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ALCS Game 1 GameThread: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros

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Boston and Houston start their best-of-seven NLCS series with Chris Sale on the mound for the Red Sox against the Astros’ Framber Valdez at 8:07 PM ET from Minute Maid Park.

Division Series - Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros - Game One Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Houston Astros are in the ALCS for the fifth straight season, and the second straight year under manager Dusty Baker, who is in his 24th season as a big league skipper and is looking for his first World Series championship as a manager after he won it all once as a player in his 19-year career.

Baker and his club have a shot at making it to the Fall Classic again, after winning the 2017 World Series and losing in the series in 2019.

“Yeah, I mean, this is a great opportunity for us,” Baker said in advance of Game 1 of the ALCS matchup with the Boston Red Sox. “Especially, you know, we were there last year.”

“It didn’t have the same magnitude as it does now because, you know, baseball is almost back to being normal.

“And so we’re glad we’re opening at home. That last week of the season you just didn’t know how important that was going to be for this home field advantage.

“I know everybody was probably picking Tampa, but these guys are a very good team, a formidable team, and that’s why you play the games, you know, because a lot of the predictors are wrong. And baseball is something that’s hard to predict, but we’ve got a formidable foe coming in here. The guys know [Red Sox’ manager Alex] Cora.

“Cora knows us, and so it has the makings for a great series.”

Cora and the Sox are looking for the fifth World Series title since 2004, and their second in the manager’s time on the bench in Boston. He talked going into the ALCS matchup about facing the Astros for a third time in the postseason since 2017, with yet another trip to the World Series on the line.

“Same feeling as ‘18,” Cora said of the 2018 run which saw them beat Cleveland in the ALDS, and Houston in the ALCS, before they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Series.

“They’re a good team,” he said of the Astros. “A complete team, and our job here is to win four before they win four, you know, and we respect them. They’re very talented. What they have accomplished the last few years has been outstanding to see, but at the end of the day, you know, we have our goals, you know. And like I was saying ... the underdog and this and that and whatever. You know, at this point if you need motivation to move forward, you’re in the wrong business. It doesn’t matter what they say or he said or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Now it’s about winning four games.

“Our motivation is win four games because if you win four games, you move on to the next round.”

Who takes the first step towards the World Series tonight?