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MLB: Red Sox face Astros in AL title series

LOS ANGELES – The World Series champion Houston Astros launch their pursuit of another American League title on Saturday against the Red Sox in Boston in a mouthwatering clash of the two best teams in Major League Baseball.

The Astros won a club-record 103 games in the regular season – but they still couldn’t match the major league-leading 108 games won by the Red Sox.

Their astonishing 211 combined wins are just one shy of the record for a pair of post-season combatants – the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres had totalled 212 regular season wins in 1998 when they clashed for the World Series crown.

The National League Championship Series, meanwhile, features two of the hottest teams in baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The ALCS marks just the third time since the wild card round was introduced in 1995 that the top two regular season teams will meet in a league championship series.

Alex Cora, the rookie manager who guided the Red Sox march through the regular season, honed his bullish approach in Houston, where he was alongside Astros manager A.J. Hinch as bench coach last season.

The Red Sox snapped up Cora after sacking John Farrell in the wake of Boston’s AL division series loss to Houston last year – an abrupt end to the campaign that the Red Sox are surely keen to avenge.

“They have a good team,” Cora said of the current Astros after his Red Sox ousted the New York Yankees in the division series on Tuesday.