The Red Sox needed this win. No, the series wasn’t over if they lost, and they could have come back even heading to Houston for the next three, but it was going to be extremely difficult to come back from a 2-0 deficit after opening at home. People were understandably nervous, what with David Price taking the mound for the Red Sox. He certainly wasn’t great, allowing a lot of baserunners and leaning too heavily on his hard stuff. Still, the baserunners weren’t all his fault, and he limited damage for the most part. Or, at least, he avoided any sort of crooked inning. He didn’t stay in long enough for the win, but it was enough. Where the game was really won was at the plate and out of the bullpen. Gerrit Cole had been so consistent all year, but the Red Sox picked their spots and came through. They actually could have done more, but five runs against a pitcher who didn’t allow more than four at all in any regular season start? That’ll do. The bullpen then came in for 4 1⁄3 innings with just one run allowed to put this game away. It’s now a best of five, and we head to Houston.
There was a lot going on early in this game with lead changes galore, so we’re going to get right into it. Price was, of course, looking for a big first inning on Sunday night to try and get into a groove. The last thing he needed was a tough first inning getting into his head and allowing the very talented Houston lineup to get some confidence. Of course, that was going to be easier said than done against the top half of that order. Things did get a little shaky in that first, as Price came back after a quick first out and walked the next two batters he faced. That put two on with nobody out and the middle of the Astros order coming up, but Price came through in a big spot. He struck out the four and five hitters to end the inning and strand the runners.
So, now the Red Sox were looking for some early offense against one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball in 2018. Gerrit Cole had not allowed more than four runs in any start this season. He’s also very similar to Justin Verlander in terms of style, and the veteran Astros pitcher looked very good against this Boston lineup for most of Game One. Of course, as similar as they are stylistically, Cole isn’t Verlander in terms of big-game experience.
The Red Sox made sure Cole knew it wasn’t going to be easy right off the bat, and they got going in the first. Mookie Betts kicked things off with a big double, and Andrew Benintendi wasted no time getting him in. The outfielder ripped a base hit into right-center field, and just like that it was a 1-0 game. After Xander Bogaerts reached and Steve Pearce drew a walk, Rafael Devers had a chance with the bases loaded. He came through with a single of his own to score one more, and Boston was still threatening with a 2-0 lead, the bases loaded and just one out. It seemed like they could have and should have done more, but Ian Kinsler and Jackie Bradley Jr. failed to come through and they settled for just the two runs.
After that first inning, Cole came back with an easy 1-2-3 in the second, and that turned out to be just enough time for Houston to get their lead back. Price was able to avoid damage in the first, but that wouldn’t be the case for the next couple of frames. The second got started because of poor defense, as Carlos Correa reached on an infield single that should have been prevented by Bogaerts. After a Martin Maldonado double put two in scoring position with two outs, George Springer hit a little flare that just barely stayed inside the line for a two-run double. Just like that, with just one good piece of hitting, Houston had the game all tied up.
Then, in the third, Price made his big mistake of the night. Yuli Gurriel got the action started with a base hit, and then a couple batters later Marwin Gonzalez came up with a runner on in two outs. Once again, the Astros did damage with two down, and this time Price can’t blame bad luck. He just made a bad pitch, plain and simple, and Gonzalez blasted it way out to right field for a two-run homer. Just like that, it was a 4-2 lead for the Astros and the crowd was taken out of the game.
Fortunately, they wouldn’t be out for long. The Red Sox needed a big inning off Cole to pick up their pitcher, and they did just that in the third. Bogaerts got the inning started with a one-out single, and then Steve Pearce hit a double off the Monster to put a pair in scoring position. After Devers drew a walk, the bases once again were loaded with one out for Ian KInsler and Jackie Bradley Jr., just like they were in the first. Just like in the first, Kinsler struck out and left it all up to Bradley. This time, the Red Sox center fielder did come through, though, smacking a double right down the left field line to clear the bases. Suddenly, with one swing of the bat the Red Sox had a 5-4 lead.
So, now it was all about Red Sox pitching. Despite allowing a pair of runs in each of the last two innings, Price still had the confidence of his manager and came out looking to hold that lead in the fourth. He did just that with his best work of the night. The southpaw got the vaunted shutdown inning with a 1-2-3 frame.
The fifth wasn’t quite so smooth, as he did record two outs but also issued two more walks and that was the end of his night. So, despite leaving with the lead, he couldn’t get that playoff win he was looking for since he didn’t make it through five full innings. Instead, Matt Barnes came on in relief looking to get out of the two-on, two-out jam. He did just that with a big strikeout against Gonzalez, and the Red Sox still had their lead. Barnes then came back out for the sixth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
The score remained 5-4 heading into the seventh, and Ryan Brasier came on to face the top of Houston’s order. He walked Alex Bregman, but other than that worked around any potential trouble for a scoreless inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox were able to get some insurance thanks to a rough inning behind the plate for Martin Maldonado, though it wasn’t all his fault. Betts led off the inning with a walk, and that was all Boston needed. He moved to second when Andrew Benintendi struck out on a pitch that got away from Maldonado. Then, with J.D. Martinez at the plate, Betts moved over to third on a wild pitch. After Martinez struck out, Lance McCullers was almost out of it. His first pitch to Bogaerts got by Maldonado as well, though, and Betts came in to score. So, Betts drew a walk then scored without any more balls being put in play.
With the lead now at 6-4, it was Rick Porcello coming out for the eighth, just like Game One of the ALDS. He was nails once again, this time recording three outs in a perfect inning.
After Betts contributed another insurance run — this time knocking one in on and RBI double — the Red Sox had a three-run lead for Craig Kimbrel to try and close out. He got two quick outs before George Springer came in and ripped a double into left field. After moving to third on a wild pitch, Jose Altuve knocked him in on a single of the Monster, bringing Bregman up to represent the tying run. Bregman gave one a ride, but Benintendi caught it right in front of the Monster and the Red Sox got the win. All tied up.
With the series all tied up at one game apiece, the Red Sox and Astros have a travel day on Monday before picking things back up in Houston on Tuesday. That game will pit Nathan Eovladi against Dallas Keuchel, with first pitch coming at 5:09 PM ET.