It was one of those days in which nothing seemed to go right, and by right we mean right field, where early on, Josh Reddick was robbed of a home run by the Boston Red Sox’ Mookie Betts, and later, Reddick himself gave up a home run to the Sox’ Jackie Bradley Jr., gloving the ball but then allowing it to deflect out of his hands and into the stands for a three-run shot. In short, it was an awkward day at Fenway Park to say the least, an afternoon in which the ‘Stros would fall 10-3 to the Sox at Fenway. But it was a valiant effort nonetheless, and one which could well play well for Houston in the long run. For one thing, reliever David Price pitched well but also pitched four innings, raising questions about how much the Sox will be able to draw on him over the next few days. So far, he is the only pitcher who has been able to figure out how to hobble the Astros’ offense, and to survive the Sox have to win tomorrow without him.
Here’s how Houstonia’s ‘Stro Stories called the game as it happened.
5:15: In the top of the ninth, Springer seemed intent on laying down a marker for tomorrow, hitting an infield single before Reddick grounded into a double play. Not giving up, Altuve turned in an infield hit, but Correa was called out on strikes to end the game. Final score: Red Sox 10, Astros 3.
5:00: After Bregman flied out deep and Beltran flied out to right, Gurriel singled. But McCann grounded out to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth with Luke Gregerson pitching, Benintendi flied out to deep center, Betts struck out, and Moreland grounded out to end the inning.
4:30: In the bottom of the 7th, McCullers started the inning by walking Benintendi. After Betts followed by singling to left, Hinch replaced McCullers with Chris Devenski, who gave up a single to Moreland, loading the bases with nobody out. Ramirez then stroked a two-run double. Red Sox 6, Astros 3. An RBI single by Devers followed. Red Sox 7, Astros 3. Reliever Joe Musgrove came in to replace Devenski and he got Leon to fly out for the first out of the inning. Bradley delivered the death knell, though, with what became a home run after a ball that Reddick had gotten a glove on in right field deflected off him and into the stands. Red Sox 10, Astros 3. Following that debacle, Bogaerts and Pedroia flied out to at last end the inning.
4:10: Top of the 7th, Price, still on the mound, had tossed 42 pitches before facing Reddick, who flied out to shallow left-center. Next to face a tired looking Price was Altuve, who walked. Correa flied out to Betts in right. Gonzalez struck out to end the inning.
4:00: Bradley and Bogaerts led off the bottom of the sixth by striking out to McCullers. Pedroia grounded out softly to end the inning. Could McCullers' sharp work spark a momentum shift?
3:56: Top of the sixth and Price was still on the mound to face Beltran, who struck out. Next up was Gurriel, who singled to right. McCann flied out deep to right, bringing up Springer, who also flied out to right.
3:45: Ramirez stroked a long single off the left-field Monster to start the bottom of the fifth. Devers hit into an apparent double-play which the Red Sox challenged but the call stood. He was followed by Leon, whom McCullers struck out to end the inning.
3:34: The top of the fifth began with a softly hit ball that Reddick beat out for a hit, and Altuve followed with a single of his own. Correa was safe on a fielder's choice after he bounced out to third, knocking out Reddick, which brought up Gonzalez, who struck out, and Bregman grounded out to end the inning.
3:20: Starter Lance McCullers was brought in to face the Sox in the bottom of the 4th. Bogarts hit a sharp ball that struck McCullers on the ankle, but the pitcher picked up the ball and threw him out. Pedroia grounded out to Bregman, but Benintendi hit a hard grounder that Correa made a nice stop of, only to throw it past Gurriel's outstretched glove, allowing Benintendi to take second. After Betts walked, McCullers got Moreland to strike out to end the inning.
3:10: Top of the fourth: With David Price brought in for relief, Beltran grounded out to the second baseman, but Gurriel singled to right. McCann flied out sharply to right field and Springer struck out.
3:00: After Francisco Liriano came in, he promptly gave up a home run to Devers. Red Sox 4, Astros 3. Bradley hit a sharply hit ball to Gurriel, who caught it to end the inning.
2:50: Peacock got Benintendi and Betts to strike out to start the bottom of the third inning. Moreland doubled off the wall in center, and then Ramirez doubled to score Moreland, and that was it for Peacock. Astros 3, Red Sox 2.
2:38: After Altuve started the top of the third with an immediate single to center, Correa grounded into a double play. Gonzalez followed with a single of his own, and Betts saved another one with the nice running catch of a fly ball by Bregman.
2:22: In the bottom of the second, first baseman Mitch Moreland singled to left, while DH Hanley Ramirez singled to right. After Peacock walked third baseman Rafael Devers, the bases were loaded. Leon singled to drive in the Sox first run. Astros 3, Red Sox 1. Peacock got center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to strike out swinging. When Bogaerts grounded to the infield, Ramirez was out at home, and Pedroia flied out to Marwin in left.
2:06: After Carlos Beltran walked, Yuli Gurriel hit a sharp single to center. After Brian McCann flied out to center, Red Sox manager took an unhappy Doug Fister out of the game, replacing him with reliever Joe Kelly. After a wild pitch that got by catcher Sandy Leon, Beltran and Gurriel ended up on 2nd and 3rd. Springer grounded out without the runners advancing further. Reddick sent shockwaves throughout Fenway as a near-home run was caught by Mookie Betts at the last possible second.
2:00: After that spectacular start (in the postseason, the Astros have now gone 7 for 16 with four homers in the first inning), the Red Sox came to the plate with Xander Bogaerts grounding out softly to Altuve. Next up was Dustin Pedroia who grounded just past a diving Altuve for a single. Andrew Benintendi flied out to Reddick in right field, and Mookie Betts, after a battle, struck out the Sox' right-fielder.
1:38: And we are off with an immediate single by George Springer, and a single by Josh Reddick that scores Springer from 1st! Astros 1, Red Sox 0. Jose Altuve bounces out to the infield. Carlos Correa follows with a gigantic two-run homer! Astros 3, Red Sox 0. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out on a nice play by Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Alex Bregman took pitcher Doug Fister to a full count before being called out on strikes, and the inning was over. But wow, what an incredible start in enemy territory by these Astros.
Astros Starting Line-up:
1. George Springer (CF)
2. Josh Reddick (RF)
3. Jose Altuve (2B)
4. Carlos Correa (SS)
5. Marwin Gonzalez (LF)
6. Alex Bregman (3B)
7. Carlos Beltran (DH)
8. Yuli Gurriel (1B)
9. Brian McCann (C)
P: Brad Peacock
1:00 p.m.: Hello from Eighth Wonder Brewery in EaDo, where excitement is building for today's game. We're just a half-hour way...
10:30 a.m.: What a difference a few wins makes. Just a couple of games ago, few seemed impressed by the Astros’ diamond-dominating offense and punishing defense, even though the team had been exhibiting both for about six months. Oh well, better late than never. The list of superlatives reads like a smash hit on Rotten Tomatoes:
“No team in baseball slugs like the Houston Astros!”—The New York Times
“Could Spark the Beginning of an AL Dynasty!”—The Washington Post
“The Red Sox were slaughtered at Minute Maid Park and did not even look like they belonged on the same field as the Astros!”—The New York Post
“The Red Sox Got Their Ass Kicked!”—WEEI, Boston
Given the sudden and belated recognition, the fear of course is that such superlatives will go to the Astros’ heads. They are a young team, so goes the narrative, and unaware of the evils of flattery. We aren’t going to deny their youthfulness, which after all is one of the greatest weapons in the ‘Stros arsenal, but we’re betting that this is a team wise beyond its years, something that a victory today over the Red Sox at Fenway would go a long way toward proving.
Let’s remember, however, that this is Fenway we’re talking about. As Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley reminded us this morning, the Sox are notoriously tough to beat at home, boasting a 48-33 record in 2017. Then again, the ‘Stros took three of four games there in the last week of the regular season, so a sweep would hardly be surprising.
And it would do wonders for the team’s morale. Houston wouldn’t seem to need much of a boost in that department, especially after two soul-shaking, murderous victories at Minute Maid. Oddsmakers, pundits and even many Sox fans are betting that the ‘Stros will emerge victorious from this series either today, tomorrow or, god forbid, Wednesday in Houston. But success in baseball is all about momentum, and the ‘Stros will want to squeeze every ounce of it from this Boston series—because they will likely need every ounce of it when facing their opponent in the American League Championship Series. And by “their opponent,” we mean of course the Cleveland Indians, who are riding a wave of inevitability that simply refuses to crest. Time was, not long ago, when the Indians were the disappointment of 2017. Their first two months of the season were textbook mediocre, and for a while it seemed like the Minnesota Twins might end up kinds of the AL Central. But then of course came August and a certain streak that got the world talking (which happened to coincide with the ‘Stros only mediocre stretch), which brought back memories of the Indians’ collapse in last year’s World Series, which reminded everyone that they still haven’t won a World Series since Noah’s flood, and suddenly the media had a THIS IS THE INDIANS’ YEAR narrative whose power seems to be growing by the day.
All of which is to say that the Indians, a perfectly decent group of ballplayers from a perfectly decent city, now seem to be playing with a sense of inevitability. For this, they have their 22-game winning streak to thank, and especially the hysterical overreaction to said streak by the media, a gushing force field of such intensity even the Indians’ opponents find themselves powerless against it. (How else to explain the Yankees’ spectacular collapse against them the other night?)
And when the Indians advance to the ALCS (again either today, tomorrow or Wednesday), the cries of destiny will grow even louder as the few remaining media hold-outs—stragglers who’d been peddling that lame YANKEES ARE A WHOLE YEAR AHEAD OF WHERE THEY SHOULD BE narrative—jump on the Indians bandwagon. And then, when the gale force winds of inevitability generated thereby slam head-on into the Astros, well, Houston will need everything in its arsenal—superior pitching, hitting, and yes, momentum—to stave off the onslaught. Will it be enough? Only time will tell. All we can say is that the Astros have a talent for great baseball, a talent we don’t see them losing anytime soon.
Anyway, if they survive the Indians, the sailing should be much, much smoother for the ‘Stros. Just imagine what the media will do with a HOUSTON GOES FROM CATASTROPHE TO TRIUMPH narrative.