Red Sox eliminated from ALCS following 5-0 shutout loss to Astros in Game 6

The Red Sox had previously been undefeated (6-0) when playing in Game 6 of an American League Championship Series. That is no longer the case after what the Astros did to them on Friday night.

Boston fell to Houston by a final score of 5-0 at Minute Maid Park, ending their season after they dropped three straight to lose this best-of-seven ALCS four-games-to-two.

Nathan Eovaldi, three days after making an appearance as a reliever in Game 4, made his fourth and final start of the postseason for the Sox while going up against his hometown team.

Considering he was working on just two days rest, Eovaldi provided Boston with yet another solid outing as a starter. The veteran right-hander allowed just one run on five hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings of work.

The lone run the Astros got off Eovaldi came right away in their half of the first following a two-out double off the bat of Alex Bregman. A seemingly red-hot Yordan Alvarez followed by lifting a 409-foot fly ball to right-center field that Enrique Hernandez was unable to come up with cleanly.

Instead, the ball hit the heel of Hernandez’s glove and rolled away, allowing Bregman to score all the way from first base since there were already two outs in the inning.

That early 1-0 lead later proved to be all the Astros would need, as they got quite the starting pitching performance themselves from rookie right-hander Luis Garcia.

Eovaldi, on the other hand, got himself in and out of trouble in the bottom of the fourth. The righty began the frame by issuing a leadoff single to Bregman that was followed by a line-drive double from Alvarez that put runners at second and third with no outs.

On the heels of a brief mound visit from pitching coach Dave Bush, Eovaldi proceeded to fan both Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker for the first two outs of the inning before intentionally walking Yuli Gurriel.

While that may have loaded the bases for Houston, Eovaldi responded by punching out the next batter he faced in Chas McCormick to escape the jam and keep his side’s one-run deficit intact.

Alas, less than a week removed from knocking Garcia out of Game 2 in Houston after just one-plus inning, the Red Sox lineup was yet again held in check by another Astros starter on Friday.

After squandering an early scoring opportunity, it took until the top half of the sixth for the Sox to record their first hit off Garcia, which turned out to be a 394-foot two-out triple to left field off the bat of Hernandez.

Following an Astros pitching change that saw Phil Maton take over for Garcia, Hernandez was stranded at third when Rafael Devers popped out to the infield on a first-pitch fastball at the top of the strike zone.

In the bottom of the sixth, after Eovaldi and Josh Taylor combined to toss a scoreless frame the inning prior, the Astros struck against the left-hander when he could not get the left-handed hitting Alvarez out and instead yielded a leadoff triple to him.

Tanner Houck was then called upon by Red Sox manager Alex Cora to take over for Taylor, but he allowed the runner he had inherited to score after plunking Correa on the elbow and inducing a run-scoring double play off the bat of Tucker.

On Tucker’s grounder, which was hit towards first base at 83.5 mph, Kyle Schwarber corralled the ball, tagged out Correa, got the force out at first, then gunned it towards Christian Vazquez at home plate in hopes of getting Alvarez.

Alvarez, however, must have gotten a good read of the ball off Tucker’s bat, as he was able to beat Schwarber’s throw and score from third to make it a 2-0 game in favor of the Astros.

A half-inning later, with Kendall Graveman on the mound for Houston in the seventh, J.D. Martinez reached base via a one-out walk and promptly moved up to third on a hard-hit single courtesy of Alex Verdugo.

Representing the potential go-ahead run in that spot, Travis Shaw — who was pinch-hitting for Christian Arroyo — struck out swinging on a 3-2, 96 mph heater from Graveman.

At the same time, Verdugo attempted to steal second base. He was instead thrown out there by Astros backstop Martin Maldonado, thus completing the soul-crushing inning-ending double play.

Houck continued to pitch through the seventh and into the eighth after the Sox went down in order to Ryne Stanek in the top half of the inning. In the bottom half, though, the righty gave up a pair of singles to Michael Brantley and Alvarez in the process of recording the first out.

That sequence resulted in Houck getting the hook in favor of Adam Ottavino, who got Correa to ground into a force out at third base before serving up a back-breaking, 357-foot three-run home run to Tucker that landed in the Crawfish boxes in left field.

Tucker’s second homer of the series made it 5-0 Houston, and former Boston farmhand Ryan Pressly kept it that way by sitting down Hernandez, Devers, and Xander Bogaerts in order to close things out in the ninth and final inning.

All in all, the Sox went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position on Friday while leaving four runners on base as a team.

With the loss, the Red Sox’ surprising and resurgent 2021 campaign has come to a close as they finish the year as the runners-up in the American League behind the Astros.

For what it’s worth, Alvarez was named ALCS MVP after hitting a sizzling .522/.538/.870 with three doubles, one triple, one home run, six RBI, seven runs scored, two walks, and five strikeouts across six games (26 plate appearances) in this series.

Backed by Alvarez’s strong showing at the plate, the Astros have punched their ticket to the World Series for the third time in the last five seasons. They will either play the Braves or Dodgers in the upcoming Fall Classic, which is slated to begin next Tuesday, October 26.

(Picture of Carlos Correa: Alex Verdugo: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Hirokazu Sawamura ‘good to go’ for remainder of ALCS despite experiencing right hamstring discomfort earlier this week

UPDATE: Sawamura is ‘good to go’ after there was some concern regarding his right hamstring, Cora told MLB.com’s Ian Browne.

Original Story: Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura is currently dealing with a right hamstring injury that could result in him being replaced on Boston’s American League Championship Series roster, manager Alex Cora said prior to Game 6 on Friday.

When speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) during his pregame media availability, Cora indicated that Sawamura would throw on the field at Minute Maid Park before the club decides if a roster move is necessary.

After not being named to Boston’s Wild Card Game or division series squads, Sawamura was added to the Sox’ 26-man ALCS roster last week as he essentially replaced fellow right-hander Matt Barnes.

The 33-year-old hurler out of Japan has appeared in three of the five games the Red Sox have played against the Astros thus far, posting a 4.50 ERA and 5.67 FIP to go along with two strikeouts, two walks, and one hit batsman over two total innings of work.

During the regular season, Sawamura missed time on the injured list on two separate occasions due to right triceps inflammation in late July and a bout with COVID-19 that began towards the end of August and lasted through mid-September.

Should Sawamura be deemed unable to pitch for the remainder of this series, right-handers such as Barnes and the recently-activated Phillips Valdez could emerge as candidates to replace him.

On the flip side of that, left-hander Austin Davis — who was on the Wild Card and division series rosters but left off the ALCS roster — represents another possible fill-in option.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lineup vs. Astros: Hunter Renfroe drops down to eighth as Boston look to force Game 7 in ALCS

As he alluded to before heading to Houston on Thursday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has not made any drastic changes to his starting lineup for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Friday night.

Besides swapping Christian Vazquez for Kevin Plawecki, the most significant difference between Cora’s lineup for Game 5 and lineup for Game 6 would be Hunter Renfroe dropping down in the batting order.

Renfroe, who has primarily batted fifth, sixth, or seventh throughout the postseason for Boston, will be hitting out of the eight-hole ahead of Plawecki on Friday.

After posting a .741 OPS in 23 plate appearances between the Wild Card and division series rounds, the 29-year-old right fielder has collected just one hit (a double) over five games and 18 trips to the plate so far in this ALCS.

During the regular season, Renfroe hit eighth on 15 separate occasions — 13 of which were starts — for the Sox and slashed an impressive .327/.358/.551 to go along with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI, and nine runs scored across 53 plate appearances.

By moving Renfroe down to the eight-hole, designated hitter J.D. Martinez will be batting fifth for the third time in this best-of-seven series. He will be followed by left fielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Christian Arroyo, and Plawecki.

Plawecki, of course, will be catching Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi, as he has done for all three of the right-hander’s starts in these playoffs, including Game 2 against Houston at Minute Maid Park this past Saturday.

As was the case then, Eovaldi will be opposed by fellow righty Luis Garcia come Friday night. Garcia, a rookie, lasted just a little more than an inning in Game 2 due to a right knee strain but has since been cleared to return to the mound on normal rest.

The Red Sox will be looking to be stave off elimination on Friday and force a Game 7 against the Astros on Saturday, as Houston currently leads this series three-games-to-two after taking two out of three from Boston at Fenway Park.

With that being said, first pitch for Game 6 from Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox designate Franchy Cordero for assignment, reinstate Phillips Valdez from COVID-19 related injured list

Even on a travel day, the Red Sox still made some headlines on Thursday by reinstating right-hander Phillips Valdez from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In order to make room on their 40-man roster for Valdez, outfielder Franchy Cordero was designated for assignment, the club announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Valdez had been out on the COVID-19 related injured list since testing positive for the virus while the Red Sox were in Chicago on September 12. It took more than two weeks for him to get cleared to return to action, but he was eventually sent out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester on Sept. 29.

In two relief appearances for the WooSox, the 29-year-old hurler allowed one earned run on zero hits, six walks, and two strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings of work.

At the moment, it’s unclear if Valdez — who turns 30 next month — can be added to Boston’s American League Championship Series roster since that would require someone else to be taken off. He would be eligible for the World Series if the Red Sox were to advance, though.

With Valdez being activated from the COVID-related IL, the Red Sox needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, and they did so by designating Cordero for assignment.

Cordero, one of five players the Sox acquired in the three-team trade with the Royals and Mets that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City in February, initially began the 2021 campaign by making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training.

The 27-year-old got his season off to a slow start, however, as he hit just .179/.228/.274 with six doubles, one home run, nine RBI, nine runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and 37 strikeouts through his first 34 games (102 plate appearances) with the Red Sox before getting optioned to Worcester for the first time on May 27.

While he enjoyed moderate success with the WooSox, the left-handed hitting Cordero could never really find his footing at the major-league level even after the Red Sox tried him as a first baseman to get him more playing time.

From the time he was recalled from Worcester again shortly after the All-Star break, Cordero appeared in a total of 14 games for the Red Sox and spent nearly the entirety of his September at Triple-A.

Despite having one minor-league option remaining and being under team control through 2023, Cordero must have been viewed by the Sox as expandable for them to remove him from their 40-man roster.

Along with Cordero, Boston acquired right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and three players to be named later from Kansas City and New York on Feb. 10.

Less than four months later, the trade was completed when the Red Sox acquired pitching prospects Grant Gambrell and Luis De La Rosa from the Royals and outfield prospect Freddy Valdez from the Mets in early June.

By designating Cordero for assignment, the Sox have exposed the Dominican-born outfielder to waivers. If he goes unclaimed over the next seven days, Boston could then retain his services by outrighting him to Worcester.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs catching fire in Arizona Fall League

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs may only be a few weeks removed from an overall tough season with Triple-A Worcester this year, but the young middle infielder has certainly gotten off to a hot start in the Arizona Fall League.

Playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside other Red Sox, Indians, Twins, Giants, and Rays prospects, Downs went 2-for-4 with a home run, an RBI, two runs scored, one walk, and one strikeout as part of an 11-9 loss to the Mesa Solar Sox at Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Batting out of the two-hole behind Rays prospect Matt Dyer and ahead of Twins prospect Matt Wallner, Downs began his day by crushing a solo shot off Marlins prospect Evan Fitterer with one out in the bottom of the first inning, marking the third straight game in which he has homered.

The 23-year-old, who was playing shortstop on Wednesday (and can also play second base), later drew an eight-pitch walk with no outs in the third inning, struck out on four pitches in the fifth inning, flew out to center field for the final out of the seventh inning, and led off the ninth inning with a single before scoring on a passed ball to wrap up what was a productive afternoon at the plate and on the base paths.

Since the 2021 Arizona Fall League season began on October 13, Downs has appeared in four games for the Scorpions and — following Wednesday’s strong performance — is currently slashing .357/.550/1.000 with three home runs, six RBI, five runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and three strikeouts over 20 trips to the plate.

One of three players (two prospects) the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February, Downs finally got his first taste of Triple-A action this year after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the hole, the 2021 campaign was not a particularly encouraging one for Downs. While he was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game in Denver over the summer, the right-handed hitter overall struggled to the tune of a .190/.272/.333 (62 wRC+) across 99 games and 405 plate appearances with the WooSox.

That being said, Downs was at least able to salvage his season towards the end, and it came right around the same time fellow top Sox Prospect and Miami-area native Triston Casas earned a promotion to Worcester in late September.

From Sept. 17 until the Triple-A season came to a close on October 3, Downs hit an impressive .355/.400/.581 (158 wRC+) with one double, two homers, seven RBI, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and eight strikeouts over his final nine games (35 plate appearances) of the year. Casas was promoted from Double-A Portland right in the middle of that stretch on Sept. 22.

Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks three spots behind Casas, who is also playing for the Scorpions with five other Red Sox prospects in left-hander Brendan Cellucci, right-handers Andrew Politi, Connor Seabold, and Josh Winckowski, catcher Kole Cottam, and infielder Christian Koss.

Connor Wong is also listed on Scottsdale’s roster, but the catching prospect is currently with the Red Sox as part of their taxi squad for their American League Championship Series clash with the Astros.

Going back to Downs, the 5-foot-11, 193 pounder out of Colombia can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this winter if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by the November 2020 deadline.

When speaking with The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan recently, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham relayed that Downs wanted to play in the Arizona this fall even after a long and full season with Worcester.

Abraham also indicated that the Sox view Downs “as an up-the-middle, impact player” who is capable of driving the baseball while playing sound defense and running the bases.

“He’s an all-around player,” Abraham said, “and that’s really exciting for us.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Norm Hall / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ offensive struggles continue in 9-1 blowout loss to Astros in Game 5 of ALCS

Momentum can be a fickle thing, particularly when it comes to postseason baseball.

Two days ago, it appeared as though the Red Sox had all the momentum after taking a two-games-to-one lead over the Astros in the American League Championship Series.

Less than 48 hours later, it is the Astros who now have all the momentum after they took their second straight game from the Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

Boston fell to Houston by a final score of 9-1 in Game 5, which puts them in a three-games-to-two hole as this ALCS heads back to Houston.

Playing at Fenway Park for possibly the last time this year, the Red Sox got what they needed out of Chris Sale, though the left-hander’s final line may not reflect that.

Sale, making his third start of the postseason, allowed four runs — only two of which were earned — on three hits and two walks to go along with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.

After retiring the side in order to begin his day, Sale kicked off the top half of the second by serving up a towering solo shot to Yordan Alvarez on a first-pitch 94 mph heater that wasn’t in the strike zone.

Still, the Astros went up 1-0 on Alvarez’s home run, but Sale did not let that put a damper on things for him, as he rebounded and sat down the next seven batters he faced in order.

With one out in the fourth inning of what was still a one-run contest that favored Houston, Sale issued an eight-pitch walk to Alex Bregman that was followed by another hard-hit single from Alvarez that put runners at the corners.

Again, Sale did not back down and instead fanned Carlos Correa on three straight strikes before doing the very same to Kyle Tucker on four pitches to escape the jam.

Upon getting Tucker to fan on a 98.5 mph four-seam fastball — his fastest pitch of the night — that was up and out of the zone, an energetic Sale pumped his left fist, put his glove to his face, and let out a fiery scream while heading back to his dugout.

Sale’s evening was not done yet, however, as the lefty came back out for the fifth and put up another zero. At that point, Sale had gone through the dangerous Astros lineup twice and managed to avoid any serious damage aside from the Alvarez home run.

With his pitch count rising and Houston’s batting order flipping back over, Sale took the mound for the sixth and promptly issued a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve.

Michael Brantley then made matters worse when he reached base safely on a missed catch error committed by Kyle Schwarber at first base, which allowed Altuve to advance all the way up to third.

A groundout off the bat of Bregman moved Brantley up to second and kept the rally alive for Alvarez, who the Red Sox decided to pitch to despite first base being open.

Alvarez made Boston pay dearly for that mistake, as he proceeded to hit Sale hard yet again when he laced a two-run double down the left field line that plated both Altuve and Brantley.

Suddenly down 3-0, Sox manager Alex Cora quickly turned to his bullpen, giving Sale the hook in favor of Ryan Brasier. Brasier, in turn, yielded a two-out single to Tucker that put runners at the corners before Yuli Gurriel drove in another on an RBI double down the right field line.

Jose Siri made sure to keep it going by blooping a softly-hit two-run single to shallow right field that gave the Astros a commanding 6-0 lead before the sixth inning mercifully came to an end.

By the time the third out of the sixth was recorded, the book was officially closed on Sale’s outing while Brasier himself was charged with two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning.

In the top of the seventh, Hansel Robles took over for Brasier, but was unable to get through the inning. The right-handed reliever yielded a leadoff single to Altuve and allowed the speedy second baseman to advance an additional 90 feet on a failed pickoff attempt.

Altuve then scored all the way from second on an RBI single off the bat of Brantley before Bregman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that was followed by a pitching change that saw Darwinzon Hernandez replace Robles.

Hernandez did what he was called upon to do by punching out Alvarez on six pitches to set the Red Sox up in the bottom half of the frame.

To that point in the night, the Sox lineup had been held in check by Astros starter Framber Valdez in the process of squandering several scoring opportunities.

After going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss to Houston, Boston had been no-hit by Valdez through four innings on Wednesday before Rafael Devers led off the bottom of the fifth with a sharply-hit single.

J.D. Martinez followed by taking a curveball off the knee that put runners at first and second for Hunter Renfroe, whose postseason struggles continued to drag on when he grounded into a soul-crushing 6-4-3 double play that ultimately stranded Martinez at third.

An inning later, the Sox had the chance to respond to the Astros’ five-run sixth when Christian Vazquez ripped a one-out double off Valdez. He, like Martinez, was left in scoring position after both Enrique Hernandez and Schwarber were sat down by the opposing left-hander.

This takes us to the aforementioned bottom half of the seventh. Shortly after Houston tacked on another run to their lead, Devers got that one run back immediately.

With one out and the bases empty, Devers stayed hot by unloading on a 1-0, 94 mph sinker on the inner half of the plate from Valdez and wrapped it 402 feet around Pesky’s Pole in right field.

Devers’ fifth homer of the postseason left the young slugger’s bat at a scorching 110.7 mph. It also trimmed Boston’s defecit down to six runs at 7-1.

Another walk drawn by Martinez kept the inning alive momentarily, but Renfroe followed by grounding into another twin killing that extinguished the threat.

In the eighth, after Hernandez and Hirokazu Sawamura somehow combined to toss a scoreless frame of relief, Valdez capped off his stellar day for Houston in the bottom half by sitting down the final three batters he faced in order.

Martin Perez then surrendered two additional runs to the Astros to begin the ninth, while Ryne Stanek retired the side in order to close this one out.

All in all, the Boston bats went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left two runners on base as a team in what will go down as a lopsided 9-1 defeat.

With this loss, which is their second straight, the Red Sox’ backs are now against the wall as they trail this best-of-seven ALCS, 3-2.

Next up: Eovaldi on top for Game 6 in Houston

The Red Sox will have Thursday off as they board a flight to Houston for the final leg of this championship series at Minute Maid Park.

On the brink of elimination, it will be right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston in Game 6 on Friday night. Houston, on the other hand, will turn to fellow righty Luis Garcia in what will be a rematch of Game 2 from last Sunday.

First pitch from Minute Maid Park on Friday is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez and Jose Altuve: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lineup for Game 5 of ALCS vs. Astros: Kiké Hernández leading off, J.D. Martinez batting fifth

The Red Sox will look to bounce back from an unexpectedly lopsided 9-2 loss to the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday with a quick turnaround for Game 5 on Wednesday.

After Boston dropped Game 4 to Houston at Fenway Park, this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied up at two games apiece and has essentially turned into a best-of-three race.

With Tuesday’s loss, the Sox have given home-field advantage back to the Astros, as the series will definitely be heading back to Houston since it will be at least six games in length.

Wednesday’s clash between the Red Sox and Astros will feature a pair of left-handers getting the start for their respective clubs, with Chris Sale getting the ball for Boston and Framber Valdez doing the same for Houston in what will be a rematch of Game 1.

In Game 1 of this series at Minute Maid Park, Sale went just 2 2/3 innings while allowing one earned run on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts on 61 pitches (37 strikes).

Valdez, meanwhile, did not last long either, as he surrendered three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits (one home run), three walks, and two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings of work.

Since a left-hander will be starting for the Astros, Sox manager Alex Cora has made some slight alterations to his lineup. For instance, the right-handed hitting Enrique Hernandez will be leading off in front of the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber.

J.D. Martinez, on the other hand, has been bumped up to fifth in the batting order, resulting in Alex Verdugo dropping down to the seven-hole behind Hunter Renfroe.

Christian Vazquez, who will be catching Sale, is batting ninth after second baseman Christian Arroyo. Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind Sale:

First pitch from Fenway Park on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox blow late lead in process of falling to Astros, 9-2, in Game 4 of ALCS

The Red Sox were just a few innings away from potentially jumping out to a commanding three-games-to-one-lead over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night … until they weren’t.

After holding on to a 2-1 lead for most of the night, Boston saw things unravel in the eighth inning of what would later go down as a 9-2 loss to Houston at Fenway Park, which means this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied at two games apiece.

Nick Pivetta, making his first start and third overall appearance of the postseason for the Sox, was solid in his championship series debut. The right-hander limited the Astros to just one run while scattering two hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts over five impressive innings of work.

The lone run Pivetta surrendered to Houston came right away in the top half of the first, when he served up a two-out solo shot over the Green Monster to Alex Bregman that gave the Astros an early 1-0 lead.

Despite that miscue, the Red Sox lineup picked up their starter right away in the bottom half of the frame.

Matched up against Astros veteran right-hander Zack Greinke to begin things on Tuesday, Rafael Devers drew a five-pitch walk with two outs to set the stage for Xander Bogaerts.

After not collecting an RBI in Monday’s 12-3 thumping of Houston, Bogaerts unloaded on a 1-0, 84 mph slider from Greinke and deposited 413 feet into the Boston night and onto Lansdowne Street.

Bogaerts’ third homer of the postseason — a sizzling two-run blast that left his bat at 107.9 mph — allowed the Sox to snatch their first lead of the evening at 2-1.

Given that fresh one-run advantage to work with, Pivetta took full advantage by stringing together four scoreless frames. He had to escape a bit of a jam he created for himself in the second, but followed by sitting down nine of the final 10 batters he faced leading into the middle of the fifth.

Even after the Astros lineup flipped over for a third time in that fifth inning, Pivetta responded by getting the dangerous Jose Altuve to ground out to third base to retire the side and end his night on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of just of 65 (36 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler topped out at 96.5 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he turned to 38 times to complement both his slider and knuckle curveball.

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Josh Taylor got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he recorded the first two outs of the sixth before yielding a two-out single to Yordan Alvarez.

Adam Ottavino then came on for Taylor to finish the inning, and the veteran reliever did just that by emphatically punching out Carlos Correa on a 96 mph sinker on the outer half of the plate.

From there, Garrett Whitlock put up a zero in the seventh, but ran into some trouble an inning later.

To that point in the contest, the Boston bats had been held in check by Houston pitching. Despite knocking Greinke out after just 1 1/3 innings, the Sox were stymied by the Astros bullpen, though they certainly had their fair share of scoring opportunities.

In the bottom of the second, for instance, the Red Sox had runners at first and second with one out, but neither Enrique Hernandez or Devers were able to come through and instead went down quietly.

Two innings later, Chritian Arroyo ripped a one-out triple off Cristian Javier, but was stranded there after both Kyle Schwarber and Hernandez were retired by the Astros reliever.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Bogaerts laced a 106.9 mph double off Javier. He, too, was left there when Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez were sat down on a fly out and swinging strikeout, respectively.

Fast forward to the top half of the eighth, and the Astros promptly capitalized on the fact that the Red Sox had gone 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight runners on base as a team up until then.

That being the case because on the very first pitch he saw from Whitlock, Altuve led off the eighth by crushing a game-tying solo home run 400 feet off the National Car Rental sign hovering above the Green Monster.

Altuve’s late-game heroics knotted things up at two runs apiece, and it also paved the way for Nathan Eovaldi to attempt to keep it that way in the ninth.

Having just started Game 2 of this series on Saturday, Eovaldi immediately gave up a leadoff double to Correa that was just out of the reach of Hunter Renfroe in right field. He then struck out Kyle Tucker and intentionally walked Yuli Gurriel to face the pinch-hitting Aledmys Diaz.

Diaz, in turn, fanned on five pitches, bringing Eovaldi to within one out of escaping a sticky situation. Jason Castro, however, had different plans.

Moments after it appeared as though Eovaldi had punched out Castro on a 1-2, 80 mph curveball on the inner half of the plate that was instead called a ball by home plate umpire Laz Diaz, the Astros backstop responded by drilling a go-ahead, run-scoring single through the right side of the infield.

Castro plated Correa on his clutch hit to make it a 3-2 game in favor of Houston, but the Astros were not done there. Not with Altuve drawing a walk that prompted Cora to go get Eovaldi.

With two outs and the bases full of Astros, Michael Brantley greeted the newly-inserted Martin Perez by drilling a three-run, bases-clearing double to the gap in right-center field that increased his side’s advantage to four runs at 6-2.

Perez’s struggles did not end there, as the lefty surrendered three more runs on three more hits before the top of the ninth inning mercifully came to a close with the Astros up, 9-2.

In total, Eovaldi was charged for four runs — all of which were earned — on two hits, two walks, and two strikeouts in 2/3 of an inning. He is slated to start Game 6 of this series in Houston on Friday.

Perez, on the other hand, was charged with three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.

The Sox somewhat threatened in their half of the ninth, but ultimately went down quietly against Astros closer Ryan Pressly to secure a heart-breaking 9-2 defeat in which they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base as a team.

With the loss, the Red Sox have given home-field advantage back to the Astros, as they ensure that they will be heading back to Houston later this week since this ALCS is now tied up at 2-2 and will at least be six games in length.

Next up: Sale vs. Valdez to start off Game 5

The Red Sox will turn to left-hander Chris Sale to start Game 5 at Fenway Park on Wednesday evening, while the Astros will roll with fellow southpaw Framber Valdez.

First pitch from Fenway Park on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Chris Sale likely to start Game 5 of ALCS for Red Sox, but left-hander will be available out of bullpen for Game 4 vs. Astros

The Red Sox will have Chris Sale available out of their bullpen for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night, though the club is hoping they will be able to stay away from him.

When speaking with reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) at Fenway Park ahead of Game 4, Sox manager Alex Cora said that Sale is penciled in to start Game 5, but the veteran left-hander could pitch in relief of Nick Pivetta on Tuesday if the situation arises.

As noted by Speier, Cora and Co. would prefer to avoid using Sale out of the ‘pen in order to preserve him for what would be his third start of the postseason on Wednesday. If they were forced to use the lefty, though, Cora did indicate that the Red Sox would be able to make the necessary adjustments to their starting rotation.

Through his first two outings of these playoffs, Sale has allowed a total of six earned runs on nine hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over just 3 2/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 14.73 and FIP of 6.99.

The 32-year-old is coming off a start against the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS in which he surrendered one run on five hits, one walk, one HBP and two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings pitched at Minute Maid Park on October 15.

If Sale were to toss an inning of relief on Tuesday night, he would be working on three days rest and would subsequently not be available to start on Wednesday. Assuming he is not used, the seven-time All-Star would then be pitching on seven days rest come Wednesday night.

Per MLB.com’s Ian Browne, Cora likened this situation with Sale to what Boston went through with Pivetta on Monday. Pivetta, like Sale, had been available to work out of the bullpen in Game 3, but his services were not needed since the Sox bested the Astros in a 12-3 blowout win.

Following Monday’s victory, Cora officially named Pivetta as his Game 4 starter. The same sort of thing will likely happen on Tuesday night — with Sale getting tabbed to start Game 5 — so long as the southpaw does not make a relief appearance between now and then.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox sticking with same lineup they used in Game 3 for Game 4 of ALCS vs. Astros

Why fix what isn’t broken?

After mashing their way to a 12-3 win over the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday, the Red Sox are running back the same exact starting lineup for Tuesday night’s Game 4 at Fenway Park.

With veteran right-hander Zack Greinke on the mound for Houston, Boston will have the opportunity to take a three-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven series.

Kyle Schwarber, after belting a grand slam on Monday, will once again be leading off and starting at first base for the Sox on Tuesday. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and left fielder Alex Verdugo.

Verdugo batting fifth means designated hitter J.D. Martinez has dropped down to the six-hole once more, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round out the lineup.

Vazquez will be catching righty Nick Pivetta, who Red Sox manager Alex Cora named as his Game 4 starter following Monday’s blowout victory.

Pivetta will be making his first career postseason start come Tuesday night after only being used as a reliever on two separate occasions during the American League Division Series against the Rays.

In those two outings, the 28-year-old hurler turned in a pair of solid performances in Games 1 and 3, posting a 3.12 ERA and 4.67 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to three walks over 8 2/3 total innings of work.

Over the course of the regular season, Pivetta faced off against the Astros only once, and that came in Houston back on June 2. He allowed two runs on three hits, two walks, one hit batsman and nine strikeouts in six innings during that outing at Minute Maid Park.

Greinke, on the other hand, last started a game for the Astros on September 19, as he was used out of their bullpen just once and tossed a scoreless fourth inning in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the White Sox on October 10.

Like Pivetta, Greinke made one start against his upcoming opponent during the regular season. On June 10 at Fenway Park, the soon-to-be 38-year-old surrendered four runs to the Red Sox on seven hits, one walk, and two strikeouts over three uninspiring innings.

With all that being said, first pitch from Fenway on Tuesday night is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)