After a game that was as tense and exciting as they come, the Astros emerged victorious over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, 5-4, advancing to the American League Championship Series, where they will meet either the Cleveland Indians or New York Yankees. The Red Sox led for much of the wet, dreary day, but thanks to three terrific pitchers (Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander and Ken Giles), and three amazingly clutch at-bats (by Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran), the Astros pulled ahead in the eighth inning, stunning the Fenway fans, who'd been celebrating the relief efforts of the Sox's Chris Sale for much of the afternoon.
With the Astros down 3-2, it was Bregman who struck first in the eighth, with a solo shot over the Green Monster in left field, tying the game at 3-all. Next, Evan Gattis singled and Cameron Maybin was sent in as a pinch-runner for Gattis, advancing to second on a wild pitch by closer Craig Kimbrel. Reddick's single brought Maybin home, and the Astros added another run in the ninth, when Carlos Beltran doubled to bring home Marwin Gonzalez. An amazing end to an amazing day. Final score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4.
Here's how Houstonia's 'Stro Stories covered the action in real time:
4:05 p.m.: Last three chances for the Sox, and the batters facing Giles would be Devers, Vazquez and Bradley. Devers hits one off the wall for an inside-the-park home run and Fenway erupts. Astros 5, Red Sox 4. Next, Vazquez grounded out to Bregman. Two more outs.... Bradley strikes out.... One more out.... Pedroia takes the count to 3-2...
3:50 p.m.: After Correa struck out to start the ninth, Gonzalez was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Next up, Bregman took Kimbrel to 3-2 before flying out to center. That brought up Gurriel with two outs, who hit yet another base hit! With runners one first and second and two outs, Carlos Beltran was brought in to hit for Gattis, and doubled off the Monster, scoring Gonzalez! Astros 5, Red Sox 3. Brian McCann flied out to end the inning, and we go the ninth!
3:40 p.m.: Ken Giles came in to replace Verlander bottom of the eighth, facing Betts, who tapped one softly to the pitcher for out one. Moreland quickly grounded out to Bregman for the inning's second out, and Ramirez grounded to Giles for the third. We go to the ninth!
3:15 p.m.: The pressure was on here in the top of the 8th with the Astros down to their final six outs, Sale continuing to pitch, and Bregman at the plate. Bregman hit one over the Monster and the game was tied! Astros 3, Red Sox 3. Gattis cracked a single down the line in left, and Cameron Maybin came in to pinch run. McCann cracked a sharp ball to right but Betts caught it. With two outs, Sale was finally taken out of the game, replaced by Craig Kimbrel. After throwing a wild pitch to Springer, allowing Maybin to take second, Springer walked. You could cut the tension with a knife as Reddick took the count to 3-2 with two outs. Reddick singled and Maybin scored! Astros 4, Red Sox 3. Altuve popped out to end the inning. Now, it was the Red Sox who were down to the final six outs!
3:05 p.m.: Bottom of the 7th. Verlander faced Pedroia, who bounced out to Correa for out one. Bogaerts flied out to Springer in center. Next up was Benintendi, who'd homered off Verlander previously. This time he flied out to right to end the inning.
2:50 p.m.: Top of the 7th, and the top of the order for the Astros and the Red Sox' Sale. Springer started it with a base hit to left. Reddick flied out to left. Up stepped Altuve, who struck out looking. With two outs, it was up to Correa, who singled to left....Runners and first and second. But Gonzalez struck out to end the inning.
2:40 p.m.: Verlander remained in the game to face Devers in the bottom of the sixth, and walked him. After Vazquez popped out to center, Bradley hit into a double play to end the inning.
2:35 p.m.: In the top of the sixth, Bregman flied out, Gurriel sliced one past Devers at third, ending up on second base (Devers was charged with a 2-base error). Gattis was caught looking for the second out of the inning, and McCann struck out to end it.
2:15 p.m.: Bottom of the fifth, and a soaked-looking Morton was back out on the mound to face Pedroia, who bounced out to Bregman. After Bogaerts walked, Hinch elected to bring in Justin Verlander for the Astros ace's first-ever relief appearance. The first batter he faced, Benintendi, homered to right field. Red Sox 3, Astros 2. Betts bounced out to short, and then Moreland walked. Ramirez followed by flying out to Springer to end the inning.
2:05 p.m.: In the fifth inning, the Astros led off with Altuve, who bunted but was thrown out. (In yet another reminder of how strange this game had already become, Justin Verlander was seen warming up in the Astros bullpen.) Correa took the count to 3-2 against Sale before being called out on strikes. With two outs, Gonzalez popped out to end the inning.
1:50 p.m.: In the bottom of the fourth, the rain began falling more heavily in Boston but the sun was clearly shining on Morton, who struck out the side--Devers, Vazquez and Bradley.
1:45 p.m.: As expected, the Sox' game 1 starter Chris Sale entered the game in the top of the fourth and faced Brian McCann, who struck out looking. Springer followed and flied out to shallow left. Reddick bounced out to the pitcher and the inning was over.
1:33 p.m.: The bottom of the third seemed to come awfully quickly after Morton's narrow escape in the second. He faced Benintendi who hit a sharp single to right. Betts lined out to Bregman, who fired a bullet to first base--double play! Moreland doubled down the line in right. He was followed by the red-hot Ramirez (5 for 5 in his last at-bats), who took the count to 3-2 before hitting a base hit to left. But Marwin played it perfectly, throwing the second bullet of the inning, this time to McCann, who tagged out Moreland at the plate!
1:20 p.m.: After dodging a major bullet, the Astros sent Gonzalez to the plate in the top of the 3rd. As Porcello had already thrown 56 pitches, Chris Sale (the Sox ace who lost game 1 of the series) was seen up and throwing in the Red Sox bullpen. Gonzalez bounced out to Pedroia, who made a nice play for the first out. Bregman flied out to right. Gurriel continued his great postseason showing with a double (he's now 6 for 6 in his last two games) but Gattis flied out to end the inning.
1:00 p.m.: Bottom of the 2nd inning and the first batter was Sox DH Hanley Ramirez, who singled, followed by third baseman Rafael Devers, who also singled. Catcher Christian Vazquez walked on four pitches, and the bases were loaded with nobody out. Morton fired back by getting center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to strike out looking. Bases were still loaded with one out for Pedroia, who, after he was called out on strikes, argued the call along with manager John Farrell. The umpire ejected Farrell from the game. To the loudest of boos from the fans, Bogaerts flied out to Reddick in right field to end the inning, Morton having accomplished an almost superhero feat.
12:40 p.m.: Yuli Gurriel led off the top of the 2nd by a base hit to right field that got by Betts. Gurriel made it all the way to the third. After DH Evan Gattis struck out, Brian McCann took the count all the way to 3-2 against Porcello before striking out himself. Springer singled to score Gurriel! Astros 2, Red Sox 1. Next up was Reddick, who singled to the wall in left center, leaving runners on first and second with 2 outs for Altuve. After the Astros again take the count to 3-2, Altuve walked to load the bases for Correa, who struck out. So far the Astros have stranded five....
12:28 p.m.: The first batter faced by Charlie Morton in the bottom of the 1st inning was Red Sox second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, who tapped out softly to Yuli Gurriel at first. He was followed by shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who homered to tie the game. Astros 1, Red Sox 1. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi bounced out to Altuve, and right fielder Mookie Betts stroked a long single off the Green Monster, later stealing second before Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland was called out on strikes.
12:08 p.m: George Springer starts the day off right with a lead-off double! He took third after a wild pitch by Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello. The net at-bat, Josh Reddick, took Porcello to a full count before being walked... Runners were on first and third with nobody out. Next, Jose Altuve hit into a double play but Springer scored. Astros 1, Red Sox 0. Porcello gave up his second walk of the inning to Carlos Correa, which brought up Marwin Gonzalez, who was hit by a pitch on his left elbow....Runners on first and second with two outs. Alex Bregman struck out to end the inning.
12:00 p.m: It's high noon in Boston and we're just moments away from the first pitch...
11 a.m.: Rain is in the forecast today for Fenway, and while the weather is not expected to prevent the game from beginning, lengthy delays could be possible, which could change the game's trajectory in multiple ways. We'll keep you updated.
10:45 a.m.: Here's the 'Stros line-up for game 4 today against the Red Sox:
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. Yuli Gurriel (1B)
8. Evan Gattis (DH)
9. Brian McCann (C)
P: Charlie Morton