ALCS: Red Sox ground the Astros in five, advance to World Series 

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Craig Kimbrel celebrates with catcher Sandy Leon after winning the baseball American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In a highly anticipated match-up of the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros, two of baseball’s best teams, the Red Sox came out on top in five games to advance to the World Series. 

The Red Sox and Astros combined for 211 wins during the regular season, the second most combined wins in a playoff matchup in MLB history.This series was expected to go six, if not seven games, with both teams evenly matched. Boston finished the regular season with the top-ranked offense and eighth-ranked pitching staff, while Houston held the sixth-ranked offense and top-ranked pitching staff.  

Game 1 in Boston featured a marquee pitching matchup of Chris Sale against Justin Verlander. Sale struggled with command throughout the night, needing 86 pitches to get through four innings, allowing two earned runs, walking four batters, hitting another and striking out five. Verlander cruised through the first four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth, walking three batters, one of which brought in a run, and allowing the tying run on a wild pitch.  

Houston retook the lead in the top of the sixth with a Carlos Correa RBI single and the bullpen shut down Boston’s offense the rest of the way. Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel added some insurance with a pair of home runs in the ninth as Houston pulled away to win 7-2. Boston set a franchise record by issuing ten walks in the game and hit three other batters.  

Game 2 pitted David Price against Gerrit Cole. Boston raced out of the gate with two runs in the first inning, but Houston answered with a two-run double by George Springer in the second and a two-run blast by Marwin Gonzalez in the third. Jackie Bradley Jr. answered back in the bottom of the third with a bases loaded three-run double to give Boston a 5-4 advantage. Both bullpens would hold the score until the bottom of the seventh, when Mookie Betts scored on a passed ball. Betts struck again in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI double to make it 7-4. An RBI single for Jose Altuve in the ninth capped off the scoring, as Boston won 7-5 and evened the series at a game apiece. 

Nathan Eovaldi and Charlie Morton took the hill for their respective teams as the series shifted to Houston. Boston again jumped on Houston early, scoring two runs in the first inning off a JD Martinez RBI double and Xander Bogaerts bringing in a run on a Fielder’s Choice. Houston got a run back in the bottom of the frame with a Marwin Gonzalez RBI single, and tied the game in the fifth when Alex Bregman notched an RBI double.  

Steve Pearce was denied the opportunity to drive in two runs in the top of the third, when his bullet to the left field wall appeared to be caught in a spectacular defensive play by Astros outfielder Tony Kemp. Video review ruled in favor of Kemp, despite some angles showing that the ball struck the wall just before reaching Kemp’s glove. In his next at-bat, Pearce mashed a four-hundred-foot home run to left field, giving Boston a 3-2 lead.  

Both bullpens would hold until the top of the eighth, when Astros closer Roberto Osuna was brought in early. Osuna loaded the bases and hit Mitch Moreland in the shoulder to bring in a run. Bradley Jr. then crushed a high fastball into the right field seats for a Grand Slam, giving Boston a 8-2 lead and effectively ending the game. 

A pair of Cy Young winners got the starting nods for Game 4: Rick Porcello for Boston and Dallas Keuchel for Houston. For the third consecutive game, the Red Sox scored twice in the first inning, this time both runs came in off a Rafael Devers bloop single into the outfield. Houston appeared to tie in the game in the bottom of the first when Altuve ripped a high fastball into deep right field, but the umpires ruled fan interference on Betts’ attempt to catch the ball before it went over the wall, resulting in Altuve being called out.  

The replay showed that Betts was in position to make the catch and that a fan’s outstretched arm closed his glove before he could make the play, but there was no clear angle as to whether or not the ball had already crossed the wall.  

Houston was able to get a run back in the second inning off an RBI single from Correa. Bogaerts countered with an RBI double to give the Red Sox a 3-1 lead, but the Astros tied the game up in the bottom of the inning with a Springer solo shot to right and an RBI single from Reddick.  

The game would continue to go back and forth, as a solo home run for Kemp in the fourth gave Houston a 4-3 lead, but another RBI base hit from Bogaerts tied the game again. Correa put Houston back in front again with another RBI single but Boston answered yet again with a Bradley Jr. two-run shot to right field.  

The Red Sox tacked on another run in the seventh when Astros reliever Lance McCullers Jr. walked Brock Holt with the bases loaded, the third time a Houston pitcher had done so in the series. Martinez pushed the lead to three with an RBI single in the eighth inning. 

Boston brought Craig Kimbrel in the bottom of the eighth inning, despite him never having recorded a six-out save. Kemp leadoff the inning with a base hit down the right field line, but Betts made a strong defensive play to cut him down as he tried to stretch for second base. Altuve would trim the lead to two by driving in a run on a groundout.  

Boston loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but Collin McHugh was able to get Betts to fly out to right field in order to keep the Red Sox lead from growing. Kimbrel struggled with his command in the bottom of the inning, throwing 12 balls on 21 pitches and walking the bases loaded. He was able to get Alex Bregman to line out to left field, where Andrew Benintendi made a fantastic diving grab, to end the game and give Boston a 3-1 series lead. 

Facing elimination in Game 5, Houston turned to Verlander, who had never lost a postseason elimination game in his career. With Sale unavailable due to a stomach issue, Boston moved up Price to start in Sale’s place.  

Both pitchers started off very strong, with the only blemish being a JD Martinez solo shot off of Verlander. Price’s start in particular was exceptional. Given his history of postseason struggles, six innings of nine-strikeout, shutout ball represents the best playoff performance of his career. 

Devers blew the game open in the top of the sixth when he hit a three run home run that barely carried over the left field wall, giving Boston a 4-0 lead. Matt Barnes came in to pitch the seventh inning for Boston, but gave up a solo home run to Gonzalez and was quickly replaced by Nathan Eovaldi on short rest. Eovaldi finished the seventh and eighth innings for Boston and exacted a bit of revenge on Alex Bregman for an Instagram post made prior to the series by striking him out with a 102 mph fastball. 

Kimbrel pitched a relatively clean ninth inning for Boston as they won the series and clinched the American League Pennant in five games. Bradley Jr. was named the ALCS Most Valuable Player, hitting .200 with two home runs and nine RBI. All nine of Bradley’s RBI came when there were two outs in the inning.  

Both UConn alums, Barnes and Springer, featured prominently in this series. Barnes appeared in all five games for Boston and recorded a statline of: 1 Win, 4.1 IP, 4 K, 4 BB, 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP for the series. Springer stats read like: .381 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 1.125 OPS. 

In beating the Astros, Boston became the first team to defeat two 100 win teams in the same postseason since the 2004 Red Sox. They will face the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway park on Tuesday night.  


Neil Simmons is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at neil.simmons@uconn.edu.

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