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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 05, 2017 1:00 am

Astros' veteran facing Red Sox's 1st-timer

KRISTIE RIEKEN | Associated Press

ALDS

Boston vs. Houston

What: Game 1

When: 4 p.m. today

Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston

TV: MLB Network

HOUSTON – Houston manager A.J. Hinch loves that Justin Verlander, his starter for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox today, has a ton of postseason experience.

Hinch, however, is still plenty concerned about Red Sox starter Chris Sale despite this being his playoff debut.

“I don't think Sale is going to back down,” Hinch said. “I don't think he'll be spooked by not having experience.”

After eight years in the majors, Sale said that finally getting a chance to pitch in the postseason is “pretty fulfilling.” But he's trying to control his emotions.

“It's going to be hard not to, but try not to put too much emphasis on it,” he said.

The AL East champion Red Sox are in the playoffs for the second straight year. The West champion Astros return to the postseason for the second time in three years after breaking a 10-year playoff drought in 2015.

Verlander is a six-time All Star who has appeared in the playoffs five times. He is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 16 career postseason starts, but hasn't been there since 2014. He believes there is an advantage to having playoff experience.

“I definitely think there is some value in it ... just more along the lines of knowing what to expect,” he said. 

The Astros are looking for him to build on the work he's done since arriving in Houston just more than a month ago. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five starts since the deal.

Sale gets the nod after going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and topping the AL with 2141/3 innings. The left-hander led the majors with 308 strikeouts and was the first AL pitcher to fan 300 since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Red Sox manager John Farrell has no doubt that Sale will handle the pressure.

“I think the beauty inside of Chris Sale is that he focuses solely on the things that he can control ... he's done such an excellent job of that coming in with all the expectations and the highlight from the trade,” Farrell said.