BOSTON — We are in an era of no patience in the postseason. Pregame hype focuses on starting pitchers but managers don’t hesitate to call the bullpen in the early innings. It’s an all-hands-on-deck mentality to win every game.

Saturday night at Fenway Park might be different.

Chris Sale versus Justin Verlander.

It is Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, and both the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros expect strong starts … even if the relievers eventually may settle it.

“We both have very good bullpens and big arms on either side,” Sale said Friday at Fenway Park. “But this is more, I guess, the traditional way to play the game, and the way I like to play the game.”

Ace versus ace.

“We rely on our starters the same way they do,” said Red Sox Manager Alex Cora. “Go six innings and give us a chance to win, and then go to the bullpen.”

This is a reprise of a playoff series last year, when Houston beat Boston 3-1 in the best-of-five division series. Verlander and Sale not only started Game 1 but relieved in Game 4. Verlander was the MVP of the series with a 2-0 record. Sale was 0-2.

Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander, who first pitched in the playoffs 12 years ago, “has become a postseason poster child,” says Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was a coach with Houston last year.

“A very humbling experience,” Sale said of his postseason debut.

Verlander, 35, made his playoff debut 12 years ago with the Tigers. He is 12-6 with a 3.08 ERA in the postseason. Since 2012 he has been lights out with a 6-2 mark and 1.54 ERA (one of those losses was the 1-0 defeat to Boston in the 2013 ALCS on Mike Napoli’s home run). He has 80 strikeouts in his last 70 innings in the playoffs.

“You start looking at the numbers, and the wins and the strikeouts … he’s become a postseason poster child,” said Cora, who was with Verlander last year in Houston as the Astros’ bench coach.

“I consider him my friend. And hopefully he struggles the rest of October.”

Verlander sizzled in his one playoff start last week, holding Cleveland hitless for five innings before giving up two singles in the sixth and exiting. He struck out seven.

“I think he is a pitcher that transcends a lot of different generations,” said Houston Manager A.J. Hinch.

Verlander faced Boston once this year, allowing two runs in six innings in a non-decision.

The Red Sox are hoping to see his vulnerable side.

“This is a tough pitcher,” said Boston slugger J.D. Martinez, who was once Verlander’s teammate in Detroit. “He’s one of those guys, you’ve got to grind out at-bats and wait him out, wait for those mistakes and capitalize on them.”

Verlander enjoys it all.

“These are the biggest moments against the best teams and the brightest lights,” he said. “It’s the best time to compete.”

Sale is ready to pitch again. In the opener of last year’s series, he began by striking out George Springer, then allowed back-to-back home runs by Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve. He lasted five innings, allowing nine hits and seven runs.

He came back in Game 4, relieving in the fourth inning with Boston down 2-1. He pitched four scoreless innings as Boston moved ahead 3-2 on Andrew Benintendi’s two-run homer off Verlander (also on in relief).

But in the eighth, Sale allowed a Bregman homer and left with the bases loaded. Craig Kimbrel gave up an RBI single and Houston never lost the lead.

“Game 1 last year … wasn’t a good one for him,” Cora said. “He learned from it. And then he came here in Game 4 and he dominated (except for) one change-up that Alex hit out of the ballpark.”

This year Sale rebounded in the playoffs, winning his one start against the Yankees, then relieving in Game 4 with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

Saturday, Sale starts again, in a marquee matchup.

“We know who we’re up against,” Sale said. “He’s obviously one of the best around, and – really good in the postseason. … You just strap it on the same way and go out there, and fight until the end.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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