Mugged by Red Sox bats in Games 2 and 3 of the ALCS and seemingly left for dead, the Astros have not only gotten themselves off the ground. They have applied a mighty can of whoop-ass themselves to a Boston team that now faces elimination with two games remaining in Houston.
Tuesday it was the bats and bullpen that came back to life. Today it was the starting pitching. Or at least, Framber Valdez, whose eight innings of one-run pitching was more than the number of innings logged by all Astros starting pitchers in the ALCS COMBINED.
By any measure The Valdez Performance was a playoff masterpiece: Eight innings pitched, three hits, one run on a Rafael Devers homer in the seventh. He needed only 93 pitches, and in a key stat for Valdez, 62 of those pitches were strikes. He had five k’s and thirteen groundouts.
It was as good as a Verlander/Cole playoff performance, and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time. Besides putting the Astros just one game from their third World Series in five years, it gave an absolutely necessary rest to a bullpen full of arms about to fall clean off their shoulders due to overwork.
For the first five innings, this was a remarkable pitcher’s duel. Valdez was perfect through four innings. And the only hits Chris Sale allowed in his first five complete innings were two to Yordan Alvarez.
Luckily for the Astros, one of those was a homer in the second inning over the Green Monster.
Going into the sixth inning Sale was still nails, allowing only the one run on two hits with seven K’s. Then, reminiscent of the ninth inning of Game 4, the wheels fell off for Sale and the Red Sox, as the Astros again piled on with a two-out barrage.
It started with a Jose Altuve walk. Altuve advanced to third on a Michael Brantley grounder that first baseman Kyle Schwarber bobbled on the putout attempt. It appeared that Altuve would have made third without the error, as he was heading there undeterred before the error. It’s even possible that the distraction of seeing Altuve heading to third caused Schwarber to take his eye off the ball and miss the throw.
After Alex Bregman grounded out, advancing Brantley to second, it was Yordan Alvarez again.
Alvarez hit yet another line drive to left field, his third, this one a two-run double scoring Altuve and Brantley. It was only the third hit surrendered by Sale, all to Alvarez, who had all three Astros RBI up to that point in the game.
Alvarez single-handedly chased Sale, as Red Sox manager Alex Cora brought in Ryan Brasier to face Carlos Correa. Correa struck out for the second out, but after that things only got worse for Boston.
Kyle Tucker beat out an infield single, sending Alvarez to third, followed by a Yuli Gurriel double scoring Alvarez.
And then, controversial center field choice, Jose Siri, made Dusty Baker look good, looping a two-run single to right, scoring Tucker and Gurriel, making the score 6-0.
The Astros added another run in the seventh after Jose Altuve took second on a single and an errant pick-off attempt by pitcher Hansel Robles. Altuve scored on a Michael Brantley bloop single to center.
The Astros added two insurance runs in the ninth on a two-RBI single by Gurriel.
Ryne Stanek closed the game in the ninth for the Stros, getting the Sox three up and three down, extending the scoreless streak of the bullpen, and saving the golden arm of Ryan Pressly for the knockout punch coming up Friday at MMP.
See you TCBer’s then.