It was the pitcher’s duel we were promised and all expected last night. Chris Sale was almost unhittable, allowing just one Astros hit. Justin Verlander was almost as awesome, holding the Red Sox to two.
Trouble is, there were more runs last night than hits. The whole Red Sox staff held the Astros to five hits, but they also allowed ten walks, three HBP and an error for good measure.
And future Hall of Fame pitcher Justin Verlander only allowed two hits, but he walked four and had two wild pitches.
Yet, with all these base runners, the score going into the ninth inning was just 3-2 Astros.
The Astros opened the scoring in the second inning after Chris Sale loaded the bases after getting the first two batters by allowing two walks and a hit by pitch. George Springer, fast becoming a post season legend, hit a sharp single past the third baseman Eduardo Nunez to score Carlos Correa and Martin Maldonado. It was the only hit allowed by Chris Sale, but due to a high pitch count he was forced to leave the game after four innings. Here’s Springer’s RBI single.
The Red Sox would score their only runs in the fifth inning, when Justin Verlander had a near meltdown. The Red Sox opened the inning with a Steve Pearce single, and then Verlander walked three straight batters, plating Pearce. Although he got Mookie Betts to ground into a fielder’s choice in which Alex Bregman threw out the runner going home for the inning’s second out, he then threw a wild pitch allowing the Red Sox to tie the score. Andrew Benintendi would then strike out to end the inning. Between innings, Red Sox manager Alex Cora, protesting called strike three, was ejected from the game.
In the sixth the Astros bats would make Verlander the winning pitcher, again with the help of free bases distributed by the Boston pitching and defense. Alex Bregman led off with a walk, one of three he got all game on top of a HBP. Yuli Gurriel reached base on an error by third baseman Nunez, advancing Bregman to second. With two outs, Carlos Correa got a broken bat single to center which scored Bregman, with what would be the game’s winning run. Here’s the Captain’s key RBI.
But the Astros saved the best for last. All season long the Astros have been a late inning team, scoring more runs in the eighth inning than any other . In their four post-season victories in 2018, the Astros have scored 28 runs, 18 after the seventh inning. In the ninth inning, the Astros blew open a tight and tense game, exploding for four runs, and sending the Fenway Park crowd home a little early.
It started with a Josh Reddick lead-off homer, 419 feet to right center field off Brandon Workman. Workman then threw the ninth and tenth walks by the Red Sox staff to Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. Next batter, Yuli Gurriel, proceeded to slice a line drive down the right field line, just over the very short fence near the right field foul line. Hey, it counts, and what seemed like a hard fought and fiercely contested game for eight innings, became an Astros romp with one swing of the bat, and a few free passes. Here’s the Yuli blast.
Although the Red Sox gave up more than one walk per inning tonight, to a lesser degree control issues have plagued the Boston staff throughout the home stretch of the season and the early playoffs. In September, in 233 innings, the Sox have surrendered 98 walks. In the ALDS they allowed 15 walks in 36 innings.
What figured coming in to be a clear advantage for the Astros, their bullpen, proved to be so, as Ryan Pressly, Lance McCullers, and Collin McHugh followed Justin Verlander with scoreless and very impressive 7th, 8th , and 9th innings respectively, and for Pressly and McCullers, in the highest of high leverage situations. McCullers in particular shined, chewing up and spitting out likely MVP Mookie Betts on a ground out, and Andrew Benintendi and league RBI champ J.D. Martinez on strike outs swinging. Very auspicious.
Tonight’s victory was the Astros’ fifth straight post-season victory, and with their two home runs, the Astros have had home runs in 13 straight post season games. The only other team to do that? The Houston Astros, 2001-2004.
Tomorrow’s game features the Astros’ Gerrit Cole against the Red Sox’ David Price. Game time 6:09 CDT.
Box score and videos here