3 reasons why the Red Sox will need a major miracle
Shanna Lockwood / USA TODAY Sports

Thursday was an all too familiar scene for the Boston Red Sox.

Just as they did a year ago in Cleveland, the Red Sox sent their ace and Cy Young candidate to the mound, and he ended up getting shelled en route to an early-series deficit.

But if there's one difference from last season, it's that the Red Sox aren't the favorites this time around. Far from it, actually, as the Houston Astros' high-powered offense flexed its muscle in the opener and look almost impossible to beat.

While they're only down one game, it feels like the Red Sox will need a miracle to advance to the ALCS, and here's why:

Lefty lurking

After the Red Sox offense sputtered against Justin Verlander in the opener, things won't get any easier in Game 2 when Dallas Keuchel takes the mound.

Boston has struggled all year against left-handed pitching, ranking 21st in the majors in slugging (.406), 23rd in runs (168), and 29th in home runs (31) against southpaws.

With the lefty on the mound, manager John Farrell will be forced to start Hanley Ramirez at first, while keeping Mitch Moreland on the bench. Eduardo Nunez typically would start at DH, but he was ruled out for the postseason after aggravating his knee injury in Game 1. Expect to see right-handed Chris Young in the lineup, though the former lefty masher only hit .200/.310/.280 with one homer in 53 games against southpaws this season.

Pitching woes

If scoring runs wasn't a difficult enough task, run prevention may be even more of an issue.

Red Sox starters have been an absolute disaster over the past two postseasons, with Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Chris Sale combining for a 10.30 ERA.

Drew Pomeranz will take the hill in Game 2, and while he's been excellent this season - including a recent start against Houston - the lefty posted a 4.91 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 3 2/3 postseason innings out of the pen in 2016. Houston posted the majors' third-highest OPS this season against left-handed pitching and had no problems with Sale in Game 1.

After Pomeranz, the Red Sox will start Doug Fister in Game 3. The 33-year-old is the only Red Sox starter who has a postseason win on his resume, but he's also been wildly inconsistent this season. Fister posted a 9.18 ERA over his last four regular-season starts, with opponents hitting .338/.392/.549.

Astros' out-of-this-world offense

There isn't a more powerful or deeper offense in the postseason than the Astros'.

Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Brian McCann hit 7-8-9 for Houston in Game 1. That trio combined to hit 59 regular-season home runs and went 3-for-12 with four RBIs in the opener. Gonzalez's two-RBI double off Sale in the fourth was the blow that opened the game.

Houston led the majors in runs scored during the regular season, and opened the series by scoring eight off 12 hits - seven of those runs coming off Sale. Jose Altuve clubbed three homers and four players had multi-hit games.

There's not an easy out, and taking three of four games from that offense seems almost impossible. Especially when considering the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 71 percent of the time.

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3 reasons why the Red Sox will need a major miracle
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