With every swing of the bat and every pitch from the mound, the Astros come a little closer to convincing the doubters--do such folk even exist anymore?--that they are an elite team, even among elites. The latest proof of this came Friday afternoon: an 8-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox showed off the Astros at their confident, decisive best. Some teams beat you with great pitching, others with great hitting, but the greatest beat you both ways at once, and at their best, the Astros can’t resist either one of those. For the second day in a row, they crushed the Sox six ways to Sunday.
Astros pitching was solid to superior all day long, led by Dallas Keuchel, who gave up just 3 hits and 1 run in five-plus innings of work. Chris Devenski made his second great contribution in two days, and Luke Gregerson, making his postseason debut, was nearly as good. Ken Giles came in to close things down and, well, he closed. Things. Down.
Jose Altuve wasn’t quite the dominating force he was yesterday, but how could he be? The Red Sox hardly pitched to him, walking him intentionally twice. Nonetheless, Al-3-ve singled twice anyway, driving in a run and scoring twice himself. The offensive stars of the day, as it happens, were the only two guys who hadn’t gotten hits the day before, Carlos Correa and George Springer. Both homered, with Correa driving in four of the Astros’ runs.
In two days of postseason play, all 9 of the Astros’ starting players have gotten hits. Their 16 runs have been driven in by 7 different players and their pitchers have allowed just 15 hits and 4 runs. And as for their fans, well, they could hardly imagine a better start to this playoff season.
Here’s how Houstonia’s ‘Stro Stories called the game as it happened:
5:04: Giles retired Moreland thanks to a nice running catch by Gonzalez in left. Vazquez followed singled past the infield, but then Devers fouled out to third baseman Alex Bregman. The crowd, rising to its feet to cheer on their near-victorious Astros yet one more time, watched as Bradley singled to score Vazquez. Astros 8, Red Sox 2. But that was all she wrote as Giles struck out Bogaerts and the Astros won their second game of this best-of-three series against the Sox, once more in commanding fashion.
4:30: In the bottom of the eighth, the Sox brought in pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who got Correa to fly out. Carlos Beltran came on to pitch in for Gattis and singled to right. (Fisher came in to pinch-run.) Next, Cameron Maybin came in to bat for Josh Reddick, flying out sharply to the center fielder. Gurriel then struck out to end the inning. We go to the ninth with Ken Giles coming in for relief!
4:26: Luke Gregerson entered the game in the top of the eighth, facing Pedroia who hit a slow bouncer to Bregman that the third baseman was unable to come up with. It was scored an infield hit with Brock Holt coming in to run for Pedroia at first base. Gregerson got Benintendi to strike out and Betts to fly out to left field, before striking out Ramirez.
4:05: The official attendance for the game was 43,410, it was announced, and the bottom of the seventh saw yet another Sox pitcher, right-hander Austin Maddox. Gurriel led off with an infield single to the hole, the 'Stros' 10th hit of the game. And after Gonzalez flied out to right, McCann gave them their 11th, stroking a single that went all the way to the wall, advancing Gurriel to third for Springer, who walked to load the bases. After Bregman popped out in foul territory, the cheers of "M-V-P" boomed throughout the stadium as Altuve stepped to the plate for the fifth time of the day. With the count at 3-2, Altuve swung and missed. As much as it wasn't a great ending to the inning, we couldn't help feeling a little relief. If Altuve had hit something, fans would almost certainly have blown the roof off this place.
4:00: In the top of the seventh with Devenski still pitching, Vazquez hit one up the middle for a single, but Devers was caught looking on an awesome Devo change-up, and Bradley flied out to center. Bogaerts grounded to Correa and that was it for the Sox in the seventh.
3:40: Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez replaced Price to start the bottom of the sixth. Gonzalez greeted him with a sweet hit to left that would have been a double without a carom that went the Sox' way. Marwin had to settle for a single. After Rodriguez hit McCann with a stinger on the right hand, Addison Reed was brought in to replace him and face George Springer. Springer hit a ball off Reed that bounced to Pedroia, who was only able to get McCann at second. Bregman stepped to the plate with Gonzalez on third, Springer on first, and just one out. Bregman flied out to right field, but Betts dropped the ball as he was relaying it to the infield, and Marwin scored! Astros 5, Red Sox 1. For the second time, the Sox intentionally walked Altuve, putting men on first and second for Correa. Big mistake. Carlos hit a beautiful double to left that scored two (Astros 7, Red Sox 1), and moments later, Gattis hit a single to the wall scoring Correa! (Astros 8, Red Sox 1). Reddick grounded out to end the inning, but the damage was done. Phenomenal hitting by the Astros, there's just no other word for it.
3:20: In the top of the sixth, Benintendi grounded out to Keuchel and Gurriel. After the ball got away from the catcher when Betts struck out, McCann threw him out at first. After Ramirez walked, Keuchel left the game after a superlative 96-pitch outing in which he gave up just three hits and one run in five-plus innings of work. Into the game came 'Stros reliever Chris Devenski. Meanwhile, Mitch Moreland was brought in to pinch hit for DH Chris Young. Moreland took the count to 3-2 before Devo got him on an infield pop-up. Inning over!
3:10: David Price seemed to be settling into a groove of his own, getting Gattis and Reddick to strike out in the bottom of the fifth. Gurriel grounded out softly to the shortstop to end the inning.
3:02: Ramirez started the fifth with a soft grounder that Keuchel scooped up and tossed to Gurriel for out No. 1. Bogarts followed by flying out to center, and Pedroia grounded to short, giving Keuchel his third three-up-three-down inning in a row.
2:50: In the bottom of the inning, McCann grounded out to the second baseman. Springer, who'd homered his last time at bat, stroked a perfectly placed double just inside the left field foul line. After Bregman grounded to the shortstop in a close play at first, advancing Springer to third, the Sox elected to intentionally walk Altuve. Correa stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and flied out to shallow right field, ending the inning.
2:40: Despite coming into the fourth inning having already thrown 59 pitches, Keuchel seemed to be getting sharper with each batter he faced. He quickly got Young to fly out sharply to Correa at short before fanning Vazquez and Marrero for his fifth and sixth strikeouts.
2:34: It was the top of the order for the Astros in the bottom of the third and time, just maybe, for the wheels to come off of Pomeranz. George Springer led it off with a dinger, a beautiful homer into the right field stands just out of Betts' reach! Astros 3, Red Sox 1. Next to the plate was Bregman, who doubled into left center, only to brought home almost immediately by an Altuve single. Astros 4, Red Sox 1. And just like that, Pomeranz's day was over. Reliever Carson Smith was brought in to face Correa, immediately throwing a ball that got away from the catcher, advancing Altuve to second, before ultimately walking Correa. Up stepped Evan Gattis whom Smith also walked. Thus were the bases loaded for Josh Reddick, bringing the crowd to its feet. Reddick's screaming shot was caught by third baseman but in a nice feat of base-running, Altuve scrambled back to the bag in time. With still only one out in the inning, Sox manager John Farrell brought in the half-inning's third pitcher, David Price, one of the deadliest relievers in the majors. The first batter he faced was Gurriel, who took Price to a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and one out, before popping out to the infield. Then Gonzalez popped out to end the inning.
2:08: Keuchel already having thrown 47 pitches at the top of the third, Benintendi led off by flying to Springer in center, followed by Betts, who grounded out to Altuve. Ramirez took Keuchel all the way to 3-2 before getting caught looking to end the inning.
2:00: After Josh Reddick led off the bottom of the 2nd by flying out, first baseman Yuli Gurriel walked on four pitches. Marwin Gonzalez, batting eighth (because, well, it's the Astros), gave Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz his first strikeout, bringing up the bottom of the line-up, catcher Brian McCann, who popped out to shallow center.
1:53: Chris Young led off with a double to left-center field, before stealing third uncontested while catcher Christian Vazquez was batting. Vazquez then walked. With runners on first and third and nobody out, third baseman Deven Marrero struck out. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. singled, scoring Young. Astros 2, Red Sox 1. Batting for the second time of the day, Bogarts struck out. With runners still on first and second, Pedroia (who owns the Sox' best career average against the 'Stros) struck out to end the inning!
1:25: In the bottom of the first, George Springer started things off by grounding out to the second baseman. Alex Bregman followed by flying out to right field. Then it was time for Jose Altuve's first bat. To say that the reception was thunderous is to risk understatement. And it was completely deserved, as Altuve immediately singled just out of the reach of the leaping shortstop Bogaerts. Next to bat: Carlos Correa, who hadn't had a hit in the series so far. But the drought came to an end in magnificent fashion, as Correa hit a rocket into the Crawford Boxes! Evan Gattis flied out to end the inning, and the score was Astros 2, Red Sox 0.
1:15: Dallas Keuchel started off Xander Bogaerts with a strike and we are under way! The noisemakers make it sound like we're in the midst of a driving rainstorm, and maybe we are? After Bogarts grounded out to third baseman Alex Bregman, Dustin Pedroia walked on four pitches. Andrew Benintendi grounded to Altuve in what looked like might be a double play, and Pedroia was out on the force, but Correa didn't throw to first because of Benintendi's speed. Right fielder Mookie Betts hit a soft liner to shallow right, a double. Benintendi advanced to third with two out, but first baseman Hanley Ramirez grounded to Bregman to end the inning. Astros 0, Red Sox 0.
12:55 p.m.: For the second time this season, Mayor Sylvester Turner has thrown out the first pitch of the game. Excitement building here, and the decibel levels too, thanks to the noisemakers handed out to all fans in attendance.
Here's the Astros' starting line-up:
1. George Springer (CF)
2. Alex Bregman (3B)
3. Jose Altuve (2B)
4. Carlos Correa (SS)
5. Evan Gattis (DH)
6. Josh Reddick (RF)
7. Yuli Gurriel (1B)
8. Marwin Gonzalez (LF)
9. Brian McCann (C)
P: Dallas Keuchel