Much crazier things have happened than the Red Sox winning three in a row against this Astros team, but that certainly looks like an extreme longshot after these first two games. After getting blown out in the first game, the Red Sox did the exact same thing in Game Two. This time, they were dominated by a great starting pitcher, though that’s not the entire story. Dallas Keuchel was incredible over the middle innings but the Red Sox had a chance to get some runs on the board early on and they couldn’t take advantage.
Obviously, that has been the story with this team all year, but they’ve always had their pitching to fall back on. For the second straight day, that wasn’t the case. Drew Pomeranz was shaky and didn’t even make it through three innings. Clearly, a ton of credit goes to this Astros lineup, a group that is capable to dominate anyone and everyone. Still, Boston’s lefty made some bad pitches to players you can’t make bad pitches to. Then, after David Price served as the one bright spot in this game and kept the score relatively close, the rest of the bullpen — with some help from the defense — put the game out of reach. This team is in some serious, serious trouble.
The story of not only the first two games of this series but also the last week of the season for the Red Sox was early holes thanks to poor situational hitting early in games and bad performances from the starting pitchers to start things off. They kept that trend going on Friday. They missed their opportunity to get to Keuchel early in this game when he looked just a bit off compared to what we normally see from the 2015 Cy Young winner. The Red Sox got a couple of baserunners in the form of a walk and a Mookie Betts double to put two in scoring position for Hanley Ramirez with a couple of outs. After Ramirez was initially benched in yesterday’s game, Eduardo Nuñez’ injury got Ramirez back in early and he played very well after that point. The hope was that this would continue on Friday, but it didn’t early on. Keuchel got a huge ground out to end the inning and the Red Sox left the inning without a run.
In the bottom half, they were searching for a rare hot start from their starting pitcher, and it looked like they may get it based on the early performance. Pomeranz got a ground out and a fly out to start the inning and things were lookin’ pretty. That changed quickly when Jose Altuve continued his hot hitting with a single into left field. Then, it all went downhill when Pomeranz left a fastball down the heart of the plate to Carlos Correa, who destroyed a no-doubt homer to left field to give the Astros another first-inning lead. That would be all they’d get, but it was 2-0 right out of the gate.
The second inning was another relatively shaky one for Keuchel, and while the Red Sox did get on the board it felt like they could have done more, and in hindsight it was a big deal that they did not. They got two on immediately as Chris Young led things off with a double and after he stole third Christian Vazquez worked a walk to put runners on the corners with nobody out. That brought up Deven Marrero, who got a questionable start over Rafael Devers. The glove-first infielder did not come through, instead striking out. Jackie Bradley then came up and put up a huge at bat that ended in an RBI single, but that was all they’d get as Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia both struck out.
That was the beginning of a dominant stretch from Keuchel to finish off his outing. Beginning with those two strikeouts, he retired 14 Red Sox in a row. As note above, the Red Sox missed their chance early in the game. Keuchel is rarely off his game, but he was in the first two innings and this Red Sox offense only managed one run. It wasn’t entirely obvious at the time, but that was the game right there.
Meanwhile, the Astros offense continued to show why they are the best in baseball and why the rest of the baseball world has to be rooting for the Red Sox to pull off a miraculous comeback in this series. After the Red Sox got their run in the second, Pomeranz came back with a big second inning that gave all of us hope that he could keep Houston’s offense at bay, but that didn’t last long. George Springer led off the third for the Astros and when Pomeranz left a fastball too high in the zone, the Astros outfielder smacked it over the fence the other way in right field for Houston’s second homer of the day, giving them a 3-1 lead. Alex Bregman and Altuve would follow that up with a double and a single, respectively, and that was the end of the day for Pormeranz. He left the game with a 4-1 deficit and a runner on first base.
Carson Smith would come in next for the Red Sox, and he wasn’t exactly sharp either. Altuve got to second on a passed ball, and then Smith walked two straight batters to load the bases with nobody out. That’d bring up Josh Reddick, who ripped a line drive but fortunately Marrero was there to make an impressive lunging catch to save at least two runs. That would bring on David Price, who was the lone bright spot in this game for Boston. He got two pop outs to get out of that inning — though he got some help from Angel Hernandez in the process — and then continued to pitch well from there.
The lefty was everything Boston was hoping he’d be out of the bullpen in October in this game. After getting out of that huge jam in the third, he did allow a couple of runners in the fourth, but one was on a bloop double and the other was an intentional walk. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 fifth to finish up his day and preserve the 4-1 lead. The Red Sox offense wasn’t up to the task for a comeback (and a ton of credit goes to Keuchel for this, of course) but Price gave them every opportunity to do so.
Fast-forward to the bottom of the sixth, and with the Astros sending up a couple of hitters who struggle against lefties compared to their performance against righties, he turned to Eduardo Rodriguez. Keeping Price in the game would have seemed to be the better move, but if he wasn’t feeling up to another inning after already tossing 2 1⁄3 Rodriguez was the logical play without another lefty in the bullpen. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the job done. He gave up a hard-hit single to Marwin Gonzalez before hitting Brian McCann and that was the end of his day.
That brought us to Addison Reed against the strong top of Houston’s lineup, a situation for which Reed was specifically brought in. He also did not get the job done, though it wasn’t all his fault. He did get a double play ball in the first at bat, but he tried to get it himself but only slowed it down, allowing Boston to only get one out on the play. Then, with a runner on third and one out he allowed a shallow fly ball to right field Gonzalez wasn’t going to tag on the play, but Betts tried to rush the throw in and it slipped out of his hand. There was no better play to better symbolize the Red Sox woes in this game. Gonzalez scored, and then Reed fell apart. He allowed a single and a double to allow three more runs and all of a sudden the Astros had a commanding 8-1 lead.
After the Red Sox went down quickly against Chris Devenski in the seventh, Austin Maddox was on for the bottom half. He wasn’t great as he loaded the bases, but he got a big strikeout (for him, anyway. The game was out of hand.) against Jose Altuve to end it and keep the score at 8-1.
Not much else happened from this point forward. Craig Kimbrel came in for the eighth because he hadn’t pitched in so long and tossed a scoreless frame. However, because nothing can go right for the Red Sox, it appeared that Betts re-aggravated his wrist injury on a swing in the eighth. Of course. He’d be replaced by Rajai Davis in the bottom half of the inning. We’ll see if and how much this affects him on Sunday. The Red Sox also picked up a meaningless run in the ninth thanks to a pair of hits from Vazquez and Bradley. Hooray.
There’s not much else to say. The Red Sox need a miracle to come back from this deficit against a clearly better team, and that miracle will involve a strong outing for Doug Fister. Hopefully this isn’t the case, but Sunday could be the last time we see the Red Sox in a meaningful game until late-March, 2018.