Game 1 of the highly-anticipated Red Sox-Astros ALCS lived up to the hype Friday night. In a back-and-forth game that lasted over four hours, Houston prevailed with a 5-4 win.
It was a game contested mainly by the bullpens, with both starters pulled after 2.2 innings and over 60 pitches. Thanks to the hot hitting of Kiké Hernandez, the Red Sox held a lead into the later stages of the game but they couldn’t keep the Houston bats quiet long enough.
Pressure came from the Red Sox offense immediately. Hernandez hit a leadoff single, but was instantly taken off the bases by a Kyle Schwarber double play. The Red Sox then loaded the bases with two walks and a bloop single, but Hunter Renfroe flew out to end the threat. Still, Boston’s lineup forced Astros’ starter Framber Valdez to throw 21 pitches in the first inning.
Houston was able to take advantage, picking up a first-inning lead. Chris Sale allowed two of the first three Astros hitters to reach, and after a passed ball from Christian Vazquez Yordan Alvarez drove in Jose Altuve with a sac fly, making it 1-0 after one.
With the Red Sox getting blanked with another double play in the top of the second, it looked like the Astros were going to add to the lead in the bottom half. Sale loaded the bases with just one out, but struck out Jose Altuve. Michael Brantley then hit a line drive into center field, but a diving catch from Hernandez kept it a one-run game.
Hernandez took his own momentum and ran with it, by way of a 448-foot leadoff homer. That wouldn’t be it for the Sox in the third, as a would-be double play ball ate up Altuve. It should have ended the threat, but instead Xander Bogaerts scored from second and Boston still had runners on first and second with one out. Hunter Renfroe added an RBI double, extending the lead to 3-1.
Chris Sale allowed two runners and recorded two outs before being pulled in the third. His final line was 2.2 innings pitched, with one earned run on five hits with two strikeouts. Adam Ottavino was called on from the bullpen to finish the inning up.
No words....— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 16, 2021
Kiké Hernández is NOT HUMAN right now! pic.twitter.com/zlOpA10ESF
The Astros’ next threat came in the fifth inning. They’d get two runners on against Josh Taylor with two outs, and Ryan Brasier was called on to get Kyle Tucker and end the inning. A flyout to center kept the score at 3-1.
Tanner Houck came into the game in the sixth, with Alex Cora trying to bridge to the bullpen. He recorded two outs before surrendering a two-run home run to Jose Altuve, which tied the game at 3-3 heading into the seventh inning.
Houston took the lead an inning later. With two outs in the seventh, Carlos Correa hit his first home run of the postseason, taking Hansel Robles deep to left field to put the Astros on top 4-3.
While the Red Sox bats stayed quiet, the Astros added insurance in the eighth inning. Hirokazu Sawamura allowed a hit, walk, and hit batter to load the bases with no outs. Jose Altuve drove in a run on a sac fly making it 5-3. After Martin Perez came into the game, the Red Sox eliminated the threat with a double play.
The Red Sox would get one run back, with Hernandez hitting his second home run of the game to open the ninth. That would be as close as they’d get, with Astros closer Ryan Pressly retiring the next three hitters in order.
Hernandez finished the game 4-5 with a double, two home runs, two RBIs, and two runs scored. The rest of Boston’s lineup combined for six hits.
Hansel Robles took the loss for the Red Sox, in his second rough outing in a row. Ryne Stanek earned the win for Houston despite only throwing a third of an inning, and Pressly was credited with the save. In total, the teams used eight pitchers each in the game.
Game 2 will have a quick turnaround, with a 4:20 p.m. start on Saturday in Houston. Nathan Eovaldi will get the start for the Red Sox against Luis Garcia for Houston.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.