After a positively heart-stopping Game 4, the Red Sox have a chance to close out the American League Championship Series and send the defending World Series champs home for the winter.
It won't be easy for Boston, however, as the Astros hand the ball to Justin Verlander, who arguably has been baseball's best starting pitcher over the past two postseasons. And the Red Sox counter with David Price, who will be pitching on three days' rest because of Chris Sale's illness.
The most important thing of the day: Did we mention Price hasn't had a win as a starter in 11 postseason starts? He came within one out of getting that monkey off his back in Game 2, and while he wasn't great, he did enough to help Boston to victory. Now he has an opportunity to fully change the narrative -- and win over New Englanders far and wide -- by pitching the Red Sox into the World Series.
American League Championship Series Game 5: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros
David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA), 8:09 p.m. ET, TBS and ESPN Radio
The stakes: For the Red Sox, a chance to reach the World Series. For Price, his long-awaited first postseason win as a starter. For the Astros, the opportunity to defend their world championship. So the stakes are pretty high.
If the Astros win: It's step one of what they need to be a three-game winning streak to extend their season. It's a tall order that Houston must take one game at a time, beginning Thursday.
If the Red Sox win: They get to rest Sale and their worn-out bullpen for four days as they won't be needed until Game 1 of the World Series next Tuesday.
One key stat to know: In five career postseason starts in potential elimination games, Verlander is 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA and he has pitched an average of 7⅓ innings. He's also pitched a combined 24 scoreless frames in his last three elimination starts. So the Astros have that going for them.
The matchup that matters most: With the Red Sox patching together their pitching for Game 5, they might need some extra offense generated by the top of the order. But Boston's top two hitters, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, haven't had much luck against Verlander. Including the postseason, Betts is 2-for-20 in his career against the Astros' ace and Benintendi is 1-for-16. Benintendi's ledger includes an 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Game 1 of this series.
The prediction: The defending champs are on the brink of elimination, but the good news is they're sending Verlander to the mound and he has a 2.44 ERA the past two postseasons while holding batters to a .161 average. In other words, he has been money. And you know who hasn't been? Price. The availability of primary Red Sox relievers is uncertain. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have pitched in all four ALCS games and Craig Kimbrel threw 34 pitches in getting the final six outs of Game 4. Alex Cora might be reluctant to burn through that group unless the Red Sox find themselves with a lead in the late innings. I don't think they will. Verlander is too tough. Astros 5, Red Sox 1 -- David Schoenfield, ESPN.com