This was October baseball at its best.
The Astros and Red Sox traded barbs over nine pulse-quickening innings at Fenway Park this afternoon. In the end, it was the Astros who emerged victorious in the see-saw affair. Their win sealed the American League Division Series in Houston’s favor and eliminated the Red Sox from the 2017 postseason.
High drama gripped the ballpark from the first inning. George Springer smacked a sharp double on the fourth pitch of the game and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. After Josh Reddick worked a walk, game one hero Jose Altuve strode to the plate. Boston got the better of him this time, inducing a double play. Still, Springer came in to score and Astros starter Charlie Morton was staked to a quick one-run lead.
It didn’t last long, but this was a day that few leads did. Xander Bogaerts, batting second for the Red Sox, smacked a solo home run in the bottom of the first to even it up. George Springer struck again for the ‘Stros in the second, lining a single to left and putting Houston up 2-1.
Charlie Morton settled in after that, working around traffic to pitch three scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Houston had chased Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who was replaced with Boston ace and game one starter Chris Sale, pitching on short rest.
Morton ceded to Justin Verlander in the fifth inning, making the first relief appearance of his storied career. The role didn’t suit him right away—he gave up a two-run home run to Andrew Benintendi, the first batter he faced, but managed to provide 2 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
Meanwhile, Houston batters were furiously working to solve Chris Sale. They finally broke through in the eighth inning, when an Alex Bregman home run and a Josh Reddick single swung the score back in the Astros’ favor. Carlos Beltran added to the lead in the ninth, lacing a double to make the score 5-3.
Ken Giles handled the ninth for the ‘Stros, pitching in his second inning of relief. The first batter of the final frame, rookie third baseman Rafael Devers, lined an inside-the-park home run to cut Houston’s lead to one, but Giles responded with three quick outs to end the game and start the flow of champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse.
It was the first post-season series win for the Astros since 2005, when a team led by Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, and Craig Biggio overcame a 15-30 start to storm their way into the World Series. The Astros lost to the White Sox that year—Houston is still searching for its first world championship.
Tribe or Yanks?
Four measly victories stand between the Astros and the AL pennant. Game one of the American League Championship Series is scheduled for Friday, but Houston’s opponent is yet to be determined. The Cleveland Indians are in New York tussling with the Yanks tonight. Cleveland holds a 2-1 series lead and is hoping to avoid a winner-takes-all showdown in Cleveland on Wednesday. After the celebration, all Astros eyes will be on the pivotal game.
Starting Game One…
Justin Verlander tossed just 40 pitches in relief today. That could leave him fresh enough to take the mound in game one of the ALCS. Or, the ‘Stros could opt for a more conservative route and start Dallas Keuchel in game one, saving Verlander for the second contest. Stay tuned.