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Red Sox 1, Astros 9: Sometimes you just get beat

Framber Valdez totally shut the Red Sox down, and the wheels fell off for the bullpen.

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Championship Series - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Five Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Just like the headline says, sometimes you just get beat. The Red Sox had some bad moments in this game to be sure, and probably challenged Yordan Alvarez a bit too much, but for the most part the Astros just beat them. And most of all, Framber Valdez beat them. The lefty made a whole lot of great pitches in this game, and was able to keep the Red Sox on the ground all night long. Chris Sale was great on the other side, but Alvarez got him for three big hits, and the wheels fell off for the bullpen after that to put this Game Five out of reach.

Heading into this series, the M.O. for both of these teams was that they’d lean on their offenses, and that has largely come to fruition in this series. The Red Sox have gotten some solid starts, to be fair, but the story of this series has been short outings for Houston starters, a ton of homers for the Red Sox offense, and clutch hits for the Astros. And with a rematch of Game One when both starting pitchers were knocked out before completing three full innings, it was fair to expect more offense on Wednesday.

Instead, we got a good old fashioned pitchers duel, with Chris Sale looking as close to pre-surgery Chris Sale as we’ve seen this year. The Red Sox ace looked every bit the part, and came out clearly amped up with his fastball getting up to 96 and 97 with ease in that first frame. The day started off with a 1-2-3 inning including a strikeout.

His one mistake in the game came in the second against Yordan Alvarez. To be fair, this wasn’t a totally terrible pitch in that it wasn’t left over the heart of the plate. If you’re going to miss, you’d certainly rather miss out of the zone. That said, Sale was trying to get a fastball up against Alvarez but instead missed belt-high off the outside corner. The pitch also had a bit less zip than his other early fastballs, and Alvarez was able to get the barrel on it and go the other way for a solo homer, giving Houston first blood in the game.

But other than that homer, Sale was nails and both his fastball and slider looked great. The changeup still didn’t really make its way into the rotation, which is less than ideal, but with his stuff looking vintage that wasn’t much of a concern. After the Alvarez homer, he retired the next seven batters he faced with four of those outs coming on strikeouts.

The fourth did present some more trouble for Sale, and ended with the most emotion we’ve seen from the ace since 2018. He did start off with a strikeout, but Alex Bregman broke up his perfect streak with a walk before Alvarez ripped another one, this time catching the Monster for a long single to put runners on the corners. It looked like trouble for the lefty, but he dialed it up and got two strikeouts while hitting 98 with his fastball to end the inning. He’d come back for a perfect fifth as well.

Championship Series - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Five Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox got everything they wanted from Sale, but unfortunately he wasn’t the only starter to look like a different guy compared to his Game One start. Framber Valdez had no answers for Boston in that first game, but he had all of the answers this time around. Coming out of the gate throwing only sinkers in the first inning, everything was either a strikeout or hit on the ground early on. Literally. The southpaw retired the first 12 batters he faced and not one batted ball left the infield.

With the score still 1-0, the Red Sox finally got their first baserunner in the fifth when Rafael Devers hit a bullet through the right side to lead things off with a single. J.D. Martinez was then hit with the next pitch, and suddenly the Red Sox had a little momentum. With two on and nobody out, it felt like a big swing moment in this game with Hunter Renfroe coming up. Instead, the scuffling outfielder grounded into a killer double play, and Valdez escaped the frame unscathed.

And then the sixth inning came and this game totally shifted. Sale came back out to face the top of the order for the third time with nobody warming behind him. And sure enough, he started off the inning with a walk. In fairness to him, the next ball was a weak ground ball against the shift, but when Rafael Devers made the play it left third base empty. Devers made a good throw over to Kyle Schwarber at first, but the latter seemed distracted by José Altuve breaking for third and dropped an easy throw. Suddenly, there were runners on the corners with no outs.

Sale did get another tapper after that for the first out and to keep the runner at third, but then Alvarez came back up. It seemed possible the Red Sox might put him on for free, but Cora decided to stick with Sale and let him pitch to Alvarez. It didn’t work. The Astros slugger came through yet again, this time bringing home two with a double to make it a 3-0 game. That ended what was largely a great night for Sale on a sour note, and brought Ryan Brasier into the game. Houston continued to push, getting three more runs across to up their lead to six.

Now the Red Sox offense was desperate for some life, and they got some in the form of a one-out double from Christian Vázquez. That was all they got in the inning, though, as Valdez continued to roll. The Astros offense did as well, adding another run off Hansel Robles in the seventh, and the Red Sox offense finally got on the board in the bottom of the inning. It was only a solo homer, but Devers broke up the shutout with a shot out to right field to make it a 7-1 game.

Just for good measure, the Astros added two more off Martín Pérez in the night before closing this one out. Houston won with a 9-1 final, and they now hold a 3-2 series lead and can clinch the pennant back in Texas on Friday.

The Red Sox now head back to Houston needing to win two in a row to stay alive. Game Six is Friday night starting at 8:08 PM ET.


Courtesy of FanGraphs