Jose Altuve’s sacrifice fly drove in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Astros defeated the Red Sox, 5-4, on Friday in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Carlos Correa crushed a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to break a tie and give the Astros to a 4-3 lead.
But Kiké Hernández’s second solo homer, in the top of the ninth, drew Boston within one before Ryan Pressly retired the next three Red Sox.
The Astros lead the series, 1-0.
The Red Sox had taken a 3-1 lead in the third inning on a Kiké Hernández solo homer, a Houston error, and a Hunter Renfroe double.
The Astros tied it in the sixth on Altuve’s two-run home run.
Game 2 is Saturday at 4:20 p.m.
Below are updates and commentary posted as the game unfolded.
Red Sox down to 3 outs — 12:10 a.m.
The Red Sox are coming to bat in the top of the ninth down 5-3. Due up are Kiké Hernández, Kyle Schwarber, and Xander Bogaerts, and the Red Sox couldn’t have lined it up any better: Hernández has three hits and Schwarber has one, while Bogaerts has walked twice.
No doubt about it — 11:30 p.m.
The Astros have taken a 4-3 lead. Hansel Robles got two outs before Carlos Correa thumped a two-strike changeup to left field for his first homer of this postseason and the 18th of his career. The Sox haven’t scored since the third inning and need to get something started with six outs to go.
A parade of pitchers — 11:25 p.m.
It’s still 3-3 here in Houston. Kyle Schwarber singled to lead off the seventh but didn’t advance. The Sox now have Hansel Robles pitching. The teams have used 12 pitchers tonight with more to come.
Altuve goes deep — 11:00 p.m.
What did I tell you? Tanner Houck had a runner on with two outs in the sixth when Jose Altuve crushed a first-pitch slider to left field for a game-tying homer. You can’t leave the door open for a team like the Astros. The sellout crowd of 40,534 is roaring. It’s 3-3 as we head for the seventh inning.
Missed opportunity for Sox — 10:50 p.m.
The Sox left Alex Verdugo at third base in the sixth inning. He drew a walk off Phil Maton, Houston’s fourth pitcher, and was bunted to second by Christian Arroyo. But Christian Vázquez grounded out and Kiké Hernández struck out. That’s six runners stranded in scoring position. That’ll come back to bite you.
A snail’s pace — 10:40 p.m.
Indeed, it’s the matchup game. Josh Taylor got two outs and Ryan Brasier came in for the righthanded hitting Carlos Correa. He singled but Brasier was able to retire lefthanded hitting Kyle Tucker on a fly ball to center. Still 3-1 Sox through 5 innings. This game is crawling.
A game of matchups — 10:21 p.m.
Alex Cora is playing the bullpen matchup game. Adam Ottavino retired four righthanded hitters. Now Josh Taylor gets the fifth inning with two lefty hitters due up. He held lefties to a miniscule .381 OPS this season. The crowd is getting louder, trying to push the Astros back into the game.
Sox could have more — 10:09 p.m.
The Sox lead 3-1. Hey, good for them. But it could be a lot more. They’re 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position through four innings and have left six runners on base. Kiké Hernández doubled with two outs in the fourth before Christian Javier struck out Kyle Schwarber and Xander Bogaerts.
Hernández is 13 of 26 in the postseason. That’s a Red Sox record for six games. David Ortiz had 12 in the first six games in 2004.
Sale’s night is over — 9:52 p.m.
Chris Sale is done for the night. His line: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. 61 pitches/37 strikes.
Was he good? No. Was he better than he was in his last three starts going back to the regular season? Yes. He left with a 3-1 lead, which is what the Sox cared about. Alex Cora’s gamble wasn’t a resounding success but it did the job.
Boy, if the Sox can steal this game with Nate Eovaldi going tomorrow afternoon ...
Who would’ve thought? — 9:36 p.m.
The first starter pulled in this game is ... Framber Valdez? Yep, he allowed three runs in the third inning. After Kiké Hernández’s homer, Xander Bogaerts walked and Rafael Devers singled. J.D. Martinez grounded a ball over the mound that should have been a double play but Jose Altuve booted it. That allowed a run to score before Hunter Renfroe doubled for his first RBI of this postseason. The Sox had a chance for more but Valdez struck out Alex Verdugo and righthanded reliever Yimi Garcia struck out Christian Arroyo.
It’s 3-1 Sox.
Red Sox in front — 9:16 p.m.
Houston’s Jose Altuve misplayed a grounder and the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, then made it 3-1 when Hunter Renfroe doubled down the third base line.
Righthander Yimi García has replaced Framber Valdez on the mound for Houston.
Hernández ties it up — 9:10 p.m.
Chris Sale is through two innings thanks to Kiké Hernández.
Sale loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a wayward fastball that hit Martín Maldonado. He then picked up his pace and energy and struck out Jose Altuve on four pitches. Michael Brantley followed with a flare to center field that would have scored two runs if not for Hernández’s diving Andrew Benintendi-like catch. Sale escaped the jam but has thrown 45 pitches.
Hernández then led off the third inning with a homer to left center. Reggie Jackson is here tonight but it’s Hernández who is Mr. October.
Astros on the board — 8:38 p.m.
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Yordan Alvarez’s sacrifice fly to left field that allowed Jose Altuve to score from third. Altuve led off with a walk and advanced on a single and a wild pitch.
It was a far too eventful first inning for Chris Sale, who threw 29 pitches to five hitters and allowed a run. Good news: His fastball had better velocity, hitting 97 m.p.h. Bad news: He has trouble commanding it. A walk, a single, a wild pitch and a sac fly by lefthanded hitting Yordan Alvarez accounted for the run. Sale retired Carlos Correa on a groundout to avoid more damage. It looks like he will come back out for the second inning. Tonight is Sale’s first appearance since Oct. 8 when he lasted one inning at Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the Division Series.
Sox threaten, but no damage — 8:24 p.m.
The Sox sent six men to the plate and made Framber Valdez throw 21 pitches in the first inning. But they didn’t score as Hunter Renfroe popped to center with the bases loaded to end the inning. Valdez is facing the Red Sox for the third time this season. So far: 15.1 IP and 2 ER.
It’s game time — 8:07 p.m.
We are ready to go at Minute Maid Park. Former Red Sox and Astros outfielder Josh Reddick threw out the first pitch. He’s a character. Reddick had on a wrestling belt under his Astros jersey.
Reddick has played 13 years in the majors and appeared in 74 playoff games. Not bad for a junior college player picked in the 17th round of the draft.
Betting on Chris Sale — 7:53 p.m.
From Alex Speier:
The Red Sox are making an awfully big bet in Game 1 that the version of Chris Sale who pitched in Game 2 of the ALDS – the one who got knocked out in five innings by the Rays – won’t make a recurring appearance in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Astros. The team views the lefthander as having struggled due to faulty mechanics that have a fairly straightforward fix.
So what’s been off for him?
Sale hasn’t had a good changeup since returning from Tommy John surgery. Over his first eight starts in the big leagues from mid-August through September, he remained effective as primarily a fastball/slider pitcher.
His four-seam fastball is particularly significant. Even in outings where he had diminished velocity, Sale was able to command it to both sides of the plate – particularly important against righties – to get bad contact.
Here’s what that looked like through his Baltimore start:
In Washington, he simply lost the strike zone with ... everything after the first inning.
But Tampa Bay was different. Sale’s fastball had a very specific issue, especially against righties:
Sale was only able to throw his fastball to righties from the middle of the plate and out – working only to his arm-side, with no ability to run his fastball in on righties.
Interestingly, Sale’s release point in that Tampa Bay star was notably different from where it had been in his prior regular season start in Tampa Bay. His release point was roughly two inches further toward first base than it had been in his early September start, and he had four fewer inches of extension toward the plate.
The Red Sox believe his direction toward the plate had been off. He’s always had a cross-fire delivery, but it’s been more extreme of late, with a larger step in the direction of the first base side of the mound than usual. With inconsistency to the power of his stuff, perhaps he’s been trying to create more whip through his torso.
Regardless of the cause, the effect in Tampa Bay was disastrous. With Sale only able to work middle-away with his fastball to righties, and without a need to respect his changeup, righties could look in a very narrow area and tee off when Sale threw his fastball. (Low- to mid-90s is very different than the upper-90s where Sale lived in 2017-18.)
So, direction to the plate and staying in his delivery have been areas of emphasis for Sale in the significant work he’s done leading up to this start. It is a correctable mechanical flaw, but the question is whether Sale – who is still getting used to being back on the mound – can achieve a significant correction in a relatively short period of time.
The shape of Game 1 will be determined in large part by that effort.
Pregame scenes — 6:30 p.m.
Here are a few glimpses inside Minute Maid Park from our reporters in Houston:
Lineups — 6:17 p.m.
RED SOX: Hernández CF, Schwarber 1B, Bogaerts SS, Devers 3B, Martinez DH, Renfroe RF, Verdugo LF, Arroyo 2B, Vázquez C.
Pitching: LHP Chris Sale (5-1, 3.16 ERA)
ASTROS: Altuve 2B, Brantley DH, Bregman 3B, Alvarez LF, Correa SS, Tucker RF, Gurriel 1B, McCormick CF, Maldonado C.
Pitching: LHP Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14 ERA)
Teams submit rosters — 6:11 p.m.
Both teams had to submit their rosters for the ALCS on Friday morning. Here’s a look:
Pitchers (13): Ryan Brasier, Nate Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Martín Pérez, Nick Pivetta, Hansel Robles, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Garrett Whitlock
Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vázquez
Infielders (5): Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw
Outfielders (4): J.D. Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo
Infielder/outfielders (2): Kiké Hernández, Danny Santana
Pitchers (13): Luis Garcia, Yimi García, Kendall Graveman, Zack Greinke, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Jake Odorizzi, Ryan Pressly, Brooks Raley, Ryne Stanek, Blake Taylor, José Urquidy, Framber Valdez
Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Martín Maldonado
Infielders (5): Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Aledmys Díaz, Yuli Gurriel
Outfielders (6): Yordan Álvarez, Michael Brantley, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Jose Siri, Kyle Tucker
Who is Framber Valdez? — 5:05 p.m.
Houston’s starting pitcher, Framber Valdez, owns a 2-1 record with a 1.59 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against the Red Sox. The lefthander allowed two runs and struck out 18 in 14⅓ innings en route to going 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in two starts against the Sox this season. But in his one postseason start against them, he allowed four runs on seven hits in 4⅓ innings of a no-decision in Game 2 of the ALDS.