Stop me if you’ve read this before: The Astros take a first inning lead. The Red Sox come back. The starting pitchers get pulled early. There are questionable bullpen moves. But this time the game stayed close until the final out as the closers, seldom used in this ALDS, battled for dominance. The Red Sox lost the fight as the Astros scored three runs off of Boston’s Craig Kimbrel in the eighth and ninth innings to get the 5-4 series-clinching win.
CARLOS BELTRAN: There have been many fans upset by the presence of Beltran on the playoff roster. And he didn’t exactly deliver on Sunday when the Astros desperately needed base hits. But with the Astros clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth inning, Beltran connected on a Kimbrel pitch and doubled in Marwin Gonzalez for the 5-3 lead. That run became the biggest of the game after the Red Sox got the score to 5-4 with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. Beltran’s postseason stats with the Astros for 2004 and 2017 are now 22-for-51 (.431) with eight home runs, four doubles and 15 RBI.
ALEX BREGMAN: The Astros were down 3-2 in the top of the eight and Chris Sale, the Game 1 starter, was in his fifth inning of relief and was completely shutting down the Astros. Thoughts were beginning to turn to Dallas Keuchel and Game Five on Wednesday. That is, until Bregman unloaded on a pitch for a game-tying home run.
JOSH REDDICK: Reddick capped the eighth-inning rally (started by Bregman) with a single that scored Cameron Maybin (pinch running for Evan Gattis). That made the score 4-3, and the Astros would not relinquish that lead.
GEORGE SPRINGER: Springer went 3-for-4 on the game, leading off with a double, then scoring the first run on Jose Altuve’s ground out. Then Springer put the Astros up 2-1 in the second inning with an RBI single that scored Yuli Gurriel.
THE DFAs (Designated for Assignment)
RICK PORCELLO: Porcello continued the all-around suckiness of the rest of the Red Sox starting staff. Last year’s Cy Young winner looked as if he would have failed to make the Astros rotation of 2013. He managed to last three innings and gave up only two runs, but the five hits and three walks he surrendered kept the bases full of Astros for his entire stint on the mound. And once again, Kate Upton got the last laugh.
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CRAIG KIMBREL: Boston’s All Star closer entered the game in the eighth inning with the score tied at 3-3 and one Astros base runner. All that he did was to let that runner score, then give up another run in the ninth inning. By the time he left the score was at 5-3 in Houston’s favor. That ninth-inning insurance run ended up being the game-winning run when Boston got to Astros closer Ken Giles for a run in the bottom of the ninth.
JOHN FARRELL: It’s safe to say that Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t have the best of playoff series. His starting pitchers struggled in every game, and his only solution to any problem seemed to be going to David Price out of the bullpen. He was ejected from Monday’s game after arguing with the home plate umpire after he rang up Dustin Pedroia in the second inning.
A.J. HINCH: Every game that Justin Verlander has pitched in college and in the majors, he has been a starting pitcher. The Astros traded for Verlander to be the ace of the starting rotation. He started, and won, Game 1. He was in line to start Game 5 (if needed). He was supposed to start Game 1 of the ALCS. But instead Hinch panicked on Monday afternoon and used Verlander as a relief pitcher. The Astros were clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth inning. Starter Charlie Morton had gotten one out, but there was a runner on base. So Hinch inexplicably decided that this was the optimum time for Verlander’s first relief appearance in more than a decade. The result was a two-run homer that put the Red Sox in front. It may have also messed up the playoff rotation, and anchoring the playoff rotation is one of the main reasons the Astros went out and got Verlander.
The Astros do not yet know who the opponent for the ALCS will be, where the first game will be played, or what time the game will start since the Indians and Yankees series is tied at 2-2. The winner of that Game 5 on Wednesday night will then face Houston. If Cleveland wins, the Astros are heading to Cleveland for the first two games of the ALC. If the Yankees win, the Astros will host the first two games. But no matter who the opponent is, the series will start on Friday.