For the first time since 2013, the Red Sox are headed back to the World Series following a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Thursday night.
In a game that wasn’t necessarily a must win for Boston, David Price put together perhaps the best postseason performance of his career in this Game Five.
Pitching six full innings on only three days rest, the left-hander held the Astros scoreless on just three hits and zero walks to go along with nine strikeouts on the night. Mookie Betts supported the cause.
Given the fact it looked as though he could have been inserted into Wednesday’s night game as a late inning reliever, I would say Price exceeded expectations and then some with is outing.
To go into Houston, face an Astros team with their backs against the wall, and throw up six straight shutout frames is extremely impressive. As a matter of fact, it’s the first time in Price’s 11-year career that he got the winning decision in a postseason game he started.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (65 strikes), the Tennessee native had his changeup working for him, and he turned to it 39 times on the mound, which resulted in 12 total swings and misses.
He also topped out at 95.8 MPH with his two-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 15 times.
All and all, David Price exercised his playoff demons on Thursday, got that monkey off his back, and should be your starting pitcher for Game Two of the World Series come next Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
In relief of Price, the heavily used Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final nine outs in this contest, and they saw things through to completion.
Matt Barnes got the first call to start the seventh, and he recorded the first two outs of the inning before serving up a solo home run to Marwin Gonzalez to put Houston on the board.
That would be followed by a seven pitch walk of Tony Kemp, and that made way for Nathan Eovaldi to come in and try to escape a bit of a jam.
Pitching for the first time since tossing six quality innings as Tuesday night’s starter, Eovaldi made his presence felt immediately by retiring the side in the seventh and then reaching 102 MPH in the eighth to fan Alex Bregman for the second of three outs recorded by the Houston native in the frame.
Finally, Craig Kimbrel came on for the save opportunity with a three run lead to work with in the ninth after throwing two innings less than 24 hours prior, and he worked his way around a one out walk in an otherwise clean frame to send his club to the World Series.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Astros ace right-hander Justin Verlander, who came into Thursday with a 4-0 record and 1.15 ERA over the last four starts he has made with his team facing elimination.
The last time they saw Verlander, the Red Sox lineup could muster all but two runs on two outs in a Game One loss last Saturday, but that turned around for the better last night.
Starting the scoring in the third of this one was JD Martinez, a former teammate of Verlander’s, whose one out solo home run, his first and only of the series, put Boston on the board first.
Fast forward to the sixth, and Mitch Moreland would wind up acting as the catalyst for a three-run inning by reaching second on a leadoff double.
One Ian Kinsler single that advanced Moreland to third later, Rafael Devers came to the plate without a hit up to that point, but he would come through with the biggest at bat of the night.
On the first pitch he saw from Verlander, the 21-year-old infielder belted a 98 MPH fastball located at the top of the strike zone 359 feet into the Crawford Boxes in left field.
That put the Red Sox up 4-1 and they would not have to look back en route to clinching their 14th American League pennant.
Some notes from this 4-1 win:
After finishing this series with nine RBI, all of which came with two outs, Jackie Bradley Jr. was named ALCS MVP. A huge honor for someone who was not always a fan favorite this season.
Thursday was Alex Cora’s 43rd birthday and the Red Sox went ahead and got him a trip to the World Series.
From @SoxNotes: Players with 3+ postseason HR before turning 22 years old:
Mickey Mantle – 4
Bryce Harper – 4
Miguel Cabrera – 4
Andruw Jones – 4
Rafael Devers – 3
From @MLBStatoftheDay: The Red Sox are the first team to eliminate multiple 100-win clubs in one postseason since… The 2004 Red Sox!
Rafael Devers went 5/13 with one home run and six RBI over the span of five games in this series.
The Red Sox are still unbeaten on the road in October.
So, there you have it. Now, the Red Sox wait and see who comes out of the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers, with Los Angeles having the edge in that series at three games to two.
I should have more on all of this sometime later today, but for now, let’s just enjoy the celebration.