3 keys to Astros’ quest to hoist AL pennant

HOUSTON — There’s never a shortage of good storylines or good baseball when the Astros and Red Sox get together in the playoffs, which they’ll do in the American League Championship Series beginning Friday in Houston. This will be the third postseason meeting between the two clubs since 2017.

The Astros are clicking on all cylinders and playing some of their baseball of the season, taking out the White Sox in dominating fashion in four games in the AL Division Series. All that stands in their way of a third AL pennant in the last five years are the Red Sox.

Here are three keys to how Houston can come out on top:

A healthy Lance McCullers Jr.
McCullers’ Game 4 start against the White Sox on Tuesday in the ALDS was cut short after four innings because of tightness in his elbow. There was no update on his condition Wednesday, but whether he can take the ball figures to loom large in Houston’s chances in the series.

McCullers is the Astros’ best starting pitcher and — if healthy — would be in line to start Game 3 of the ALCS at the earliest. He would then likely get the ball in Game 7, depending on how the series plays out. Lefty Framber Valdez is going to start Game 1 on Friday at Minute Maid Park.

Without McCullers, who missed the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the…

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