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 American League (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.
“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.