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There will be no shortcuts to the World Series for the Red Sox.

After upsetting the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series, the Sox will now play the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

The Astros had the second-best record in the league, winning 95 games. They then buzzed through the White Sox in four games, scoring 31 runs to advance to their fifth consecutive ALCS. The clincher was a 10-1 rout on Tuesday.

Game 1 will be Friday at Minute Maid Park.

This is familiar ground with the teams meeting in the postseason for the third time in five seasons.

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The Astros beat the Red Sox in four games in the 2017 Division Series, putting John Farrell out of a job.

Houston bench coach Alex Cora switched teams after the Astros went on to win the World Series. With Cora as manager, the Sox beat the Astros in the 2018 ALCS in five games.

Now another trip to the World Series is at stake with many of the same faces in the dugouts.

It’s also rocky ground for some of the participants.

The ‘17 Astros rigged up a system to steal signs from the catcher that Cora played a lead role in putting together. They used a camera feed from the outfield then banged on a trash can to signal the hitter what pitch was coming.

The extent of the cheating wasn’t revealed until after the 2019 season when a report by The Athletic prompted an investigation by Major League Baseball.

Even though he's now manager of the Red Sox, Alex Cora still knows a lot of Houston's players because of his time with the Astros.
Even though he's now manager of the Red Sox, Alex Cora still knows a lot of Houston's players because of his time with the Astros.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Cora, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, and Astros manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for the 2020 season then quickly fired.

Cora served his suspension and was re-hired by the Red Sox. Hinch became manager of the Tigers and Dusty Baker now manages the Astros.

The Astros took three of four from the Sox at Minute Maid Park in a series that started May 31. Cora acknowledged it was awkward for him.

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He remains close friends with Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron and has a good relationship with shortstop Carlos Correa and catcher Martín Maldonado.

Correa texted Cora congratulations when the Sox advanced on Monday.

Other friendships fractured because of the investigation. MLB gave Astros players immunity from punishment to testify and it’s clear some pinned it all on Cora or former Astros player Carlos Beltran.

This series also is notable because Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Astros general manager James Click are products of the Rays front office.

Bloom was hired by the Red Sox in October 2019. Click got his job four months later after Luhnow was shown the door.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and can race his roots back to the Rays front office, where he was colleagues with Astros GM James Click.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and can race his roots back to the Rays front office, where he was colleagues with Astros GM James Click.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

They’d prefer this just be about baseball. But, even now, the Astros are viewed with suspicion. White Sox reliever Ryan Tepera suggested this week that Houston was again illicitly stealing signs at home.

“They’ve obviously had a reputation of doing some sketchy stuff over there,” he said.

After eliminating the White Sox, the Astros threw Tepera’s comments back at him.

“We came out hungry,” Correa said.

The Astros escaped the wrath of fans last season when games were played in empty ballparks. They were frequent targets this season, especially in New York and Los Angeles. But they got through it.

“You know, I never hear them really jeering back or saying much,” Baker said. “I mean, these guys, they take that negativity and put it in a positive direction.”

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The extra day off for the Red Sox could prove important. The Sox can use Nate Eovaldi on Friday with full rest and the same would be true for Eduardo Rodriguez on Saturday.

With three days to recover after the Division Series, Cora can be aggressive with his bullpen use this weekend, knowing a day off is coming Sunday.

With the extra time off, Alex Cora can be aggressive with his bullpen at the start of the ALCS.
With the extra time off, Alex Cora can be aggressive with his bullpen at the start of the ALCS.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The Astros have some issues. Lance McCullers went four innings Tuesday before leaving the game with forearm tightness. But lefthander Framber Valdez will be fully rested and then some for Friday.

He faced the Red Sox twice during the season and allowed two runs over 14⅓ innings with 18 strikeouts.

“That was disheartening news to me when the trainer came over and said that we’ve got to take him out of the game,” Baker said of McCullers. “Lance is a warrior, and for him to come out of a game of that magnitude, it had to be something, and we tried to stop it before it got serious. He is being evaluated now.”

Cora has managed three seasons and has a championship. This is Baker’s 24th and he’s seeking his first. His only pennant came in 2002 with the Giants, who lost a seven-game World Series against the Angels.

It all should make for a compelling series, one tinged by the past as both teams try to look ahead.


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.