To the surprise and dismay of more than a few locals, the first two games of the Astros’ division series this week against the Boston Red Sox, at Minute Maid Park, will be played in the afternoon. Game 1, on Thursday, is scheduled to start at 3:08 p.m., while game 2, on Friday, will begin at 1:05. The primetime evening slots were awarded to the other AL division series, between the Cleveland Indians and the team that wins Tuesday’s Wild Card playoff (the Minnesota Twins or the New York Yankees).
“If you’re a fan of the Red Sox or Astros and you work a typical day job, be prepared to either take off work or else wait until game 3 to see any action,” wrote blogger Craig Calcaterra of NBCSports.com today. The decision not to have the games overlap and to program the Indians’ games in the evenings was made by the MLB in consultation with FOX, the network that’s broadcasting most of the playoff games. And while we weren’t privy to whatever discussions led to the decision, it appears to have involved several predictions of varying degrees of probability: 1) the overall ratings for the two games will be higher if they don’t have to compete for viewers, (especially with CBS’s national telecast of an NFL game on Thursday night), 2) the bigger-market team (i.e., the Yankees) will win the AL Wild Card playoff, and therefore 3) a Yankees-Indians match-up would generate bigger primetime ratings nationally than Astros-Red Sox.
Obviously, any Astros fans worth their salt will find ways to see the game, schedule be damned. But unless you have a Minute Maid ticket, you’ll have to settle for watching the telecast, and even that might be tricky. Thursday's game will be broadcast on the MLB network, while Friday's with be on Fox Sports 1.*
Fans who don’t get those networks should plan on finding a sports bar that does, and ‘Stro Stories will be posting a comprehensive list of such establishments shortly. Stay tuned!
*Note: An earlier version of this article was published before a final decision had been made about which networks would broadcast the games. The above information was correct as of Monday evening.