HOUSTON — The Red Sox season ended Friday night with a 5-0 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
The Sox went down passively, losing three straight games after dominating the ‘Stros and even mocking them in a Game 3, 12-3 rout at Fenway.
The record will show that the Sox flatlined after Eduardo Rodriguez ridiculed Houston shortstop Carlos Correa (pointing at an imaginary watch — a patented Correa move that means “it’s our time”) while coming off the mound with a 9-3 lead in the sixth inning of Game 3. Alex Cora yelled at his young pitcher for poking the bear. But it was too late. Karma shifted. And so did the series.
After scoring 21 runs and hitting three grand slams in Game 2 and 3 routs, Boston was outscored, 22-1, over the final 26 innings of this series. The Sox celebrated that lone run by giving Rafael Devers a dugout ride in the laundry cart even though they were trailing, 7-1, in the seventh.
The 2021 Boston baseball season goes down as a success. We’ll remember a stretch in October when these Sox took over the town — just like in 1967, ‘75, 2004, ‘13 and ‘18. On the heels of a COVID-shortened, last-place 2020 campaign, the surprising Sons of Alex Cora spent much of the summer in first place, vaulted back into the postseason, and made a serious run at a fifth World Series in this century. They were once again a hot take from Bellows Falls to Groton.
But it’s going to sting when they look back at how close they were to the World Series. We were all sucked in. We were debating whether we’d rather see the Dodgers or the Braves at Fenway for the World Series. And then the Sox bats went cold (0 for 19 with runners in scoring position in Games 4-5-6). For three full games. They had nothing. They were two-hit in Game 6 and they hit .111 (10 for 90) in the last three games.
That was the nature of this Boston team. Sneaky good, they were up and down all year, front-runners to the finish. Nobody looked better when they had it going . . . but they could be really bad. We saw a lot of the bad over the final three games against a Houston team that the Sox crushed (9-0 leads in the early innings) in Games 2 and 3.
The Astros got off to a good start in Game 6, featuring Sister Mary Catherine from the Theology department of Shiner Catholic School in Houston for a ceremonial first pitch. There’s been a large nun presence at all the games in Houston (they call themselves the Rally Nuns) and Sister Mary Catherine said she saw Cora on the field before the game and told him, “We’re going to take you tonight.’’
The delightful Sister lobbed a perfect first-pitch strike, then pointed to an imaginary wristwatch on her left arm as she came off the field.
It’s the same gesture E-Rod used to taunt Carlos Correa when the Sox were steamrolling Houston in Game 3.
In my experience, it’s never a good sign when nuns are taunting your team.
“This is our time,’’ said Sister Mary Catherine. “We’re going to clinch tonight.’’
Houston’s rookie righty Luis Garcia — who lasted only one inning (five runs, three walks, one grand slam) in Game 2 — pitched the game of his life Friday, no-hitting the Sox for five full innings.
The Sox countered with Nate Eovaldi. Eovaldi was heroic in the 2018 championship run and the Sox won his first three starts in this postseason, including the one-game wild card against the Yankees.
Eovadi also pitched Tuesday night in Game 4 (24 pitches), coming into a 2-2 game and giving up four runs while getting only two outs.
Houston got a run in the first. Alex Bregman reached on a two-out single and scored on a long double to center by Houston’s McCovey-esque cleanup hitter, Yordan Alvarez — clearly the MVP of the series. Kiké Hernández ran down Alvarez’s clout, but it clanged off his glove, giving Houston a 1-0 lead. That’s a play Hernández would have made when the Sox were rolling.
Hernández (who else?) broke up the no-no with a two-out triple in the sixth. Houston manager Dusty Baker called for righty Phil Maton and he got an anxious Rafael Devers to pop up the first pitch. Houston made it 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, triggered by an Alvarez (who else?) triple to right.
A big moment came in the seventh when Cora emptied his bench as the Sox put runners on first and third with one out. Cora had Alex Verdugo run on a 3-and-2 pitch and Verdugo was gunned down at second after Travis Shaw fanned. It was a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out, making the Sox 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
Kyle Tucker put the exclamation on the final beatdown with a three-run, two-out homer off Adam Ottavino in the eighth.
In the immortal words of the late Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were!”
The 2021 Red Sox surprised and entertained us all year. They looked like a lock for the franchise’s fifth World Series of this century. And then it all went away.
Pitchers and catchers report in early February.