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Red Sox hope home-field ad­van­tage makes dif­fer­ence

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - SPORTS -

BOS­TON — The Red Sox hope home-field ad­van­tage makes a dif­fer­ence af­ter con­sec­u­tive di­vi­sion se­ries elim­i­na­tions.

Bos­ton be­gan the post­sea­son 0-2 on the road at Cleve­land in 2016 and again at Hous­ton last year.

By win­ning a club-record 108 games this sea­son, the Red Sox en­sured home-field ad­van­tage through the post­sea­son. They split at home against the Yan­kees last week­end, swept a pair of games in New York to ad­vance and open the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the World Se­ries cham­pion Astros on Satur­day night.

Chris Sale starts for the Red Sox and Justin Ver­lan­der for the Astros.

Sale gave up seven runs in last year’s open­ing 8-2 loss to Hous­ton, in­clud­ing two home runs by Jose Al­tuve and by Alex Breg­man. Sale made a rare relief ap­pear­ance in Game 4 at Fen­way Park, re­plac­ing Rick Por­cello to start the fourth in­ning with Bos­ton trail­ing 2-1. Af­ter An­drew Ben­in­tendi’s two-run homer put the Red Sox ahead, Sale al­lowed Breg­man’s ty­ing home run lead­ing off the eighth and a one-out sin­gle to Evan Gat­tis, who gave Hous­ton the lead for good when he scored on Josh Red­dick’s sin­gle against Craig Kim­brel.

“Go­ing through that the last two years helped,” Brock Holt said. “We’re bet­ter be­cause of what hap­pened last year.”

Bos­ton was 57-24 at Fen­way Park this year, the best home record in the ma­jor leagues, and Sale has a 1.29 ERA and .199 op­po­nents’ bat­ting aver­age in his last eight home starts.

“I think he just feeds off the crowd and he just feels more com­fort­able at home,” Red Sox short­stop Xan­der Bo­gaerts said.

Bos­ton won the AL pen­nant in four of the six times it opened the Cham­pi­onship Se­ries at Fen­way, in 1975, 1986, 2007 and 2013, the last two en route to World Se­ries ti­tles. The Red Sox failed at this stage in 1988 and 1990.

“It’s a big dif­fer­ence to be able start at home against a good team,” Holt said.

With its quirky di­men­sions

that in­clude the Green Mon­ster in left, Fen­way can be dif­fi­cult for vis­it­ing teams de­fen­sively. Mar­win Gon­za­lez has played just 24 reg­u­lar-sea­son in­nings in left field at Fen­way plus the two games last Oc­to­ber.

Af­ter beat­ing the 100-win Yan­kees, the Red Sox face the 103-vic­tory Astros. The only other year Bos­ton met a pair of teams in the post­sea­son with triple-digit reg­u­lar-sea­son wins was in 2004, when the Red Sox beat the Yan­kees (101) to be­come the first ma­jor league team to re­bound from a 3-0 post­sea­son deficit, then swept St. Louis (105) for their first ti­tle since 1918.

Red Sox man­ager Alex Cora said this year’s win over the Yan­kees pro­vides a men­tal boost, es­pe­cially af­ter the Game 2 loss at home.

“I think we grew up as a group,” he said.

Cora was Hous­ton’s bench coach last year be­fore he was hired by Bos­ton.

“Like Ver­lan­der said in spring train­ing, to get to the World Se­ries, you have to go through Hous­ton,“’ Cora said. “Here we are.”

Notes: 1B Mitch More­land, who in­jured his right ham­string in Game 2 against the Yan­kees while run­ning the bases, par­tic­i­pated in bat­ting prac­tice on Thurs­day. “He’s feel­ing bet­ter,” Cora said. “We’ve still got time to see where we’re at with him. Hope­fully he keeps get­ting bet­ter and he’ll be ready to go on Satur­day.” … 3B Ed­uardo Nunez ap­peared to in­jure him­self while mak­ing the throw to first for the fi­nal out Tues­day. “He’s OK. I think he slipped on that play, but then he was jump­ing up and down cel­e­brat­ing,” Cora said.

Elise Amen­dola / As­so­ci­ated Press

The Red Sox’s Brock Holt holds a bat at a work­out Thurs­day in Bos­ton.

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