Five game series can be annoying and frustrating, but they also lead to a whole lot of intrigue. The Red Sox seemed doomed heading into this game having been utterly dismantled by the Astros in the first two games on this series. Then, they came out in this game and now they’re suddenly one win away from tying things up and forcing a decisive Game Five. The odds are certainly still stacked against them, but they played outstanding baseball today and got themselves back into this series, earning a little more respect for themselves along the way.
There were a few standout performances in this one, but none stand out like David Price. He wasn’t quite up to the standards of Pedro in the 1999 ALDS, but it wasn’t too far off. The lefty pitched four incredible innings and shut down the best offense in baseball like it was nothing. There were times when it seemed impossible that he could keep going, but he gutted out a truly remarkable performance on the bump, earning himself all the forgiveness from this fanbase. Aside from Price, the Red Sox got a huge home run from Rafael Devers, a big all-around day at the plate from Hanley Ramirez, and a game-saving performance from Mookie Betts in right field. Essentially, everything went right after the starting pitcher was out of the game.
This game did not get off to a good start for the Red Sox, and really that shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. This should have been the expectation not only because of how this series had gone through the first two games, but because Doug Fister had struggled in first innings throughout this season. Even when he was going through his dominant stretch he struggled out of the gate. Coming into this game, he had an ERA around 9.00 in the first inning. After this game, it’d be over 10.00.
Things started off with a single into right field for George Springer, and a wild pitch (that probably could have been stopped by Sandy Leon) moved the runner to second. A couple pitches later, Josh Reddick smacked a single into center field to score a run, and Jackie Bradley made an ill-advised attempt to throw springer out at the plate that allowed Reddick to get to second. It wouldn’t have mattered what base Reddick was on, though, because after getting the first out of the inning Fister left a curveball up in the zone to Carlos Correa. You don’t want to do that to the Astros shortstop, and he hit it into the batter’s eye in straightaway center to give Houston a 3-0 lead.
After the Red Sox went down fairly easily in the bottom half, Fister came back out for the second and gave up a single and a walk with one out mixed in before leaving the game. John Farrell wasn’t wasting time, though going to Joe Kelly first out of the bullpen seemed questionable at the time. It worked, though with some help from the defense. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, Kelly got a big ground out for out number two. Then, Reddick hit a ball out to deep right field that looked like a home run, but Mookie Betts made a great play showing off his range and catching it right before it fell into the seats to end the inning.
The bottom of the second would go better for the Red Sox offense, though it ended in frustrating. This frame started with a pair of singles from Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez before a Rafael Devers walk loaded the bases with no outs. They would get one run on a Sandy Leon base hit, but then Jackie Bradley struck out, Xander Bogaerts grounded out and Dustin Pedroia flew out and Boston would leave the inning with a 3-1 deficit in a major squandered opportunity.
Kelly came back out for the third and he was able to get a scoreless inning despite a couple of hits thanks to another great catch made in deep right field by Betts plus a big double play. That led to the bottom of the inning where the Red Sox finally broke out. The rally all came with two outs, too, starting with a double from Moreland to the deepest part of the ballpark. Ramirez followed that up with a double of his own to cut the deficit to one. That brought Devers to the plate, and the Astros brought in the left-handed Francisco Liriano for the at bat. It didn’t matter. Liriano left a slider over the heart of the plate and the 20-year-old slugger crushed it over the bullpens to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. It’s hard to overplay how impressive that swing was from such a young kid.
From here, it was the David Price, and oh my god what a show it was. The lefty took over for Kelly to start the fourth, and he wouldn’t relinquish the ball until it was time to start the eighth. What happened in between was one of the most impressive pitching performances in recent Red So history, particularly given the context of an elimination game against the league’s best lineup.
Price didn’t even get into too much trouble in this appearance, though it wasn’t all smooth sailing, either. In the first the Astros got their first two batters on, though that happened on an infield single and a blooper. From there, he got two big ground outs and a strikeout to escape the jam. After getting through the sixth with just one batter, he was up near 40 pitches and had gotten through three huge, great innings. It seemed like that would be it for him.
Instead, he came back out for the seventh to throw the most pitches he has since coming back from the disabled list in his new role against the meat of this terrifying Astros order. As if that wasn’t scary enough, the Red Sox didn’t have anyone warming behind him at first, though Addison Reed would get up later. It wouldn’t matter, as Price gutted out a huge inning that did include one walk but ended on a mammoth strikeout of Marwin Gonzalez to hold on to the 4-3 lead.
As for the offense, they had spent the last few innings getting shut down themselves by Lance McCullers and the 4-3 lead stuck around heading into the bottom half of the seventh. McCullers would start that one, too, but he was clearly getting tired and started things off with a four-pitch walk to Andrew Benintendi and a single to Betts. The Astros then turned to Chris Devenski, but it wouldn’t work this time. Moreland smacked a single to load the bases before Ramirez, continuing his scorching day the plate, knocked in a pair with a double. Devers then came up and hit a pop up that fell into shallow left field with the infield in, scoring another run and putting runners on the corners with still no outs. Jackie Bradley took care of the rest, hitting a fly ball to the right field corner that just barely snuck into the seats after bouncing out of Reddick’s glove. Just like that, the Red Sox were sitting pretty with a 10-3 lead.
From there, it was up to the non-Price part of the bullpen to hold a huge lead. Addison Reed came in first and had an easy eighth inning. Carson Smith was in for the ninth, and despite some shaky defense behind him he held on and the Red Sox won by that same seven-run margin.
So, now we turn the page to Monday and hope the Red Sox can keep this series going and force a Game Five back in Houston. It’s still unclear what time the Red Sox will play Game Four for multiple reasons. For one thing, the official start time won’t be determined until the Cleveland-New York game is over. If the Indians can close out the series, Boston will play at 7:00 PM Monday. If the Yankees force a Game Four, the game at Fenway is moved up to 1:00 PM. Let’s hope for the first one. Of course, it may not matter much either way as the forecast is looking very ugly. For now, though, let’s just be happy that we can even talk about a potential game on Monday.