Things had been too easy for the Red Sox the last couple of games, and you just knew things weren’t going to stay that easy. Both sides got early offense with homers in the first inning, Boston’s coming with a runner on base to take an early 2-1 lead. And they got a strong performance from Nick Pivetta, too, keeping the lead for most of the night. But the Red Sox offense failed to finish off potential rallies, leaving an opening for Houston come back. They did just that, with José Altuve homering off Garrett Whitlock, Nathan Eovaldi giving up the go-ahead run in the ninth after a rough missed call from Laz Diaz behind the plate, and then Martín Pérez inexplicably being allowed to give the game away completely.
There have been a lot of keys to the Red Sox grabbing a 2-1 series lead in the ALCS, with a lot of them pointing to the offense. They have, after all, reached double digits in each of the two victories and have three grand slams in that span as well. But a big part of these games has also been the pitching for Boston being able to keep this Astros lineup in check and not let them get any momentum. That allowed them to enter Game Four with Nick Pivetta and a fully rested bullpen to try and take a commanding 3-1 lead.
Of course, given how talented this Houston offense is and how well they performed throughout this season, it felt like only a matter of time before they got some production from their best bats. And sure enough, they did get on the board first in this game. That said, even the damage wasn’t actually crushed. Pivetta did leave one in a hittable zone with a middle-in fastball in a 2-0 count, and Alex Bregman used Fenway to his advantage. He hit a fly ball that managed to carry just up and into the Monster Seats for a solo homer, giving Houston the early 1-0 lead.
But the thing about this Red Sox offense is they are locked in right now, and they didn’t take very much time to answer. Houston had gotten nothing from their starters in the first three games of this series, and they turned to Zack Greinke in Game Four. The veteran was clearly not trying to leave anything over the plate, working the edges and getting a couple of quick outs. But he seemed particularly fearful of Rafael Devers, who drew a walk to keep the inning alive for Xander Bogaerts. It was he who got one right over the heart of the plate. A hanging slider stayed right down the middle and Bogaerts hit a no-doubt shot over everything in left field. With that, the Red Sox were out in front 2-1.
However, from there the offense failed to get those big hits they needed to extend their lead. They’d get two more on with an error and a walk in that first inning, but added no more runs. In the second, a pair of walks put two more on with no runs crossing the plate. Similarly, they’d leave a runner on second in the third, and wasted a one-out Christian Arroyo triple in the fourth. After a Bogaerts one-out double in the fifth was followed by two outs, the Red Sox had gone the first five innings of this game leaving a runner in scoring position.
The good news is that Nick Pivetta settled in as the game went along, and he was able to keep those two runs as enough for a lead. There was some trouble in the second when Devers followed a great diving stop with a bad throw to put a runner on second, which was followed by a four-pitch walk. But Pivetta battled and got out of the inning without any runs. From there he settled in, allowing just a walk over the next three innings to finish his outing. It was a third straight really strong showing from a Red Sox starter, as Pivetta allowed just the one run over five innings, with the Astros managing just two hits.
With the starter out of the game, Josh Taylor got the first call out of the bullpen for the sixth. He needed only four pitches to get the first two outs, but then Yordan Alvarez kept the inning alive with a base hit and Adam Ottavino got the call to face Carlos Correa. The righty came through, surprising Correa with an all-fastball at bat that ended with a pair of shoes, as Dennis Eckersley would say.
The Red Sox offense broke up their streak of leaving runners in scoring position in the sixth by simply wasting a leadoff walk and leaving a runner at first. That brought Garrett Whitlock into the game for the seventh with the score still 2-1. He did give up a hard-hit two-out single, but Kyle Schwarber nabbed another hard-hit ball after that for a scoreless inning to hold the lead.
After Boston went down in order in the bottom half, Whitlock was back out there with José Altuve leading things off. The first pitch he threw was a sinker that stayed up in the zone, and Altuve blasted it over the wall in left field for a solo shot, and with that we were all tied up at two. Whitlock was able to get out of it after that, but we were in a new ballgame and the offense needed to get something going.
Kendall Graveman started his second inning of work with two straight strikeouts, but then Hunter Renfroe kept the inning alive and put the winning run on base with a two-out walk. Unfortunately, Christian Vázquez got just under one, and we headed to the ninth with the game still tied.
Alex Cora wasn’t messing around in this game, calling on Nathan Eovaldi for the ninth. He didn’t get the start he was looking for, with Correa smacking a double right over Renfroe’s glove in right field to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with nobody out. Eovaldi followed that up with a big strikeout against Kyle Tucker, and then they put Yuli Gurriel on with an intentional walk. Aledmys Díaz then came up to pinch hit and went down swinging, leaving it up to Jason Castro. It looked like he got him looking on a pitch on the outside corner (which had been called wide all night), but Laz Diaz called it a ball. A couple pitches later, Castro shot a liner into right field to bring home Correa and give Houston the 3-2 lead.
After a walk, Eovaldi was taken out with Martín Pérez inexplicably coming in with the bases loaded and two outs in a one-run game. He was facing a lefty, but it was still a bizarre decision, and sure enough the wheels fell off. The first pitch he threw cleared the bases, and by the time the dust settled the Astros had upped their lead to 9-2, effectively ending this game.
Boston would indeed go down quickly in the ninth, and Houston’s win evened the series at two games apiece.
The Red Sox and Astros now play a pivotal Game Five on Wednesday, with first pitch coming at 5:08 PM ET. It’s expected to be Chris Sale going against Framber Valdez in a Game One rematch, though that is not official.