For us Boston sports fans…let the good times roll. Today, two of our teams will play meaningful games, while another opens up its new season. With the exception of the Red Sox playing in the World Series on the same day as an important 4:25 Pats game, or watching any of our teams compete in a championship round on practically a yearly basis for that matter, what’s better than this?
Question: would you rather see the Red Sox take Game One of the ALDS at Houston or watch the Pats bounce back in primetime against the Bucs? I know my answer. Yes, a playoff game is more important than the fifth game of a sixteen-game regular season. But I’d rather have Tom Brady throw four touchdowns in a victory over Tampa. That’s how much I love my Patriots.
Regardless, I don’t think we’re going to find ourselves in the position of watching one team win at the expense at the other…here’s a breakdown of how today will play out.
4:08 pm — Red Sox and Astros get set to do battle in the ALDS
Sure, Houston is very good. Teams like the Astros don’t just fall ass backwards into 101 wins. However, I like this matchup for the Red Sox for a couple of reasons. Reason number one: Chris Sale. I don’t care that Corey Kluber is going to win the Cy Young. Sale was the most dominant pitcher in baseball this year, as evidenced by his MLB-high 308 strikeouts. Houston may have one of the league’s best offenses, but pitching tends to reign supreme in the postseason. I like our chances simply because Sale projects to start two of the potential five games.
And speaking of pitching, let’s not overlook the bullpen disparity between these two teams. Led by Craig Kimbrel, who finished with the best ERA among American League relievers this season, the Red Sox bullpen posted the 2nd-lowest ERA in all of baseball. The Astros relief staff, in contrast, finished 14th.
The Astros may be the superior team, but it’s not automatic for the best teams to win come October. An upset, in short, may be looming.
5:00 — Sale and Verlander locked in pitcher’s duel
Did I mention that Sale will face Justin Verlander this afternoon? What a matchup. The 2011 Cy Young winner has been sensational since joining Houston (5-0, 1.06 ERA). Boston should struggle to hit him early, but fortunately Sale will keep Houston’s offense in check. Don’t expect many runs, if any, for at least the first few innings.
5:45 — Still locked in a pitcher’s duel…
We move to the sixth…
5:51 — Finally some offense!
Red Sox get to Verlander in the sixth, taking a 1-0 lead on a Mookie Betts RBI double.
6:13 — Sale works his way out of jam in 7th, preserving 1-0 lead
Houston’s deep lineup, which features All-Stars like Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa, won’t make things easy for Sale. But Boston’s ace will overcome these challenges and throw seven shutout innings.
7:03 — Kimbrel shuts the door, Red Sox take Game One 2-0
Houston’s leaky bullpen will get touched up by the Red Sox in the eighth, providing Kimbrel some insurance before shutting the door on the favored Astros.
7:08 — Puck drop at the TD Garden, commencing a new Bruins season
Fresh off the Red Sox stealing an important Game One victory, transition over to NESN and wish Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley a happy new year.
It’s tough to predict how the Bruins will fare this season. I still like Tuuka Rask in goal, but our defense is obviously not nearly as intimidating as it once was. Combined with the depth in the Eastern Conference, it’s reasonable to say we’ll miss the playoffs. However, if you think back to last season, we were evenly matched with the Ottawa Senators, who were only one overtime period away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final. Every game in our quarterfinal against the Senators was decided by one goal. It’s not like we were that far away from contending. Nonetheless, even if the Bruins return to the playoffs this season, it’s unlikely that they will top teams like the Penguins, Rangers, and Lightning.
8:25 — Patriots take field at Raymond James Stadium
Enough with all the Bruins talk: the real game to watch after the Red Sox win, of course, is Pats/Bucs.
Remember this about New England: we respond well to adversity. I said this after we lost to the Chiefs and it turned out to be correct, as we beat the Saints with ease the following week. The problem in this case, however, is that I don’t think three days of preparation will be enough to fix the multitude of problems on defense. It’s simply not enough time to right the ship. Moreover, Tampa Bay’s passing attack is above-average. If we couldn’t cover players like Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess last week, how are we going to fare against Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson? Probably not too well.
It will be important for the Pats to avoid falling behind. An early deficit could bring Tampa’s crowd alive and make things difficult for our offense. Hopefully we’ll have a similar start as our previous four games, though, as we’ve scored on every one of our opening possessions. I bet that happens again here, as the Pats score the game’s first touchdown after allowing a Tampa Bay field goal on its first drive.
9:32 — Bruins fall to Nashville in Shootout
I feel like a shootout loss on opening night will epitomize the upcoming Bruins season: close, but not quite enough. At least the good news is that after facing the defending Western Conference champs, our following six games are against four of the worst teams in the NHL last season (Colorado, Arizona, Vancouver, Buffalo) and the league’s latest expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. If the Bruins don’t start strong given this cupcake schedule, they will be in big trouble.
11:28 — Patriots seal 38-31 win with late defensive stand
In spite of our horrible defense, Tom Brady and company will take advantage of a depleted Tampa defense that will once again be without starting linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander (and potentially other key players, such as Gerald McCoy and Brent Grimes, as well). And here’s the twist ending: a late stand from the maligned defensive unit that will preserve the victory.
Here’s to another great day in Boston sports (hopefully).