By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 8-2 Astros: Here’s how this one ended.
Pedroia ended an eight-pitch battle with a chopper back to the mound. One out.
Devers flew out to left. Two outs.
Leon struck out on three pitches. Ballgame.
What a letodwn for the Red Sox. What an impressive showing for the Astros.
Game 2, tomorrow, 2:05 p.m. ET.
End 8th, 8-2 Astros: Hey, if you’re looking for a positive with the Red Sox, Rick Porcello just finished an effective inning. In an 8-2 game in the eighth inning, yeah. But it was effective nonetheless.
Porcello got Gurriel, Hernandez and McCann to go down 1-2-3. The game heads to the ninth.
Middle 8th, 8-2 Astros: Liriano extinguished that little rally rather quickly, getting Moreland to ground out to second to end the inning.
Top 8th, 2 outs, 8-2 Astros: Wil Harris came on to pitch the eighth. Bogaerts gave a ball a ride out to left center, but Springer was able to make a running catch. Ramirez then grounded out to short, and Benintendi then dropped a two-out single into right-center field. Betts followed that up with a single of his own, and Hinch came out to make a pitching change. Francisco Liriano is in for Houston.
End 7th, 8-2 Astros: Another inning, another bomb from Altuve.
This one came off reliever Austin Maddox, and it was crushed. Absolutely demolished.
Not a bad little night for Altuve. He’s 3-for-4 with three solo homers. And none of them were cheapies.
Middle 7th, 7-2 Astros: Chris Devenski just made short work of the Red Sox. Devers struck out, Leon popped out, and Bradley struck out. Ten pitches, seven strikes, three outs.
Sox are down to just six outs in Game 1.
End 6th, 7-2 Astros: Joe Kelly was asked to do a tough job. He didn’t succeed.
Kelly started things off by allowing a single to Gurriel. He then came back to get Gonzalez swinging on a dirty changeup for out No. 1. But Gattis, arguably the co-player of the game with Altuve, stepped in and smacked a single into right field, scoring two runs and blowing this one wide open.
After Bogaerts botched a room-service hop on a double play ball, getting just one out, Bregman sent a deep fly ball to right. But Betts was able to track it down for the final out.
Sale’s final line shows him allowing 7 earned runs over 5 innings. That’s a 12.60 ERA.
Major letdown for Sale, obviously. But also, really impressive approach from Houston as a team. They’ve all taken some confident swings today.
Bottom 6th, 0 out, 5-2 Astros: The day is over for Chris Sale after just five-plus innings. The Houston crowd was nice enough to give him a standing ovation on his walk to the dugout. Suffice it to say, that’s not what Sale or the Red Sox envisioned taking place this afternoon in Houston.
Joe Kelly enters the game with runners on first and second. So we can’t close the book on Sale yet, but even if neither of those runs score, the stats are already grisly: 5 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 6 SO, 5 ER.
He allowed another double to Gattis and then walked Reddick before getting yanked.
Mid 6th, 5-2 Astros: The Red Sox couldn’t get to Verlander there, and the feeling isn’t great for the visiting team at this moment.
Betts popped out to first, Moreland was out on a soft fly to shallow center, and Pedroia grounded out to third to end the inning.
Verlander’s at 96 pitches. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him back out for the seventh.
End 5th, 5-2 Astros: The Astros have another run thanks to another bomb from Altuve. That came to hit bombs off Chris Sale and take names, and he got sick of taking names. Sale is at 89 pitches and hasn’t been effective. You have to wonder if his day might be done.
Middle 5th, 4-2 Astros: Verlander got his first double play to get out of the fifth, a 5-3 double play off the bat of Benintendi. Ramirez had reached on a one-out single.
End 4th, 4-2 Astros: That right there was an eventful bottom of the fourth.
It started simply enough, with a Correa popout to second. Then, Gattis dug out a 3-2 slider and crushed it to left field, hitting it high off the wall and missing a home run by just a few feet but settling for a double.
Up next was Josh Reddick, who sent a tailing liner into center field. Bradley had the ball tracked and made a diving play on the ball. It was initially ruled a catch by second base umpire Ted Barrett, but Hinch challenged and the call was overturned.
With two on and one out, Sale buckeled down and got Gurriel to harmlessly fly out.
He had a chance to escape the inning, but Gonzalez barreled up a fastball away and sent it to the opposite field in deep right-center. Bradley watched it one-hop the fence, and two runs scored with ease to get that Houston lead back to two.
McCann then popped up to deep short on the first pitch to end the inning. Sale’s now at 75 pitches, but the bad news for the Red Sox is how ineffective he’s been.
We’re definitely not getting the pitcher’s duel we expected.
Middle 4th, 2-2: Man. Rafael Devers is not intimidated by the moment or by Justin Verlander.
The kid put together a heck of an at-bat, with runners on the corners and one out, to do just enough to get himself a sacrifice fly and tie this game at two apiece. It was a six-pitch AB, with Devers fouling off three pitches and taking an 0-2 ball to even the count. On the 1-2 offering, Devers stayed on a slider to pull it into shallow right.
At that point, Betts made a phenomenal read. He determined Reddick was going to make the catch and decided he’d be tagging. Reddick caught it on the run and Betts broke for him. With Reddick unable to get much behind his throw, Betts ran around McCann and scored standing up as the throw came in. Tie game.
Betts had led off the inning with a smoked single over third base that looked like it was hit about 120 mph. Moreland followed that up with a single to left. Pedroia popped out in foul ground after swinging at a 2-0 fastball at his eyeballs (tough start for Dustin today), setting the situation for Devers.
Leon then singled on a soft liner that beat the shift in right, and Bradley grounded out to second to end the inning. Verlander is up to 79 pitches through four innings.
End 3rd, 2-1 Astros: Nothing helps out a pitch count like an inning-ending double play, and Sale just got Altuve to ground into a 6-4-3 to end the third.
Bregman had reached on a one-out smoked shot back to the mound, where Sale was fortunate to be able to get a glove on the ball to protect his body. Springer had struck out to begin the inning.
Middle 3rd, 2-1 Astros: Maybe Hanley should have started.
Stepping to the plate with nobody on and two outs, Ramirez turned on an inside fastball and got his hands through the ball, muscling it deep down the line in left. Ramirez was able to jog into second with the Red Sox’ second hit of the day.
Benintendi could’t capitalize on the runner in scoring position, as he fell behind early and eventually popped out to third base.
End 2nd, 2-1 Astros: Sale got off to a rocky start in the second, as Reddick smoked a ball into right field. Mookie Betts made an underrated athletic play to cut it off and fire it in to hold Reddick to a single.
Sale then settled down, getting Gurriel to fly out to center and then striking out Gonzalez and McCann to get out of the inning.
Pitch count might already be a concern. Sale is at 46 through two. Verlander isn’t in the best shape himself, at 37 pitches.
It’s Bradley, Bogaerts and (presumably) Ramirez for the top of the third.
Middle 2nd, 2-1 Astros: The Red Sox are pretty thankful that replay reviews exist in baseball, because it just granted them a run.
With Moreland on second and Pedroia on first (both earned walks), Leon sent a single up the middle with two strikes and two outs. As Moreland busted for the plate, Pedroia rounded second and went for third. The throw went to third, and Pedroia was thrown out.
Initially, the umpires ruled that the run didn’t count. But Farrell challenged, and after a lengthy review, it was determined that Moreland’s foot hit the plate a split-second before Pedroia was tagged out.
So, it’s 2-1. Let’s see how Sale responds in inning No. 2.
End 1st, 2-0 Astros: Well, Chris Sale got his first taste of postseason baseball. It wasn’t good.
It began well enough, as he got Springer to stare at strike three to start the inning. But Bregman turned on an inside slider and blasted it to the moon over left field. Altuve then stepped up looking to do just one thing: make it back-to-back jacks. He succeeded.
Altuve got an 0-2 fastball he could handle over the heart of the plate, and he sent it over the wall in left-center.
The next out was a loud one, too, with Correa smoking one to right. But Betts was in the right place to make a catch. Gattis then popped out to shallow left to end the inning.
It took Sale 23 pitches to get out of that one.
Middle 1st, 0-0: Benintendi put together a solid 11-pitch at-bat, but ultimately he went down swinging at a curveball to end the inning. Rough start for the Red Sox.
Top 1st, 2 outs, 0-0: There were some questions about the health of Eduardo Nunez heading into this series. Unfortunately for him, those questions have already been answered.
Nunez chopped to third base with one out in the first, and he didn’t even make it two steps down the line before beginning to limp. Once he was thrown out at first, Nunez went down in a heap, and he remained there for quite some time. He actually needed to be carried off the field.
So, Nunez’s season is done. Hanley Ramirez will step in at designated hitter, in all likelihood.
Top 1st, 0-0: Verlander’s first pitch to Bogaerts goes for a called strike, and this game is officially underway.
4 p.m.: The national anthem has been sung, complete with a bald eagle flying free in Minute Maid Park, and it is time for some playoff baseball.
1:12 p.m.: We’ve got a Red Sox lineup. Here it is:
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS
2. Eduardo Nunez, DH
3. Andrew Benintendi, LF
4. Mookie Betts, CF
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Sandy Leon, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
And here are some notable numbers from those players in their careers against Justin Verlander:
Moreland is 10-for-33 (.303) against Verlander with six doubles. He has struck out 12 times, while drawing four walks.
Pedroia is just 3-for-30 (.100) in his career vs. Verlander, but he’s only struck out three times.
Nunez is 6-for-18 (.333) with a homer and a pair of doubles.
Betts is an ugly 0-for-13, but with two walks and just two strikeouts.
Hanley Ramirez, who’s not in the lineup, is 3-for-13 with a walk and a strikeout in his career against Verlander.
Benintendi and Bradley are each 1-for-7 (.143).
12:35 p.m.: Here’s a look at the Houston lineup for Game 1:
1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Evan Gattis, DH
6. Josh Reddick, RF
7. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
8. Marwin Gonzalez, LF
9. Brian McCann, C
Here are some notable stats of these players in their careers vs. Chris Sale:
Altuve is 8-for-21 (.381) with a home run and three RBIs against Sale. He’s struck out five times.
Altuve and Gattis are the only Astros in the starting lineup with a home run against Sale. Carlos Beltran, not in Thursday’s lineup, is the only other Astro with a homer against him.
Reddick is 3-for-14 (.214) with four strikeouts.
Gonzalez is just 1-for-9 vs. Sale in his career.
Overall, Sale has recorded 30 strikeouts against the current Astros lineup, compared to just one walk.
10 a.m.: It’s a massive day in Boston sports, and the AL East-champion Boston Red Sox are getting the party started.
With a first pitch just after 4 p.m. ET, the Sox will kick off their postseason with Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series in Houston.
And it’ll be a good one, with Cy Young candidate Chris Sale taking the mound, opposed by Justin Verlander, who’s been outstanding in his month with Houston.
Sale went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts in 214.1 innings. Verlander, after being traded to the Astros at the deadline, went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 34 innings. As far as Game 1 pitching matchups go, they don’t get any better than this.
We’ll have it all covered, from pregame news to the final out, right here in the live blog.