Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced Tuesday right-hander Justin Verlander will get the ball in Thursday's Game 1 and left-hander Dallas Keuchel will take the hill for Friday's Game 2 at Minute Maid Park. The Red Sox will start lefties Chris Sale in Game 1 and Drew Pomeranz in Game 2.
"It's really deciding between two really deserving, really good guys," Hinch said. "I didn't have a lot of stress about it, other than we had to pick an order. Verlander has pitched extraordinarily well since he got here and the five starts we've seen have been exceptional. Dallas has pitched very well recently, as well, and has a long history here."
Verlander, acquired in an Aug. 31 trade with the Tigers, is 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA, 43 strikeouts and five walks over 34 innings in five starts. Starting Game 1 would set him up to pitch in Game 5 if the series goes the distance, or come back on three days of rest in Game 4. Verlander has pitched on fewer than three days of rest once in his career.
"This is the playoffs," Hinch said. "It's all hands on deck."
Hinch didn't lay out the rotation beyond Game 2. Hinch also said Lance McCullers Jr. is an option out of the bullpen as the Astros mull over Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh for the final two spots in the ALDS rotation.
"Lance can help us win in whatever role we choose," Hinch said. "Collin McHugh threw well on Sunday. Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock are still in the mix."
In his final 16 starts of the regular season, Verlander went 10-3 with a 1.92 ERA, 127 strikeouts and 25 walks in 108 innings. In his first 17 starts of the season with Detroit, he was 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 47 walks in 98 innings.
Keuchel pitched well down the stretch, too, going 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his final three regular-season starts. The southpaw is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three postseason appearances (two starts), with wins over the Yankees in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game and Game 3 of the '15 ALDS against Kansas City.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.