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)

Kyle Schwarber’s second-inning grand slam propels Red Sox to 12-3 victory over Astros in Game 3 of ALCS; Eduardo Rodriguez strikes out 7 over 6 solid innings

Have a happy birthday, Alex Cora.

The Red Sox celebrated their manager’s 46th birthday by taking a two-games-to-one lead over the Astros in the American League Championship Series on Monday night.

Boston crushed Houston by a final score of 12-3 in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park to kick off the week, meaning they are now just two wins away from heading to their first World Series since 2018.

A travel day on Sunday could not stymie a red-hot Sox lineup, as they once again knocked out an Astros starter early while matched up against right-hander Jose Urquidy.

After going down in order to Urquidy in their half of the first inning, Alex Verdugo proved to be the catalyst for an explosive second inning by drawing a hard-fought, 11-pitch walk with one out.

J.D. Martinez advanced Verdugo up to third and put a pair of runners at scoring position with a line-drive double to center field, then Hunter Renfroe drew another walk off Urquidy to fill the bases for Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez got his productive night at the plate started by slapping an RBI single to the opposite field that plated Verdugo and re-loaded the bases for Christian Arroyo, who nearly grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Instead, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve once again mishandled another groundball hit in his direction, which allowed Arroyo to reach base safely and Martinez to cross home plate uncontested.

With the bases still full of Red Sox, Kyle Schwarber put the finishing touches on his side’s second-inning outburst by first getting ahead in a 3-0 count against Urquidy. He then took the fourth pitch he saw, a 93 mph heater on the outer half of the plate, and deposited it 430 feet into the night and into the right field seats.

Schwarber’s grand slam, which left his bat at 114 mph, gave the Sox a commanding 6-0 lead. It also made history since it was the third grand slam Boston has hit in this series alone, matching their total from the 162-game regular season.

While Boston’s six-run surge in the second inning forced Astros manager Dusty Baker to turn to his bullpen earlier than expected yet again, the Red Sox offense did not stop there, as they got to Houston reliever Yimi Garcia in their half of the third as well.

There, with one out and Renfroe at third base after reaching on a walk, stealing second, and moving up to third on a throwing error, Vazquez took advantage of the Astros’ infield positioning by blooping a 67.1 mph single to shallow left field.

Vazquez’s second run-scoring base knock of the evening made it a 7-0 contest in favor of Boston, though their lead only grew when Arroyo promptly uncorked a two-run home run 399 feet over the Green Monster off a first-pitch slider to give his side a 9-0 advantage.

To that point in the night, Eduardo Rodriguez had held the Astros in check, though he did eventually run into some trouble in the middle innings.

Rodriguez, making his third start of the postseason for the Sox, came out firing, hovering around 94-96 mph with his four-seam fastball while striking out the side in the second in the process of retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced.

The left-hander’s fortunes momentarily ran out in the top half of the fourth, however, and it began when he yielded a leadoff single to Michael Brantley.

A one-out single off the bat of Yordan Alvarez put runners at the corners for the dangerous Carlos Correa, who popped out to short to bring Rodriguez within one out of getting out of the jam.

Kyle Tucker prevented that from happening, though, as he took Rodriguez deep on a three-run blast hit 413 feet to right field that scored Brantley, Alvarez, and himself to cut the Astros’ deficit down to six runs at 9-3.

Despite that miscue, Rodriguez did manage to limit the damage. He got through the rest of the fourth unscathed before sitting down each of the final six hitters he faced in order. Correa was his final victim, as he got the star shortstop to ground out to second for the last out of the sixth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (65 pitches), the 28-year-old hurler wound up allowing three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts over six quality frames of work.

Moments after Rodriguez’s evening came to a close, Martinez provided some two-out insurance in the bottom of the sixth. Following a Rafael Devers leadoff walk, the veteran slugger greeted newly-inserted Astros reliever Phil Maton by clubbing another two-run shot 395 feet over the Monster.

Martinez’s third homer of the postseason, which had an exit velocity of 106 mph, put the Red Sox up over the Astros, 11-3. It subsequently set the stage for the Boston bullpen to take over for Rodriguez as well.

Hansel Robles, who got that first call from Cora out of the ‘pen, maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk to face the minimum of three batters with the help of a double play in a clean seventh inning.

From there, Martin Perez did the exact same thing by inducing another twin killing in the top of the eighth before Devers made it a 12-3 game by tattooing a 372-foot solo into the Monster seats off Ryne Stanek in the bottom half.

That sequence paved the way for Hirokazu Sawamura to be dispatched in the ninth, and he slammed the door on the Astros with the help of a sliding, game-ending catch from Renfroe to secure a 12-3 victory for the Sox.

With the win, the Red Sox find themselves up 2-1 in this best-of-seven ALCS with the Astros and inch ever closer to punching their ticket to the Fall Classic.

Next up: Pivetta likely for Game 4

The Red Sox have yet to officially name a starter for Game 4 on Tuesday, though it seems likely that responsibility will fall to right-hander Nick Pivetta, who was available out of the bullpen on Monday but was not used.

Likewise, the Astros also have not named a starter for Tuesday’s contest. Fellow righty Zack Greinke could wind up getting the start for Houston opposite Pivetta.

Regardless, first pitch from Fenway Park on Tuesday night is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers lead the way with pair of grand slams as Red Sox even ALCS with 9-5 win over Astros

After squandering multiple scoring opportunities in a Game 1 loss to kick off the American League Championship Series on Friday, the Red Sox bounced back in a tremendous way against the Astros in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.

Boston mashed their way to a 9-5 win over Houston at Minute Maid Park, meaning this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied at one game each as it heads back to Fenway Park.

Matched up against Astros rookie right-hander Luis Garcia to begin things on Saturday, a hungry Sox lineup kicked off the scoring right away in their half of the first inning.

Kyle Schwarber led off with a double, Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo each drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs, then — following a brief mound visit — J.D. Martinez unloaded the bases on a 1-0, 94 mph fastball from Garcia and crushed it 363 feet over the right field wall.

Martinez’s grand slam, which had an exit velocity of 106 mph, gave Boston an early 4-0 lead, but they were not done there.

That being the case because an inning later, the Red Sox threatened once more after Kevin Plawecki began the top half of the second by drawing a leadoff walk off Garcia.

To that point in the contest, Garcia had struggled with his command, with only 14 of his 33 pitches through one-plus innings going for strikes. As a result, he left the game with right knee discomfort and was replaced by Jake Odorizzi.

Odorizzi, a traditional starter, then went through his regular warmup routine on the field, which took quite a bit of time before he was ready to face Christian Arroyo with no outs and a runner on in the second.

Arroyo, coming off that long layoff, promptly ripped a single to right field before a one-out base hit of the bat of Enrique Hernandez filled the bases for Boston yet again.

Devers then followed in Martinez’s footsteps by clubbing the Sox’ second grand slam of the day, making them the first major-league team to ever hit two grand slams in a single postseason game.

While the long layoff caused by Garcia’s injury played into Boston’s favor on the offensive side of things, it also resulted in Nathan Eovaldi having to wait a while in between innings.

Eovaldi, making his third start of the postseason for the Sox, got his day started against his hometown team by retiring six of the first seven Astros batters he faced. From the time he recorded the final out of the second inning, though, he had to wait a grand total of 41 minutes before throwing his first pitch of the third.

The veteran right-hander had a sizable 8-0 cushion to work with at that point, and that lead only increased after he got through another 1-2-3 frame.

In the top of the fourth, with Odorizzi still on the mound for Houston, a sizzling Hernandez stayed hot at the plate by tattooing yet another home run — a 395-foot solo shot into the Crawford Boxes.

By doing so, Hernandez became the first Red Sox player to ever hit five homers in a five-game span during the postseason. He also gave his side a commanding 9-0 lead.

While Eovaldi had been able to keep the Astros at bay in his first three innings on Saturday, he ran into some two-out trouble in the bottom of the fourth after issuing his first walk of the afternoon to Yordan Alvarez before giving up a hard-hit single to Carlos Correa.

Kyle Tucker then plated Houston’s first run of the contest with an opposite field RBI double, while Yuli Gurriel tacked on two more on a two-run single down the right field line.

That sequence cut Boston’s advantage down to six runs at 9-3, but Eovaldi countered by getting out of the fourth before tossing a scoreless fifth inning that included a visit from a team trainer.

An inning later, Eovaldi got the first out of the sixth on an Alex Bregman groundout before giving up a one-out single to Alvarez — at which point his afternoon came to a close as he got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora in favor of Adam Ottavino.

Ottavino proceeded to officially close the book on Eovaldi’s outing by stranding the lone runner he inherited while also maneuvering his way around a bit of a jam.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 81 (53 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler (Eovaldi) wound up allowing three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Garrett Whitlock took over for Ottavino in a 9-3 game in the seventh, and he worked his way around a one-out walk of Jason Castro with some defensive help from Arroyo, who made a fine play while in the shift to get Michael Brantley at first base for the final out of the inning.

From there, Whitlock rolled on by sitting down the side in order in the eighth, thus paving the way for Darwinzon Hernandez in the ninth.

Hernandez, making his first appearance of the postseason, served up a pair of solo solo home runs to Gurriel and Castro, which trimmed Houston’s deficit down to four runs.

Ryan Brasier was forced to come on for the second straight day in relief of Hernandez. He was able to slam the door on the Astros in order to secure a series-evening 9-5 victory for the Sox.

With the win, the Red Sox even up this series at one game apiece while guaranteeing it will go at least five games. They have also taken homefield advantage away from the Astros for the time being.

Next up: Back to Boston for Games 3, 4, and 5

The Red Sox will board a flight to Boston and enjoy a well-deserved off day on Sunday before resuming the ALCS against the Astros at Fenway Park on Monday night.

Boston has yet to officially name a starter for Monday’s contest, while Houston will go with right-hander Jose Urquidy for Game 3.

First pitch from Fenway Park on Monday is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of: J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Kyle Schwarber leading off for Red Sox in Game 2 of ALCS vs. Astros

After falling to the Astros, 5-4, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday, the Red Sox will look to bounce back and even this best-of-seven series in Game 2 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday afternoon.

With rookie right-hander Luis Garcia getting the start for the Astros, Sox manager Alex Cora has gone with a starting lineup similar to the one used Friday night, though some alterations have been made.

Kyle Schwarber, a left-handed hitter, will bat leadoff and get the start at first base. He will be followed by Enrique Hernandez, who homered twice in Game 1 and will be starting in center field once more in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and Alex Verdugo make up the 3-4-5 portion of Boston’s batting order, while J.D. Martinez will slide down to the six-hole, where he is slashing .467/.467/.733 so far this postseason.

Those four will be followed by the likes of Hunter Renfroe, Kevin Plawecki, and Christian Arroyo.

Plawecki, of course, will be catching Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who will be working on five days rest after starting Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays last Sunday.

Including that outing, Eovaldi has posted a 2.61 ERA and 2.88 FIP to go along with 16 strikeouts to just one walk over two starts spanning 10 1/3 total innings of work so far this postseason.

In his lone appearance against the Astros this year, the Houston-area native allowed five runs — all of which were earned — on 11 hits, three walks, and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park back on June 9.

If the Red Sox want to head back home to Boston having split the first two games of this ALCS, they will likely need Eovaldi to step up and provide some length.

That being said, first pitch from Minute Maid Park on Saturday is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. eastern time on FOX and FS1.

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox squander lead, let scoring opportunities go to waste in 5-4 loss to Astros in Game 1 of ALCS

The Red Sox certainly had their opportunities, but were ultimately unable to come away with a come-from-behind win over the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

Boston fell to Houston by a final score of 5-4 at Minute Maid Park on Friday night, meaning they now trail in this best-of-seven ALCS by one game to none.

Chris Sale, making his second start of the postseason for the Sox, saw his October struggles continue after a poor showing in last week’s American League Division Series against the Rays, though there were some signs of encouragement.

Over just 2 2/3 innings of work on Friday, Sale allowed one run on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts on the night.

The lone run Sale surrendered came in the bottom half of the first, when — after the Red Sox left the bases loaded in their half of the inning — the veteran left-hander issued a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve that was followed by a one-out single from Alex Bregman.

A wild pitch from Sale allowed both of those runners to advance an additional 90 feet, and the Astros took full advantage of that miscue when Yordan Alvarez drove in the first run of the contest on a sacrifice fly to left field.

While the Sox may have fallen behind early, their potent lineup eventually got to Astros starter Framber Valdez the second time through the order beginning in the third inning.

There, moments after he bailed out Sale by making a sprawling grab in center field to escape a bases-loaded jam, Enrique Hernandez stayed hot at the plate by cranking a 448-foot leadoff home run off Valdez.

Hernandez’s solo shot knotted things up at one run apiece, while a one-out walk from Xander Bogaerts that was followed by a line-drive single off the bat of Rafael Devers put runners at first and second base for J.D. Martinez.

Martinez, a former Astro like Hernandez, nearly grounded into another double play that would have ended the inning, but his grounder was instead booted by Altuve at second base, which allowed Bogaerts to score all the way from second to give the Sox their first lead of the night at 2-1.

Hunter Renfroe kept the rally going with a hard-hit RBI double to left field that plated Devers and moved Martinez up to second, though neither runner was able to score after Alex Verdugo and Christian Arroyo both struck out swinging.

Given a two-run lead to work with going into the bottom of the third, Sale retired Bregman before Alvarez and the dangerous Carlos Correa ripped back-to-back one-out singles off him. The lefty then fanned Kyle Tucker on five pitches for the second out, but that would mark the end of his night with the right-handed hitting Yuli Gurriel looming in the on-deck circle for Houston.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 61 (37 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler relied heavily upon his four-seam fastball (57% usage) and slider (33% usage), as he only threw four changeups and two sinkers. He did, however, top out at 97.5 mph with his four-seamer.

In relief of Sale, Adam Ottavino got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora, and he officially closed the book on Sale’s outing by getting Gurriel to ground out to second before retiring the side in order in the fourth as well.

From there, while the Boston bats continued to struggle against the Houston bullpen, Josh Taylor recorded the first two outs of the fifth inning before Ryan Brasier was deployed to finish it in the process of stranding a pair of runners.

Fellow right-hander Tanner Houck took over for Brasier in the sixth, and he saw his side’s 3-1 advantage wiped off the board when he yielded a one-out single to Chas McCormick that was followed by a game-tying, two-run home run to Altuve that traveled 382 feet into the Crawford Boxes in left-center field.

More two-out trouble came back to bite the Sox an inning later, with Hansel Robles serving up a go-ahead 350-foot blast to Correa that allowed the Astros to retake a 4-3 lead.

In the top of the eighth, Renfroe was pinch-hit for by Danny Santana, who led things off against Kendall Graveman by striking out swinging on nine pitches. Verdugo then flew out to center field, but Arroyo kept the inning alive by drilling a 106.8 mph single to left field.

That sequence prompted Cora to turn to his bench, as he had the left-handed hitting Travis Shaw pinch-hit for the right-handed hitting Christian Vazquez in that spot.

Shaw, representing the potential go-ahead run himself, proceeded to lift a 335-foot flyball to right field off Graveman, but it was one that was caught by Tucker at the warning track, thus extinguishing the threat.

Hirokazu Sawamura, meanwhile, was responsible for the bottom of the eighth, and in his first action of the postseason, struggled to find his command of the strike zone.

The righty loaded the bases with no outs by issuing a leadoff walk and a single before plunking Martin Maldonado. He then allowed the Astros to tack on a very important insurance run when he gave up a sacrifice fly to Altuve that Gurriel was able to score on to make it a 5-3 game.

Martin Perez had to come on to get the final two outs of the eighth, and he did that by inducing an inning-ending double play off the bat of a hobbled Michael Brantley.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth while opposed by Astros closer Ryan Pressly, Hernandez led things off by clubbing his second home run of the night and one that cut the Sox’ deficit down to one run at 5-4.

Pressly did recover, however, as he got Kyle Schwarber, Bogaerts, and Devers to each ground out to seal a 5-4 defeat for Boston in which they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving nine runners on base as a team.

With the loss, not only do the Red Sox see their three-game postseason winning streak come to an end, but they also find themselves in a 1-0 hole in regards to this ALCS.

Next up: Eovaldi vs. Garcia

The Red Sox will send Houston-area native Nathan Eovaldi to the mound as they look to even up this best-of-seven series against the Astros on Saturday afternoon.

The Astros will counter with fellow right-hander Luis Garcia, who held the Sox to one run over seven impressive innings during his June 1 start against them at Fenway Park.

First pitch from Minute Maid Park on Saturday is scheduled for 4:20 p.m. eastern time on FOX and FS1.

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

J.D. Martinez batting fifth for Red Sox in Game 1 of ALCS vs. Astros

The Red Sox have made some slight alterations to their starting lineup for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

After batting sixth for all three of his starts in the American League Division Series with the Rays, designated hitter J.D. Martinez has moved up to the No. 5 spot in the Sox’ lineup for Friday’s ALCS opener in Houston.

While still recuperating from a left ankle sprain that he sustained in Boston’s regular season finale against the Nationals on October 3, Martinez — after being held out of action in Game 1 — went 7-for-15 (.467) with one double, one home run, four RBI, one run scored, zero walks, and one strikeout in the final three games of the ALDS, all of which the Red Sox won.

With left-hander Framber Valdez getting the start for the Astros to kick off this best-of-seven series, Sox manager Alex Cora has gone with a primarily right-handed heavy lineup.

Enrique Hernandez, a former Astro, will lead off and get the start in center field, while Kyle Schwarber will bat second and start at first base. Schwarber starting at first base means the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec will start Game 1 on the Sox’ bench.

Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Martinez make up the most dangerous portion of Boston’s batting order.

Those three will be followed by the likes of right fielder Hunter Renfroe, left fielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Christian Arroyo, and — last but not least — Christian Vazquez.

Vazquez, of course, will be catching Game 1 starter Chris Sale, who will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing against Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS in which he surrendered five runs (all earned) on four hits, one walk, and two strikeouts in just one inning of work at Tropicana Field last week.

The roof will be closed at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Elsa/Getty Images)

Christian Vázquez walks it off for Red Sox in 6-4 win in 13 innings over Rays in Game 3 of ALDS

With both teams presented with the opportunity to go up a game on their opposition, the Red Sox and Rays partook in an instant October classic at Fenway Park in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday that spanned more than five hours.

In the process of making some more postseason history, Boston held on for a 6-4 walk-off victory in 13 innings over Tampa Bay on Sunday night. They now lead this best-of-five ALDS two-games-to-one.

Nathan Eovaldi, making his second October start for the Sox after dazzling in last Tuesday’s Wild Card Game, put together yet another strong outing to add to his impressive postseason resume.

Over five solid innings of work, the veteran right-hander allowed just two runs — both of which were earned — on three hits and one walk to go along with eight strikeouts on the night.

Both runs Eovaldi surrendered to his former team came in the top half of the first, as he yielded a one-out single to Wander Franco before serving up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows on a first-pitch fastball.

While Eovaldi’s miscue put his side in an immediate 2-0 hole, a revamped Red Sox lineup was able to back their starter up.

Matched up against Rays right-hander Drew Rasmussen to begin things on Sunday, Kyle Schwarber instantly cut that two-run deficit in half. The left-handed hitter greeted Rasmussen in the bottom of the first by crushing a leadoff home run 390 feet over the Green Monster.

Schwarber’s second homer of the postseason made it a 2-1 game in favor of Tampa Bay, though the Boston bats struck once more two innings later.

On the heels of back-to-back singles from Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber to lead off the latter half of the third, Enrique Hernandez stayed hot by lifting a game-tying, RBI single that brought in Arroyo.

Following a pitching change that saw left-hander Josh Fleming take over for Rasmussen, Rafael Devers broke the tie by plating Hernandez on a run-scoring single that left his bat at 104.9 mph and gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 3-2.

Eovaldi, meanwhile, was in the midst of a dominat stretch at the time Devers made it a 3-2 contest. After giving up the homer to Meadows, the righty settled in by retiring 14 of the next 17 batters he faced. His day came to an end as soon as he recorded the final out of the fifth, at which point he had thrown 85 pitches.

Of those 85 pitches (58 strikes) thrown by the 31-year-old hurler, 33 were four-seam fastballs, 23 were splitters, 19 were curveballs, six were sliders, and four were cutters. He topped out at 99.3 mph and averaged 96.9 mph with his heater.

After Hernandez tacked on additional run to his side’s lead and made it a 4-2 game by clubbing a 424-foot solo blast over the Monster off newly-inserted reliever Pete Fairbanks to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora to begin the sixth inning.

Taylor issued a single to Nelson Cruz in between getting the first two outs of the frame before making way for Ryan Brasier, who retired the dangerous Randy Arozarena to end the inning while also getting the first two outs of the seventh.

Austin Davis was then dispatched and ran into some trouble before getting through the seventh unscathed when he got Brandon Lowe to fly out to center field.

Heading into the eighth inning with a 4-2 advantage still in tact, Hansel Robles was next up out of the Boston bullpen. Robles, who last yielded a run in late August, was quite simply unable to hold the Rays down for long.

Wander Franco led the top of the eighth off by taking Robles 364 feet deep into the Monster seats to trim the Sox’ lead down to one run at 4-3. A double from Meadows and groundout from Cruz put the potential tying run at third base in the form of pinch-running Manuel Margot.

Robles did manage to keep Margot at third momentarily by punching out Yandy Diaz on a foul tip for the second out of the inning, but Arozarena — as he has had the tendency to do — did not let Robles escape easily.

On an 0-1, 92 mph slider on the outer half of the plate, Arozarena added on to his October legend by lacing a line-drive double to left-center field past an outstretched Hernandez that allowed Margot to easily score from third to knot things up at four runs apiece.

Robles, who was charged with the blown save, was immediately removed from the game due to a stomach illness — as he left the field with head trainer Brad Pearson — and was subsequently replaced by Garrett Whitlock.

Whitlock, in turn, stranded the runner he inherited by intentionally walking Kevin Kiermaier before striking out Mike Zunino to retire the side. The right-handed rookie also sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the ninth to hold the Rays at four runs.

The Red Sox, however, could not take advantage of this in their half of the ninth, meaning this contest headed into extra innings with a score of 4-4.

Nick Pivetta, in his first relief appearance since Game 1 of this series, gave up a single to the speedy Margot to lead off the top of the 10th. After he got both Cruz to Cruz to fly out, though, Christian Vazquez threw out Margot as he attempted to steal second base while Arozarena was at the plate.

Arroyo was able to keep his tag on Margot’s leg as he slid over the bag, resulting in a confirmed third out upon a brief replay review.

In the bottom of the 10th, with former Yankees closer David Robertson on the mound for Tampa Bay, Verdugo reached base via a one-out single to left field.

J.D. Martinez followed by barreling a 375-foot fly ball to deep center field, but it was one that was caught on the warning track by an awaiting Kiermaier. Hunter Renfroe then popped out to first base for the final out.

Pivetta, called upon again for the 11th, got himself in and out of trouble after issuing a leadoff walk to Arozarena. The righty allowed the speedy outfielder to advance to second on a stolen base that came after a strikeout, but followed by fanning both Zunino and Jordan Luplow to escape a potential jam.

That sequence paved the way for the Sox to finally break through in their half of the 11th, but they could not muster anything even after Arroyo ripped a one-out double down the left field line off of Robertson to put the winning run in scoring position.

Bobby Dalbec, who previously pinch-ran for Schwarber, whiffed on three straight strikes before Hernandez grounded out to Franco at shortstop to extinguish the threat.

In the 12th, Pivetta continued to impress, as the righty sat down the lone three batters he faced in the inning. With the chance to pick Pivetta up in the bottom half of the frame, though, the trio of Devers, Bogaerts and Verdugo saw a combined six pitches from Luis Patino in yet another 1-2-3 inning.

Back out once more for the 13th, Pivetta endured some late-game drama. With two outs and a runner at first, Kiermaier crushed a 381-foot flyball to right field that nearly left the yard. It instead bounced off the warning track and deflected off Renfroe before caroming into the Red Sox bullpen.

As a result, Kiermaier was rewarded with a ground-rule double, though he and the Rays thought it should have been ruled a triple that would have scored the go-ahead run.

Tampa Bay challenged the call and it was upheld, meaning Kiermaier had to stay at second base while the potential go-ahead run in Diaz remained in third.

Having yet to allow a run, Pivetta followed by fanning Zunino on four pitches to send this one to the bottom of the 13th still deadlocked at four runs each.

At long last, the Red Sox finally responded to Pivetta’s efforts while matched up against Patino.

Martinez flew out and Renfroe drew a six-pitch walk to set the stage for Vazquez, who originally replaced Kevin Plawecki back in the sixth inning.

On the very first pitch he saw from Patino, a 96 mph heater down the heart of the plate, Vazquez absolutely unloaded on it and sent it 394 feet into the first row of Green Monster seats to walk it off for the Red Sox.

With Vazquez’s walk-off two-home run to seal a 6-4 victory, the Red Sox are now just one win away from eliminating the Rays from playoff contention and advancing to the American League Championship Series.

All told, Pivetta tossed four innings of scoreless baseball in which he scattered three hits, struck out seven and walked one batter to pick up the winning decision on Sunday.

Next up: Rodriguez likely for Marathon Monday

Neither the Red Sox or Rays have yet to officially name a starter for Game 4 of this series on Monday, though Cora told reporters Sunday night that the responsibility would likely fall to left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Monday will also mark the first running of the Boston Marathon since April 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Sox will have the chance to cap off a special day in the city by to closing out this series with their third straight win.

That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park Monday night is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez once again batting sixth for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALDS vs. Rays

J.D. Martinez made his impact felt in his return to the Red Sox lineup in Friday’s 14-6 trouncing of the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field, and he did so while batting out of the six-hole.

Prior to Friday night, Martinez had never started a regular season game below the No. 5 spot in the batting order in his time with the Sox, but his first exposure to the No. 6 spot in quite some time netted extremely positive results.

Hitting behind Alex Verdugo and in front of Hunter Renfroe, the 34-year-old slugger went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, three RBI and one run scored while starting at designated hitter. He was pinch-ran for by Danny Santana in the ninth inning.

Martinez did all that while still nursing a left ankle sprain, and with another right-handed pitcher in Drew Rasmussen getting the start for the Rays, he will once again be batting sixth in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday afternoon.

As was also the case with Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s lineup on Friday, the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber will lead off and start at first base in place of Bobby Dalbec. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Verdugo, Martinez, and Renfroe comprise the 5-6-7 portion of Boston’s lineup, which will be rounded out by Kevin Plawecki and second baseman Christian Arroyo.

Plawecki will be catching right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Sunday. The pair developed quite a bit of chemistry over the course of the regular season, which carried over into Tuesday’s Wild Card Game win over the Yankees.

Eovaldi allowed just one run on four hits and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 strong innings while earning the victory in that outing, and he will look to do more of the same on Sunday opposite Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, one of two pitchers the Rays acquired as part of the trade that sent Willy Adames to the Brewers back in May, made his postseason debut for Milwaukee in last year’s Wild Card Series against the Dodgers. He tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Game 1 of that series.

As Eovaldi goes up against his former team, he will have the opportunity to get the Red Sox ahead of the Rays after the two clubs split the first two games of this best-of-five ALDS at Tropicana Field.

With that being said, first pitch from Fenway Park on Sunday is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network.

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