Are you kidding me?
The Astros stunned the scalding-hot Red Sox Tuesday, taking a 9-2 victory with a seven-run, ninth-inning rally off Sox emergency closer Nate Eovaldi. All the runs were scored with two outs.
Shocking. This was the night the magic ran out for boisterous Boston and suddenly this ALCS series is 2-2 with shaky Chris Sale (no good performances against winning teams in 2021, 11 outs in two postseason starts) on the mound Wednesday and two of the potential final three games at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
The muscle-flexing Sox pantsed the Astros in Games 2 and 3 of this series, taking 9-0 leads and hitting three grand slams in back-to-back routs. Boston’s ascension to the 2021 World Series felt inevitable. Houston had a problem, manager Dusty Baker was on the firing squad, and the Hardball Hub of the Universe was ready to party like it’s 2018 on the Fenway lawn.
But then baseball happened. The Astros, a staggering team with a starting rotation of meatball artists, got off the ropes and delivered a crushing blow to Greater Boston, coming back from a game-long 2-1 deficit with one run in the eighth and a jail-break eruption off Sox ace Eovaldi, who was brought on to preserve the tie. Eovaldi (four earned runs) was hurt by Hunter Renfroe’s bad read on a leadoff double by Carlos Correa, but the big blow came when backup catcher Jason Castro laced an RBI single to break the tie. (A Laz Diaz blown call on a 1-and-2 pitch changed history in this inning.)
After that, we saw an ugly demonstration of the worst version of the 2021 Red Sox. Errors. Sloppy play. Martín Pérez. Ugh.
Cora on the controversial call?
“A lot of people thought it was a strike,’’ said the Sox manager.
He also cited missed opportunities by the Sox offense, which was shut down by Houston’s bullpen.
And so now it’s a 2-2 series with the unpredictable Sale (four consecutive ineffective appearances) getting the ball in Game 5 Wednesday.
In other words, put those World Series flights to Atlanta or Los Angeles on hold. No more talk of Boston Braves vs. Boston Red Sox or a potential Mookie Bowl. Not until the Sox show us their putaway stuff.
The Fenway throng of 38,010 was buzzed and boisterous for the Game 4 coronation. The first pregame presser question to Sox skipper Alex Cora started with, “Most people in Boston after the last two Red Sox wins think the series is over . . . ‘’
True that. We all knew it was only a matter of time before the cocky BoSox put the sorry ‘Stros out of their misery. Somebody (mirror, please) wrote, “It is as if these 2021 Red Sox . . . have been selected by the baseball gods to punish the cheatin’ Astros for their 2017 crimes against hardball humanity.’’
This looked prophetic when de facto Boston captain Xander Bogaerts blasted a two-run homer off Zack Greinke to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first.
Party on. Excellent.
Then the faucets were turned off. The Sox KO’d Greinke in the second, but a parade of Houston relievers shut down the Red Sox’ heretofore awesome attack over the final 7 innings in a game that ended at 12:09 Wednesday morning. The Red Sox were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners aboard in the final eight innings.
No more Oprah Winfrey-esque " You get a grand slam! You get a grand slam! You get a grand slam!’’
No grand slams. No runs after the first. No Game 4 victory. Just a stunned Fenway Park and a 2-2 series. With the once-great Sale getting the ball for your Red Sox.
“We know where we’re at,’’ said Cora. " . . . So they have a good team. I think it was a good game until the end, right? We were one pitch away from ending that inning and it didn’t happen, and then they scored seven. We’ll be ready tommorow . . . You lose, you turn the page and be ready.’’
Game 5 will be played under a full moon. A Hunter’s Moon.
And we don’t mean Hunter Renfroe.