We have an entire winter to dissect what happened in the American League Championship Series and figure out what the Astros will do with a longer offseason than they had last year. We will, no doubt, spend plenty of time grousing over the poor performance by umpires that led to disastrous moments for the Astros and left us to wonder if the fix was in.
But, for now, we focus on game five, as is so happens the final game of the season for the Astros as they fell to the Boston Red Sox 4-1, dropping four straight — three in Houston — after winning four straight games to open the playoffs.
It was an unfortunate end to a season that saw the Astros set a franchise record for wins, primarily through dominant pitching both in the starting lineup and out of the bullpen. It was a postseason that included the growing legend of playoff George Springer, one-legged Jose Altuve and the return of Mar-win Gonzales. It was also a year that had its share of controversies from the trade for closer Roberto Osuna to "sign gate" in the playoffs to the controversial calls over the last two games, calls that may have cost the Astros the series.
So, we put aside baseball until next spring, but, first let's take a look at game five's winners and losers.
Home field advantage
The home team won exactly one game in this series. Both the Astros and Red Sox were outstanding road teams during the season and that carried over into the playoffs. More importantly, the Astros struggled at Minute Maid Park all year and not much changed in the ALCS. After winning game one in Boston, the Astros lost four straight including the last three in Houston. Clearly, home field advantage is overrated.
Leadoff Alex Bregman
With Carlos Correa struggling (until Wednesday night) and Altuve hobbled with a knee injury, A.J. Hinch opted to move Bregman up to the leadoff spot hoping to keep the Red Sox from pitching around him. For whatever reason, that did not work out. Since being put first in the lineup, Bregman, one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball, went 0-9. It was a huge chess move that backfired big time.
Home run cameraman
After Gonzales hit a solo home run in the seventh, the Astros put a run on board for Josh Reddick. The lefty launched a shot towards the right field fence. Based on the camera angle, it was about to be 4-3 and Reddick just crushed an upper deck homer. In reality, the ball landed just shy of the warning track, a harmlessly loud out that landed in the glove of Mookie Betts. Gotta do better than that, camera guy.
Justin Verlander run support
Verlander was one of the best pitchers in baseball, perhaps the AL Cy Young Award winner. But, he only won 16 games in a year he probably should have won more than 20, thanks to abysmal run support. That trend continued in game five. The Astros were unable to do any damage against Red Sox pitching. They couldn't even get traffic on the base paths. Once again, they failed to support their ace and it cost them.
David Price's career in Boston
In his last appearance, Price went four-and-two-thirds innings. He got a standing ovation when he walked off the field in Fenway Park in game two. Price's playoff career has been marred by bad outings, but in game five, he was lights out going six innings and allowing no runs on only three hits with nine strikeouts.
Fans "hands up" move in the outfield
After the awful call in game four that robbed Altuve and the Astros of a two-run home run, fans didn't take any chances in game five. When Bregman launched an opposite field drive and Betts made a flying catch to prevent a home run, fans in the outfield look like they had just been ordered to surrender by police. Better safe than sorry, we guess.
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Technology vs. the Umpires
In professional tennis, a computer simulates the landing spot of the ball on challenges to whether it is in or out. The system is widely respected for its accuracy and takes the call out of the hands of officials. In baseball, that technology exists when calling balls and strikes. We see it during every broadcast. In game five, the home plate umpire blew a third strike call on J.D. Martinez from Verlander that would have ended the inning. The next pitch, Martinez drove deep into the Crawford Boxes. Technology is clearly superior to human eyes and this was more proof.
The kid who didn't throw the home run back
Any fan that catches a home run from an opponent is encouraged by others in attendance to throw it back on the field in a salty act of defiance. After Raphael Devers hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning, a young boy who caught the ball appeared on camera looking confused. He was being goaded into tossing it back. But, let's be honest, this might the only time in his entire life he gets to catch a home run ball. So, props to the young man for holding onto that souvenir. If the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, he might be able to use that ball to contribute to his college fund.