What an absolutely wild night in Houston. You’re going to hear a lot about the length of this game in terms of time, and it was bananas long. This was not one of those long, dragging games, though. This was intense from the first inning and it never dropped a beat. Things went back and forth, both offenses were all over the place and you never really had a good feel for what was going to happen next. Alex Cora had a really weird game, Rick Porcello looked awful and Craig Kimbrel fell even further out of the circle of trust. But they still won. The offense gritted and grinded their way through this game — and got another mammoth home run from Jackie Bradley Jr. — while the trio of Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes held strong yet again and Andrew Benintendi made the catch of a lifetime. This team is something else.
This was an absolutely wild game, so let’s just get right into it with the Red Sox looking for a similar start to the one they got on Tuesday night. Going up against Charlie Morton this time, Boston had their optimal offensive lineup, and they wanted to prove that was the case early and often. They got off on the right foot when Mookie Betts was hit by a pitch to lead off the game, making it the fourth time in a row he’s started a game off by reaching base. After a ground out moved Betts to second and J.D. Martinez drew a walk, Morton threw a wild pitch that put a couple of runners in scoring position with just one out. Xander Bogaerts couldn’t come through as he struck out in ugly fashion, but Rafael Devers could. Starting the young third baseman over Eduardo Núñez paid dividends right away when he looped a soft line drive into left field to knock in both runners, and the Red Sox plated two in the top half of the first.
So, now Rick Porcello was looking to settle into this game in the bottom half and hold the Red Sox lead. On the plus side, he did hold the lead, but he didn’t look great doing it. After looking great prior to this in the postseason, it was a rough night for the Red Sox starter and honestly he was probably gifted a huge break in that first inning. With a runner on and one out, Jose Altuve came up and hit what looked like a home run out to right field. Betts went after it and almost made an incredible robbery on a wildly athletic play, but a fan’s hand pushed the glove closed and he couldn’t make the catch. Joe West, covering the right field line in this game, called interference, despite it looking like the incident happened over the fence in the fans’ territory. When they went to review, the best camera angle was blocked by a security guard, the call was upheld and the Astros were held scoreless in the inning. It wasn’t a slam-dunk call either way, but gun to my head I certainly say the Red Sox caught a break. Either way, it was a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
After Boston managed just a walk in the second, the Astros came back and were still hitting the ball hard against Porcello. After old friend Josh Reddick kicked off the frame with a double, Carlos Correa put one through the left side and Houston cut their deficit in half. The Astros seemed to have some serious momentum, but for some reason they had Martin Maldonado bunt against a reeling Porcello. He popped it up, and Porcello got out of the inning cleanly with the lead still intact.
The Red Sox, fortunately, wouldn’t waste any time getting that run back. This time it was Andrew Benintendi kicking things off as he just missed a home run. Instead, he settled for a wall-ball double to set the table, and a couple batters later Bogaerts knocked him in with a double of his own. That pushed Boston’s lead back to two, and it looked like it could be pushed to three when Steve Pearce hit a ground ball to the left side. Alex Bregman, as he’s done so many times in this series, made a great diving stop and got the out, though, and the Red Sox settled for a 3-1 lead.
The lead would not last much longer. We’ve seen instances in the past when Rick Porcello would struggle early before settling in as the game goes on. This was not one of those times. And, despite saying before the game he was all-in on this game, Alex Cora gave his starter leash. George Springer wasted no time starting this inning with a bang, crushing a no-doubt solo shot to right field to cut the lead to one. After Altuve doubled off the left-field wall in the next at bat, Porcello did come back with two outs and looked like he might get out of the inning. Instead, Reddick came through with a soft line drive that found a dead spot in the outfield, and just like that the game was tied. And we were only through three innings!
The Red Sox would go down without much of a threat in the fourth — now facing the hard-throwing Josh James — and somehow Porcello was brought back out in the bottom half. Two batters in, Tony Kemp hit a solo home run to give Houston the lead. Now, to Porcello’s credit, he only allowed a walk after this home run and it was not exactly crushed, instead just making it over the right-field wall. Still, it all counts the same and it was costly, and the Red Sox were trailing for the first time since arriving in Houston.
Just like Houston didn’t waste much time getting the lead, the Red Sox didn’t waste much time tying this game right back up. Once again it was Benintendi starting the rally, and once again he did so with a double. This time it came with one out, and Bogaerts had a chance to come through again, this time with two outs. Just like he’s done all year, he did his job with the runner in scoring position and knocked a base hit through the middle. 4-4 game.
Because this game was a rollercoaster, the tie game didn’t last very long. In the bottom half of the fifth, Joe Kelly came on for Porcello, and it was a mixed bag. He really wasn’t terrible in the outing, but Yuli Gurriel put a base hit through the left side. After reaching, he made a great read on a ball in the dirt and advanced to second. That ended up being huge, because with two outs Carlos Correa came through with a single of his own, and just like that it was a 5-4 lead for the Astros. Back and forth we go.
And we kept going as we advanced to the sixth inning. James was still in the game at this point, and after a couple of outs to start things off the Red Sox got going. Christian Vazquez looked like he had one of his patented clutch home runs, but he missed by a few feet and settled for a double. It wouldn’t matter, because Jackie Bradley Jr. stayed red-hot. James threw him a first-pitch changeup right down the chute, and Bradley demolished it. The no-doubt home run put the Red Sox up one, and now it was up to the bullpen to preserve the lead for 12 more outs.
Eduardo Rodriguez got the call to start the inning against Kemp, and he made the mistake of walking the ninth hitter ahead of Alex Bregman. It was the one thing he absolutely couldn’t do, and Cora pulled him right out after that. Now, it was up to Ryan Brasier against the top of the Astros lineup, and he did the damn thing. Brasier was wildly impressive, shutting down Bregman, Springer and Altuve in order and holding the lead through six.
As we headed into the seventh, the Astros brought in Ryan Pressly to try and keep their deficit at just one run. He didn’t look great, allowing a single to Martinez before doling out free passes to both Bogaerts and Pearce. In between those two walks, Houston had a chance to get out of the inning with a double play but Correa didn’t step on the bag at second base and that extended the inning. That was huge, because with the bases loaded Pressly came out of the game and Lance McCullers came in to face Brock Holt. The Red Sox utility man drew a walk, and the Red Sox added an insurance run heading into the bottom of the seventh.
So, with the two-run lead Brasier came back out for the bottom of the seventh. The inning started off lousy when Marwin Gonzalez reached on a bloop single, but Brasier came back with two outs and looked to get out unscathed. Correa wasn’t about to let that happen. The Astros shortstop drove one into the right field corner for a huge two-out double. Somehow, however, Gonzalez didn’t score, so there were two in scoring position with two outs. Both teams made substitutions for this huge play, and it was Matt Barnes going up against Tyler White. The Red Sox righty came up huge with a clutch strikeout to strand the runners where they stood.
Boston came out and tacked on another insurance run in the eighth when Martinez knocked in Betts with an RBI single, and they have an 8-5 lead. Cora was not messing around, and Craig Kimbrel surprisingly came on for the bottom of the eighth. Things started off shaky. Kemp led off the inning with a line drive to right field, but fortunately for Kimbrel and the Red Sox he tried to test Betts’ arm and was thrown out at second. The closer then got two strikes on Bregman, but then had one get away and hit the batter. Springer then came up and poked a double into right field, and suddenly two batters were in scoring position with just one out for Altuve. He got one run in, but it came at the cost of a ground out and Houston cut the deficit to 8-6 with a runner on second and two outs. Kimbrel came back with a big strikeout of Gonzalez to close out the inning.
The Red Sox had a chance to add more insurance to their lead when Betts came up with the bases loaded in the ninth, but Reddick robbed him of a couple RBIs with a tremendous diving catch. So, it was still 8-6, and Kimbrel was coming back in with David Price warming up behind him. After getting the first out, Kimbrel walked Reddick and then did the same to Correa to put the tying run on base. For some reason, Kimbrel stayed in. Brian McCann hit a fly ball to deep-ish right field, but it was out number two. Kimbrel still stayed in, and this time he walked Kemp to load the bases for Bregman. He ripped one out to left field, but Benintendi made an incredible diving catch to save the game and preserve the win. I....I have no words right now.
So, the Red Sox are just one win away from a World Series berth, and they’ll try to clinch it on Thursday in Houston. We know they’ll be going up against Justin Verlander, what we don’t know is who will start against him. First pitch will be at 8:09 PM ET.