The Astros beat the Red Sox, 9-1, in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the American League Championship Series. Read the full game story here.
The Red Sox are now headed back to Houston for a must-win Game 6 on Friday at Minute Maid Park at 8:08 p.m., but it doesn’t look like they’ll be taking any momentum with them.
There were moments on Wednesday when it appeared it was vintage Chris Sale on the mound for the Red Sox.
After allowing a homer to Yordan Alvarez in the second, Sale got out of a jam by striking out two and inducing a groundout. In the fourth, he struck out Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker back-to-back with runners on first and third to escape.
But the luck would only last for so long, and in the sixth inning, Alvarez struck again, scoring two on an RBI double to put Houston up 3-0. Three more runs would follow, putting Boston in a hole it couldn’t climb out of.
It felt like déjà vu if you watched Tuesday night’s Game 4, when the Astros exploded for seven runs in the top of the ninth.
The Red Sox managed just three hits off Astros starter Framber Valdez. One was a solo Rafael Devers home run in the seventh, Boston’s only score of the game.
If the Red Sox win on Friday, they’ll force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Saturday at 8:08 p.m.
Here’s how the game unfolded.
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The silver lining from tonight’s loss — 8:55 p.m.
If there’s any silver lining in this, it’s that Garrett Whitlock will be rested, as will Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, and Hansel Robles.
Whitlock turned in two innings in Tuesday’s loss. Because it was a blowout tonight, Cora wasn’t forced to use any of his high-leverage relievers with the exception of Robles, who worked 2/3 of an inning.
Yet Eovaldi’s start in Game 6 is a pivotal one. All eyes will be on him after throwing 24 pitches in relief on Tuesday, too. Eovaldi is a workhorse, though, and you can expect him to try to do everything he can to get his team to a Game 7.
How hard will it be for the Sox to win two on the road? — 8:53 p.m.
It will be tough. But keep in mind, Houston lost the 2019 World Series to the Nationals after losing all four of their home games but sweeping on the road.
Furthermore, there are still questions regarding the Houston rotation. Luis Garcia — the probable Game 6 starter for the Astros — is dealing with knee discomfort. It will be important for the Red Sox to jump on him and silence what will be a loud Houston crowd.
What must Alex Cora do to motivate this group to win Friday? — 8:50 p.m.
Cora doesn’t lean much on inspiration or team meetings, believing that his players can find that inspiration within themselves.
The trust that he puts in his players is a key reason why this group responds so well in the midst of some struggles.
Now, though, their season is on the line. The deflating losses certainly is a gut punch, but you would expect Cora and his group to give their best punch back in what is now an uphill battle.
Is the Red Sox’ magic over? — 8:47 p.m.
The Red Sox bats have gone virtually silent. In their last two games, they have scored just three runs on by just eight hits. They have been outscored 18-3 in that span.
Is the magic over? No. The Red Sox have shown countless times they have a level of resolve about them. Perhaps an off day will reset this offense. The goal for the Sox will be for them to force a Game 7.
Then, anything can happen. They’ll have Nate Eovaldi on the mound against Luis Garcia.
Astros win — 8:43 p.m.
Fenway is silent.
Astros pile it on — 8:29 p.m.
Yuli Gurriel has his third straight hit, with a bases-loaded single up the middle. He scores two Astros baserunners, making it 9-1 in the top of the ninth with two outs.
What Framber Valdez’s long start means for the rest of this series — 8:15 p.m.
Houston starters accounted for just 6 ⅔ innings through their first four games this series which required the Astros’ bullpen to take on a heavy load.
The fact that Valdez went eight complete innings — relinquishing just one run on that Devers homer — is pivotal for Houston.
While Astros manager Dusty Baker didn’t let Valdez go the distance, Valdez still gave most Houston relievers a day of rest leading into Game 6 and a potential Game 7.
Eight innings for Valdez - tied for the longest playoff start of the last two years. Kershaw had an eight-inning outing last Oct. 1. Strasburg (8 1/3 IP in 2019) is the last pitcher to record an out in the ninth.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 21, 2021
Do the Sox have a chance at this point? — 7:52 p.m.
The Red Sox are staring down another convincing loss backed by yet another offensive showcase by the Astros.
Cora has elected to go to some of his low-leverage relievers — Hansel Robles, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Hirokazu Sawamura — and is clearly depending on his offense to get him back into this.
He’s also preparing for Game 6 in Houston, with the hopes of reaching a Game 7.
That was the Sox’ first run since the first inning yesterday — 7:36 p.m.
They’re still down 7-1 in the top of the eighth.
Rafael Devers finally gets the Sox on the board — 7:34 p.m.
His solo home run stayed fair as it soared into the right field bleachers. It’s Devers’s fifth home run of the postseason.
Still, no one is warming in the Astros bullpen. Framber Valdez has thrown 70 pitches through that at-bat.
October 20, 2021
With the Sox down 7-1, this has to be the saddest laundry cart ride of the season. Look at Devers's face! pic.twitter.com/5XHXjCbIOR— Katie McInerney (@k8tmac) October 20, 2021
Inside the Kyle Schwarber’s defensive woes — 7:32 p.m.
The Red Sox have paid the price defensively this series, due in large part to Kyle Schwarber’s lack of experience at first base.
When the Red Sox acquired him at the deadline, Schwarber had never played first base.
Schwarber’s error in the sixth proved costly. Then, in the seventh, the ball that got under his glove on Hansel Robles’s pickoff attempt was one Schwarber should have had (though it was ruled an error on Robles).
First baseman Bobby Dalbec hasn’t played much during this playoffs with Cora electing to go with offense over defense. Dalbec’s last start was Game 1 of the ALDS. Nevertheless, Schwarber is 0 for 3 so far this game and is batting just .150 during the playoffs.
An incredible stat — 7:27 p.m.
The Astros have scored 21 of their 29 runs in this series with two outs — an ALCS record.
This has never happened to Alex Cora — 7:17 p.m.
Cora has never lost back-to-back games in a playoff series. He was 5-0 coming into tonight.
Hansel Robles takes the mound for the Sox — 7:15 p.m.
Ryan Brasier had a quick outing.
These Astros hitters are relentless — 7:06 p.m.
The Red Sox have been outscored 14-0 since the eighth inning last night. The Astros put up another five-run inning in the sixth, three of which came with two outs.
They have scored 38 runs with two outs this postseason. It’s part of what makes them the best offense in baseball. They are relentless.
It’s now 6-0 — 7:01 p.m.
We're basically seeing a replay of the ninth-inning last night. Two-run, two-out single by Siri in a five-run sixth. The Red Sox trail, 6-0.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 20, 2021
Another for the Astros — 6:56 p.m.
Yuli Gurriel scores the Astros’ 37th run with two outs this postseason, putting Houston up 4-0.
And that’s it for Chris Sale — 6:48 p.m.
Yordan Alvarez hit another Astros runner in on the first pitch he saw from Sale in the sixth.
T6: Astros 3, Red Sox 0
Alvarez has made his mark against the Red Sox this game, driving in all three of their runs following that two-run double. But before that, a crucial walk to Jose Altuve to lead off the inning and then an error by Kyle Schwarber in the top of the sixth cost the Sox.
Sale is done. Alvarez had all three of the Astros’ hits.
Sale’s final line: 5 ⅓ innings, three hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 2 BBs, 7 Ks, 87 pitches, 55 for strikes.
Ryan Brasier is on the mound.
Bad error for Schwarber — 6:47 p.m.
Terrible error. Let’s see how this develops.
Disastrous play for the Sox: Altuve was running on the pitch, Brantley grounded to third, and Altuve motored around the bag. Schwarber wanted to make the throw across the diamond and ends up dropping the ball. Runners on the corners with no outs.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 20, 2021
That was a missed opportunity for the Sox — 6:44 p.m.
Big missed opportunity by the Red Sox in the bottom of the fifth. They are now 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, extending to last night’s contest. Hunter Renfroe continues to scuffle, grounding into a double play. Verdugo then grounded out to first to end it. That one hurt.
What will they do with Chris Sale? — 6:35 p.m.
An eight-pitch inning for Sale in that frame, which puts him at 79 on the game. Sale has completed six innings just once this year. It will be interesting to see what Cora does with Sale in the sixth.
With the way he’s pitching, you would have to imagine Cora gives a pitcher of his caliber a chance to go out there for the sixth and face the top of the order.
The Red Sox still haven’t put a ball in play 😬 — 6:25 p.m.
Framber Valdez is perfect through four innings. The Red Sox haven’t put a ball in play, and one hasn’t even left the infield. Nine ground-ball outs!
That was vintage Chris Sale — 6:21 p.m.
That was vintage Chris Sale. He buckled down after allowing a long single off the wall to Alvarez, then went with pure power in a way we haven’t seen since he came back from Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
He tossed just one slider out of the last eight pitches he threw. He struck out Correa on 96 miles per hour, then Tucker on 98. Perhaps this can get the Sox going.
Chris Sale escapes a jam and can’t hide his excitement — 6:15 p.m.
With runners on first and third, Chris Sale struck out Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker back-to-back to get out of the fourth.
Chris Sale gets out of a jam and is FIRED UP. 😤 pic.twitter.com/M5cTo1A1EQ— MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2021
Behind the numbers on Valdez — 6:03 p.m.
With the exception of his four strikeouts, all of Valdez’s outs have come on the ground. The Red Sox haven’t figured him out yet.
An interesting approach from Sale — 5:53 p.m.
Interesting tidbit: Sale only threw Altuve one fastball in that at-bat to end the top of the third.
Sale tossed him seven sliders in that nine-pitch at-bat, including five straight.
Sale is avoiding the four-seamer against Altuve. First-pitch sinker, then five straight sliders, then back to the sinker on pitch seven before a slider for the K on pitch 8. 4 strikeouts through three innings for Sale, who's at 46 pitches.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) October 20, 2021
The Sox can’t solve Valdez’s sinker — 5:45 p.m.
Valdez’s sinker is his go-to pitch, and so far the Red Sox haven’t been able to solve it or him.
He’s induced three ground outs and broken two bats on the sinker through two innings — one against Schwarber, then Devers. He plays his curveball off the sinker, and got Martinez to chase on that pitch for strike three and froze Hunter Renfroe on it, too.
What Chris Sale needs out of the Sox’ offense — 5:35 p.m.
The Red Sox have scored just two runs dating back to last night’s first inning, when Xander Bogaerts hit a two-run shot. Solo homers don’t hurt you. Sale responded well in that inning following Alvarez’s solo pop. It’s up to the offense now to pick up some slack.
Astros strike first again — 5:25 p.m.
That was not a bad pitch by Sale, just a quality swing by a powerful hitter in Yordan Alvarez. It’s his second homer of the postseason He came into today hitting .320 in the playoffs with a .480 slugging percentage.
What the Red Sox offense needs to do differently — 5:19 p.m.
The offense needs to be more effective in key moments. They were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 runners on base.
RED SOX: Hernández CF, Schwarber 1B, Bogaerts SS, Devers 3B, Martinez DH, Renfroe RF, Verdugo LF, Arroyo 2B, Vázquez C.
How Sale looked in the first — 5:17 p.m.
Sale needed nine pitches to get out of that one, topping out at 97 mph. He didn’t have his changeup in his last start, but seems as if he has it for now. He got Bregman to check-swing on his changeup before inducing a groundout.
What should we expect from Chris Sale? — 5:05 p.m.
The Sale of old is always a plus, but even before the injury, Sale was never really that good in the playoffs. He posted a 5.76 ERA prior to this year in the playoffs in seven games, four of which were starts. Sale has to just weather the storm and try to keep the game from blowing open early.
How the Astros have been against Chris Sale — 5:00 p.m.
Astros vs. Sale: Jose Altuve 8-24, Michael Brantley 8-41, Alex Bregman 1-6, Carlos Correa 4-19, Aledmys Díaz 1-3, Yuli Gurriel 3-8, Martín Maldonado 2-11
What is one good thing the Red Sox can take from last night? — 4:55 p.m.
The team used Garrett Whitlock for two innings but stayed away from Tanner Houck, who will likely be called on to eat some innings if Sale struggles.
The Sox lost their momentum. Can they recover? — 4:45 p.m.
Momentum in baseball is as good as the next day’s starter and Chris Sale hasn’t been good, so you could say momentum is on the Astros’ side — particularly with how they swung the bats in that ninth inning.
Sale lasted just 2 ⅔ innings in Game 1 and surrendered a run before manager Alex Cora pulled the plug. On the other side, the Red Sox will see Framber Valdez, who also ran into his share of trouble in his Game 1 start. Valdez went 2 ⅔ innings as well, giving up three runs.
Lineups — 4:25 p.m.
ASTROS: Altuve 2B, Brantley LF, Bregman 3B, Alvarez DH, Correa SS, Tucker RF, Gurriel 1B, Siri CF, Maldonado C.
Pitching: LHP Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14 ERA)
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)
About last night — 4:20 p.m.
Yes, the umpiring hurt the Red Sox in the Game 4 loss. But plenty of blame is on their plate, too. Chad Finn dives in.
A lucky souvenir — 4:05 p.m.
At least one person had a good time near Fenway last night. An Allston man happened to be outside the park when Xander Bogaerts launched a home run all the way over the Green Monster seats. He watched the ball ricochet around Lansdowne Street before scooping it up.
“I said, ‘some guy’s gonna get lucky,” Espinal said, before recounting precisely how that guy turned out to be him. “It hit under a gate sign across the street on Lansdowne Street and bounced all the way back. It bounced pretty high onto the back side of the Green Monster. I had one chance to catch it.”
Today’s weather report — 3:55 p.m.
It’s warming up in the Boston area as the week continues. It will be around 65 degrees at first pitch, with lows expected into the 50s later on.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack. Katie McInerney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.