in baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
The Boston Red Sox bring plenty of power bats. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Astros manager A.J. Hinch (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
David Price has pitched well against the Astros in the regular season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Gerrit Cole has turned into the playoff ace that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow envisioned. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Justin Verlander is still every bit the dominant ace many wondered if he could still be in Detroit.
Justin Verlander has gotten decidedly better since he relocated from Detroit to Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
BOSTON — Baseball fans saw the beer can whiz by Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel’s head in the bullpen, right before he took the mound at Yankee Stadium to close out Game 4. This was one of those instances of Gotham venom that couldn’t be denied.
TBS’s cameras caught it.
Most of the Houston Astros saw it, too. Many flashed back to their own experiences in a stadium that became a cauldron of hate last October. Manager A.J. Hinch’s family getting beer dumped on them in the stands. Outfielders like George Springer having unimaginably cruel and crude things shouted at them.
“I’m glad we’re not playing there again,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick says of Yankee Stadium.
To Reddick, there is a big difference between Yankees fans and Red Sox fans, a vast gulf between the Bronx Zoo and the cathedral of Fenway Park.
“Less actually,” Reddick says when I ask if he gets more things shouted at him at Fenway. “Red Sox fans just know the game of baseball.
“If you compete at a high level, they respect it.”
Reddick would know. He played the first three seasons of his career in Boston.
Things can change during the crucible of a best-of-seven American League Championship Series, but this year’s showdown for a Word Series berth figures to feature a lot less hatred than last year’s.
If last October’s ALCS was the baseball version of Khabib vs. McGreggor, this year’s is more like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, a mutual admiration society.
The 108-win Red Sox and the 103-win Astros may have been tracking each other from afar all summer, but this uber anticipated, super showdown lacks the bitterness. At least for now.
“Going to Fenway Park is a rush,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa tells PaperCity. “All that history, just stepping onto that field means something.”
Correa has a history of excelling on the big stages of Yankee Stadium and Fenway during his young career (he went a combined 13 for 25 at the two parks in 2017 when his back wasn’t tormenting him). But they’re two very different places.
If you’re dodging beer in the new Yankees Stadium in the Bronx, you’re dodging ghosts in Boston.
“You think about all the great players who’ve played in that park, all the history, and you can definitely feel it,” Reddick says.
This Astros team — the Show ‘Stros as they call themselves — love the big stage. Alex Bregman wasn’t the only Astro who noticed the defending champions were treated like a two-bit opening act by the TV executive schedule makers in round one of the playoffs.
Well, the stage doesn’t get any brighter than two straight night games at Fenway Park to open the American League Championship Series.
This is beyond prime time. It’s Fenway spectacular.
Two teams with more than 100 wins facing off (the Astros and Red Sox’s combined 211 regular season wins is tied for the second most total wins in a playoff series in the history of baseball). The Green Monster. Chris Sale, Justin Verlander. Gerrit Cole, David Price. Red Sox first-year manager Alex Cora going against the team he helped win a World Series just a year ago, taking on the young Astros stars whose psyches he helped build with his own relentless confidence.
Fenway Park’s Magic
Fenway Park is the grandest stage in all of baseball (with only minor apologies necessary for the oft-overrated Wrigley Field).
“It’s going to be a fun environment up there in Boston,” says Alex Bregman, the Astros’ new MVP contender who enjoyed every minute of his October trip to Fenway last fall.
Boston fans even faced some criticism for allegedly being too docile compared to their Yankee counterparts in the first round.
The Show Stros — the team with one of the best road records in Major League Baseball history this season — appreciate the atmosphere.
“If you can’t enjoy the playoffs and get up for stuff like this,” Astros centerfielder George Springer says. “Than you’re probably in the wrong sport.”
The Yankees and their over puffed-up fans are gone. The stakes are just as high, if not historically higher.
This is a more respectful battle. Let the civil war commence.