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)

Red Sox to take on Astros in ALCS

For the second time in the last four seasons, the Red Sox will be taking on the Astros in the American League Championship Series.

After the Red Sox knocked off the Rays from the American League Division Series in four games at Fenway Park on Monday night, the Astros did the very same to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on Tuesday.

Boston walked off on Tampa Bay to to punch their ticket to the ALCS, while Houston trounced Chicago by a final score of 10-1 to advance to their fifth consecutive championship series going back to 2017.

With that, the Red Sox and the Astros are the last two teams standing in the American League, setting up a rematch of the 2018 ALCS that Boston won in a convincing five games.

At this time three years ago, though, the Sox had homefield advantage in that series. That will not be the case this year after the Astros won their division by finishing with a 95-67 record in the regular season.

Over the course of the regular season, the Astros won the season series against the Red Sox, 5-2. They took three of four from them at Minute Maid Park from May 31 through June 3 before taking two of three at Fenway Park the following week.

The Red Sox will presumably board a flight to Houston on Wednesday and participate in a workout at Minute Maid Park on Thursday before kicking off this best-of-seven ALCS on Friday night.

Here is the full schedule. Note that pitching matchups have yet to be determined:

Game 1 – Friday, Oct. 15, 8:07 p.m. eastern time — Red Sox @ Astros — FOX

Game 2 – Saturday, Oct. 16, TBA — Red Sox @ Astros — FOX or FS1

Game 3 – Monday, Oct. 18, TBA — Astros @ Red Sox — FS1

Game 4 – Tuesday, Oct. 19, TBA — Astros @ Red Sox — FS1

Game 5 (if necessary) – Wednesday, Oct. 20, TBA — Astros @ Red Sox — FS1

Game 6 (if necessary) – Friday, Oct. 22, TBA — Red Sox @ Astros — FS1

Game 7 (if necessary) – Saturday, Oct. 23, TBA — Red Sox @ Astros — FOX or FS1

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe and Christian Arroyo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Martín Pérez tosses 7 2/3 scoreless innings, Christian Arroyo crushes 3-run homer as Red Sox salvage series against Astros with 5-1 win

Powered by Martin Perez’s strongest showing of the season to date, the Red Sox were able to avoid a four-game sweep and salvage their series against the Astros with a 5-1 victory at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.

Perez, making his 11th start of the season, pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his Red Sox career.

Over 7 2/3 impressive frames of work, the veteran left-hander kept the Astros off the board while scattering just six hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Five of the six hits Perez gave up were singles. The only extra-base hit was snuffed out right away when he yielded a two-out double to Aledmys Diaz and immediately picked him off trying to steal third base.

The fifth inning presented a little bit more trouble for Perez when he put on two of the first three hitters he faced in the frame. Nevertheless, the southpaw got Myles Straw to pop out to the infield before inducing an inning-ending grounder off the bat of Garrett Stubbs. Bobby Dalbec made a nice diving play on the ball and Perez did a quality job of getting over to first base in time.

From there, Perez held things in check. But a one-out single and two-out walk — his first free pass of the contest — in the bottom of the eighth would mark the end of his outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler improved to 4-2 on the year while lowering his ERA down to 3.09. His next start should come against this same Astros team back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.

In relief of Perez, Adam Ottavino got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and needed all of five pitches to record the final out of the inning.

With a five-run lead going into the last of the ninth, the Sox were able to go to Brandon Workman to close this one out on the same they promoted him from Triple-A Worcester.

Workman served up a solo homer to Yuli Gurriel, but was otherwise up to the challenge of preserving a 5-1 win for his side.

Red Sox offense wakes up

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in the form of Astros right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

Unlike the first three games of this series, the Boston bats were actually able to take advantage of early scoring opportunities.

That being the case because with no outs and runners on first and second in the top of the second, a resurgent Christian Arroyo crushed his first home run of the season on a hanging cutter from Odorizzi.

Arroyo’s three-run shot traveled 339 feet over the left field fence and had an exit velocity of 93.2 mph off the bat. It also cleared the bases and gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage early on.

Fast forward to the seventh, and the Sox found themselves in a nearly-identical situation.

With no outs and runners at second and third, Xander Bogaerts put an end to one of the worst offensive skids of his career (0-for-his-last-24) by lacing a two-run double off Astros reliever Cristian Javier. He also singled in the ninth to finish the day with his first multi-hit game since May 21.

Bogaerts’ seventh-inning two-base hit put the Red Sox up 5-0 and, as previously mentioned, 5-1 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

By breaking out of a three-game losing streak, the Sox improve to 33-23 on the season (17-10) on the season to get back to 10 games over .500. They remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Alex Cora ejected

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning. He was tossed by home plate umpire Lance Barrett after Kevin Plawecki struck out looking on a questionable third called strike.

Cora has now been ejected two times this season, with Thursday marking his first ejection since April 15. Bench coach Will Venable took over managerial responsibilities for the remainder of the ballgame.

Next up: Big weekend series in the Bronx

The Red Sox will depart Houston for New York, where they will open up a three-game weekend series against the 31-26 Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Boston in the opener, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Michael King for New York.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Lifeless Red Sox drop third straight to Astros, 2-1; Nick Pivetta hit with first loss of season despite striking out 9 over 6 innings

A stagnant Red Sox offense was once again held in check by the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night.

Houston starter Framber Valdez gave Boston a chance to get something going immediately in the first inning. The left-hander loaded the bases with two outs and walked in a run by issuing a free pass to Hunter Renfroe.

Bobby Dalbec was presented with the opportunity to do some more damage in his first at-bat of the night, but he grounded out sharply to shortstop to extinguish the threat.

As it would later turn out, that lone run is all the Sox could get off of Valdez, as the southpaw settled in after a rough first inning and strung together six straight scoreless frames to get through seven strong when all was said and done.

The Boston bats did not fare much better against the Astros’ bullpen, with all three of Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts lining out to center field against reliever Ryne Stanek in the top half of the eighth.

In the top half of the ninth, a one-out single from Renfroe and two-out single from Vazquez off Astros closer Ryan Pressly provided the Red Sox with some late life and the chance to at least tie things up at two runs apiece.

Alas, Christian Arroyo hit a broken-bat pop-up to the infield, and 2-1 would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

By dropping their third consecutive contest to the Astros, the Red Sox fall to 32-23 on the season (16-10 on the road), yet still remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Pivetta grinds through first two innings, winds up turning in solid performance

Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta needed 57 pitches to get through the first two innings of his 11th start of the season on Wednesday. Like Valdez, he also put himself in a bases-loaded jam right away in the first, but got out of it having allowed just one run.

From that point, though, the right-hander locked in and put together one of his best outings of the year to this point all things considered.

Over six innings in total, Pivetta yielded two runs — both earned — on three hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 111 (72 strikes) to set a new season-high, the 28-year-old was ultimately hit with his first loss of the year — and his first since coming over to the Red Sox from the Phillies last August. His next start should come against the Marlins back at Fenway Park on Monday.

Red Sox bullpen takes over

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez tossed a perfect seventh inning while Hirokazu Sawamura and Josh Taylor combined to toss a scoreless bottom of the eighth with the help of Christian Vazquez snuffing out Alex Bregman at second base.

Next up: Perez vs. Odorizzi

The Red Sox will send left-hander Martin Perez to the hill on Thursday afternoon as they look to halt this three-game losing streak, avoid a sweep and in turn end an otherwise forgettable series against the Astros on a positive note.

Perez will be opposed by veteran right-hander and his former Twins rotation mate Jake Odorizzi for Houston.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Red Sox commit 2 costly errors, fail to get anything going offensively in 5-1 loss to Astros

The Red Sox were within striking distance of the Astros heading into the bottom of the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night.

Trailing by a run at 2-1, Hirokazu Sawamura came on for Garrett Richards and yielded a leadoff single to Kyle Tucker. A Rafael Devers fielding error on a Chas McCormick groundball put runners at first and second with no outs.

Sawamura proceeded by inducing another grounder off the bat of Myles Straw, one that was hit directly to Xander Bogaerts for what looked to be the start of a huge 6-4-3 double play.

Bogaerts fielded the ball cleanly and made a routine toss to Marwin Gonzalez, who misfired on his throw to first base that got past a sprawling Danny Santana and allowed Tucker to score easily.

A five-pitch walk of Martin Maldonado, a wild pitch, and an intentional walk of Jose Altuve loaded the bases as Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the switch from Sawamura to Garrett Whitlock.

Making his first appearance out of the bullpen in a week, Whitlock issued a free pass to the first man he faced to bring in another run before Yordan Alvarez tapped an infield single off him to plate an additional run and make it a 5-1 game.

What transpired in the seventh inning on Tuesday was what ultimately did the Red Sox in. By falling to Houston by a final score of 5-1, Boston drops back down to 32-22 (16-9) on the season. They remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Richards provides six solid innings

Garrett Richards made his 11th start of the season for the Red Sox and put together yet another strong showing.

Despite dealing with his fair share of traffic on the base paths, the right-hander surrendered just two earned runs on four hits, four walks, and five strikeouts over six innings of work.

The first of the two Astros runs Richards gave up came on a towering solo home run from Jose Altuve right away in the first inning. The second came on a sacrifice fly from Chas McCormick after Richards served up a leadoff double and followed with a four-pitch walk later in the bottom half of the fourth.

Besides that, the 33-year-old hurler was able to retire six of the final seven Astros he faced to get through six full innings.

Despite lowering his ERA on the season down to 3.75, Richards was charged with his fourth loss and is now 4-4. His next start should come against the Yankees in the Bronx on Sunday night.

Red Sox’ offensive woes continue

For the second straight day, the Red Sox lineup was held in check at Minute Maid Park. Boston was once again limited to five hits while managing to push across just one run against Astros rookie starter Luis Garcia.

Hunter Renfroe sparked the lone offensive output of the night with a leadoff double in the fifth, marking his fifth consecutive game with an extra-base hit. Danny Santana advanced Renfroe to third on a single moments later, and it appeared as though the Sox were ready to pounce.

Christian Vazquez failed to advance either runner by popping out to the infield, Marwin Gonzalez plated Renfroe on an RBI groundout, and Enrique Hernandez also popped out to extinguish the threat.

From there, an Alex Verdugo leadoff single and Vazquez two-out single in the seventh went for naught as Garcia made it through seven complete innings for the first time in his young career.

The Astros bullpen took over in relief of Garcia and preserved the one-run effort by tossing a pair of scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Valdez

Wednesday’s starting pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Astros will feature a pair of right-hander and a left-hander, with righty Nick Pivetta getting the ball for Boston and southpaw Framber Valdez doing the same for Houston.

Pivetta will look to play the role as the stopper with the Sox looking to halt a two-game skid and get back in the win column.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodriguez surrenders 6 runs, finishes miserable month of May with 7.28 ERA as Red Sox fall to Astros, 11-2, on Memorial Day

Alex Cora’s first trip back to Houston since being implicated in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal did not get off to the best of starts.

The Red Sox saw their three-game winning streak come to an end and closed out the month of May with a blowout 11-2 loss at the hands of the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Monday evening.

They fell to 32-21 (16-8 on the road) on the season as a result and now sit two full games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East, the farthest they have been back of the division lead since April 5.

Rodriguez wraps up miserable May

Eduardo Rodriguez made his 10th start of the season for Boston in the opener of this four-game set and was unable to end a downright dreadful month of May on a positive note.

Over 4 2/3 innings of work, the left-hander got shelled for six earned runs on seven hits and two walks to go along with just four strikeouts on the day.

The six runs Rodriguez yielded on Monday were a season-high and came in bunches, with the Astros plating two in the second, two in the third, and two more in the fifth.

What truly did Rodriguez in was when he served up a two-run home run to Jose Altuve with no outs in the third inning. The homer was more bad luck than anything considering it came on a 1-2, 88 mph changeup on the outer half of the plate and traveled a whopping 330 feet with an exit velocity of 92.2 mph just over the fence in left field.

Still, a home run is a a home run, and it was one that put the Red Sox in a 4-0 hole.

From there, Rodriguez stringed together a nice stretch before running into more trouble in the fifth in which he allowed two of the first four hitters he faced to reach base.

At that point, the lefty’s pitch count had reached 97 (62 strikes), and his day was done as Cora turned to Colten Brewer out of the Boston bullpen.

By getting hit with his fourth consecutive losing decision, Rodriguez falls to 5-4 on the year while raising his ERA to 5.64. In six May starts, the 28-year-old posted an astronomically-high 7.28 ERA, which is the highest mark of any month in his six major-league seasons.

Red Sox bullpen takes over

In relief of Rodriguez, Colten Brewer took over with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and allowed both runners he inherited to score before retiring the side.

Brewer, who was making his 2021 debut, was charged with four additional runs, while Phillips Valdez was charged with one, in the sixth. Valdez then tossed a a scoreless bottom of the seventh and Matt Andriese followed suit in the eighth.

Quiet offense sans Renfroe

The Red Sox lineup failed to muster anything off of Astros starter Jose Urquidy on Monday.

It took until the fourth inning for Boston to reach base and until the fifth inning to record a hit against the right-hander.

The only real exception to the Sox’ offensive woes was Hunter Renfore, who put the finishing touches on a strong month of may by scoring his side’s first run on an Alex Verdugo RBI double in the sixth and later scoring himself on his seventh home run of the season in the eighth.

Renfroe’s 419-foot solo blast made it an 11-2 game, which would go on to be Monday’s final score.

Next up: Richards vs. Garcia

Tuesday’s pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Astros will feature veteran right-hander getting the ball for Boston and rookie right-hander Luis Garcia getting the ball for Houston.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Reportedly Played ‘Key Role’ in Astros’ Sign Stealing Fiasco in 2017

Red Sox manager Alex Cora will be interviewed by Major League Baseball as part of the league’s investigation into the Houston Astros stealing signs throughout the 2017 season, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to the report, Cora, “played a key role in devising the sign-stealing system the team used that season.”

Cora served as bench coach under manager A.J. Hinch during the Astros’ World Series-winning campaign in 2017. New Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played his final season with Houston as the team’s designated hitter, will also be interviewed.

In case you missed this news from Tuesday, the basic premise is that the Astros had a system at Minute Maid Park where a camera was set up in the outfield so that it could capture what the opposing team’s catcher was laying down to his pitcher. With that information coming through on a monitor and some decoding of said signs, someone in the Astros dugout could signal to the hitter at the plate what kind of pitch was on the way, which was done through making, “a loud noise — specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel,” behind Houston’s dugout.

This much was confirmed by former Astros right-hander Mike Fiers, who was with the club from July 2015 until the end of the 2017 season.

What does this have to do with Cora and the Red Sox? Well, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the league spoke with Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, who came over from Houston with Cora back in 2017, on Wednesday.

Cora appeared on WEEI’s Dale & Keefe show on Thursday, and was asked about his involvement in what is currently transpiring.

“I appreciate the question,” Cora said. “…I have talked to MLB and I’ll leave it at that.”

As for what is in store for Cora and the Sox, more is sure to come as the league’s investigation progresses, so stay tuned for that.