By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 5-4 Astros: The Sox couldn’t turn the momentum of Devers’ homer into anything. Vazquez made good contact, but Bregman made a really nice play, fielding the ball to his left, spinning, and firing a strike across the diamond for the first out. Bradley then went down swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt.
Up stepped Dustin Pedroia, who battled and fought off a pair of 3-2 pitches before grounding out to second on a 99 mph fastball. Altuve fielded it cleanly, threw to first, and ended the game and the series.
Bottom 9th, 5-4 Astros: Well that’ll wake them up. Devers with a line drive to center field. Springer tried to make a leaping catch at the wall, but missed. No outfielders were there to back it up, and Devers made it all the way around the bases for an inside the park home run. Fenway’s going nuts. Just one run now.
Middle 9th, 5-3 Astros: Craig Kimbrel has been Boston’s best pitcher all year. But he didn’t look like it today.
He labored through the ninth, just trying to keep the score at 4-3. He started off with a promising three-pitch strikeout of Correa, but then he hit Gonzalez in the foot with a slider. Bregman flied out for the second out to end an eight-pitch battle, at which point Gurriel singled into shallow right field.
Beltran came in as a pinch hitter and lofted a 2-2 breaking ball off the Monster. Gonzalez came in to score, thus doubling the Astros’ lead.
That would do it for Kimbrel, and Reed came on to get the final out of the inning with a lazy fly from McCann. But the climb for the Sox just got that much steeper in the ninth.
Devers, Vazquez and Bradley are due up in the bottom of the ninth.
End 8th, 4-3 Astros: The Sox needed a spark, but they got nothing. Betts grounded out to the mound, Moreland grounded out to short on the first pitch, and Ramirez tapped out on a roller up the line that Giles fielded and flipped to first.
Just 11 pitches (eight strikes) for Giles that inning. And the Red Sox are down to their final three outs.
Top 8th, 2 outs, 4-3 Astros: Kimbrel and Reddick were in a long battle, and Reddick eventually won. He sent the second 3-2 pitch of his at-bat past a diving Bogaerts on the left side, and Cameron Maybin (pinch running for Gattis at second) scored without a throw. Springer made it to third, too. But Altuve flew out to center to end the inning.
The damage, obviously, has been done. The Sox are down to their final six outs to save their season. Betts, Moreland and Ramirez are due up in the eighth.
Closer Ken Giles is in for Houston to start the eighth.
Top 8th, 2 outs, 3-3: With one out, Chris Sale allowed a hot shot single juuuust over the third base bag to Gattis, which the ball girl accidentally fielded. Angel Hernandez ruled that Gattis needed to stay at first base though.
McCann then seared a line drive to right field, but right at Betts, for the second out of the inning. Gary DiSarcina had seen enough to that point, and he’s now going to Kimbrel.
Sale threw 77 pitches in that outing. It looked clear in the seventh that he was missing spots by quite a bit, but the Sox coaching staff (whoever may be calling the shots, with Farrell in the clubhouse after his early ejection) were hoping he could get the game to Kimbrel. He just couldn’t do it.
Top 8th, 3-3: Sending Sale out to the mound for the eighth inning proved to be a bad idea. Bregman just homered to lead off the eighth and tie the game at 3-3.
End 7th, 3-2 Red Sox: Verlander’s certainly settled down since giving up the homer, and though he’ll be blamed if the Astros lose, he’ll be credited for keeping them close if they can win.
Pedroia, Bogaert and Benintendi just went down in order, and the Sox carry their slim one-run lead into the eighth inning.
Chris Sale is staying in, with 64 pitches already thrown. I think the Sox hope he can bridge it to Kimbrel.
Middle 7th, 3-2 Red Sox: Chris Sale allowed a leadoff single to Springer. He then induced a Reddick flyout before getting Altuve to look at a slider for strike three. Correa smoked a single through the left side, but Sale came back to get Gonzalez to chase a slider in the dirt for strike three.
If that’s it for Sale, it was a heck of an outing. He went four innings, allowing two hits and zero walks while striking out six.
Addison Reed is warmed and ready to pitch the eighth, and you figure Craig Kimbrel can go in if Reed allows even one base runner.
End 6th, 3-2 Red Sox: Jackie Bradley squared up a Verlander fastball with one on and one out, but it was right at Bregman (at short in the shift), who flipped to second to start the inning-ending double play.
Middle 6th, 3-2 Red Sox: Chris Sale is something else. If not for a bad Devers error, he’d be perfect through three innings. Even with it, he’s been mowing down the Astros.
Bregman flew out on the first pitch of the inning before Gurriel reached on a two-base error by Devers. Gattis then looked at a dirty slider for strike three, and McCann flailed at a slider flying away from him for strike three.
Sale hasn’t allowed a hit or a walk in his three innings of work, while striking out four.
End 5th, 3-2 Red Sox: Moreland walked with two outs, bringing up the hot-hitting Hanley. But Ramirez caught one off the end of the bat and flew out to center to end the inning.
But the Sox lead on that big dinger from Benintendi.
Quite a moment.
Bottom 5th, 1 out, 3-2 Red Sox: Verlander’s first career relief appearance didn’t go like he wanted. And the Red Sox have the lead.
Benintendi sent a 2-2 pitch deep to right field, and he got all of it. It cleared the wall to deep right, and when it came down, the Red Sox had a lead.
Fenway Park has suddenly comes to life.
Bottom 5th, 1 out, 2-1 Astros: Bogaerts worked a one-out walk, which sent Hinch out to the mound to call on Verlander.
This will be Verlander’s first career relief appearance.
Middle 5th, 2-1 Astros: Another shutdown inning for Sale. Altuve oddly tried to bunt, but Devers made a great bare-handed charging play to get him. Correa then looked at a slider that dotted the outside edge for a called third strike, before Gonzalez flew out on a devastating slider.
Justin Verlander is warming up for the Astros … which is interesting. You wonder how A.J. Hinch might want to use him. Having him start a theoretical Game 5 might be preferable … but then again, winning the series today isn’t so bad either.
End 4th, 2-1 Astros: Charlie Morton just had his best inning, getting Devers, Vazquez and Bradley to all strike out swinging.
Middle 4th, 2-1 Astros: Chris Sale came in and did some work.
He struck out McCann with a 99 mph fastball on the black, then induced a harmless popup to second and a groundout back to the mound.
Just 14 pitches for Sale that inning. He looks awfully good out there. The Boston bats need to start scoring some runs for it to matter.
End 3rd, 2-1 Astros: For a fraction of a second, the Sox looked like they were in business. With Benintendi on first after a leadoff single, Betts smashed an inside fastball to the left side. It was crushed; it was also right at Alex Bregman. The third baseman caught the line drive and fired to first base to double-up Benintendi, thus clearing the bases and draining some energy from the Red Sox.
Moreland followed it up with a double past a diving Gurriel at first, bringing up Ramirez with a runner on second and two out. Ramirez hit a ball to the moon … but it was foul. A few pitches later, he hit a broken bat bloop single to left. Butterfield sent Moreland … but Gonzalez’s throw beat Moreland by several steps. McCann easily applied the tag. The inning was over.
Tough inning for Boston. Tough, tough inning.
Now, Chris Sale enters the game. It’s a bold decision, because if you do end up in Game 5, you’ll be without your ace. But you gotta get there to be lucky enough to have that problem.
Middle 3rd, 2-1 Astros: Folks — folks! — we just witnessed an inning where the Astros did not score a run. If you can believe it.
Gonzalez and Bregman made outs to start the inning before Gurriel launched a bomb to deep center for a double. But Gattis popped out to Pedroia in shallow right.
End 2nd, 2-1 Astros: That was a wild — wild — bottom of the second inning.
Ramirez singled, Devers singled and Vazquez walked on four pitches. Bradley stepped to the plate and home plate umpire Mark Wegner called three strikes on some borderline pitches — especially considering Morton had just thrown four balls to Vazquez:
With one out, Pedroia stepped in and took an inside slider in a similar spot. Wegner rung him up.
Pedroia was incensed and got into Wegner’s face. John Farrell went out to get between the two, but Pedroia refused to calm down. Ultimately, Wegner was left with no choice but to eject Farrell. So Gary DiSarcina is running the show now.
Bogaerts then stepped up with the bases loaded and two outs, and he ended up sending a harmless fly ball into medium-depth right field to end the threat.
What a major missed opportunity.
Morton’s at 47 pitches through two innings, and Sale is getting warm in the Boston bullpen.
Middle 2nd, 2-1 Astros: Back and forth we go. George Springer roped a single to left field for a two-out RBI to give back the lead to the Astros.
The inning started with a questionable decision by Betts, who went into a feet-first slide to try to get in front of a line-drive single by Gurriel. Betts wasn’t able to slow it down, and he had to chase it all the way to the track, thus allowing Gurriel to walk to third base. It wasn’t ruled an error, but it should have been.
Porcello was able to get Gattis to chase strike three at a fastball out of the zone before winning a battle with McCann to get him to strike out swinging at an inside slider. But then Springer demolished a 2-1 slider that ended up going middle-middle to bring in the runner from third.
Reddick then singled to left, and though there was no play at third base, Benintendi fired his hardest throw to third, missing wide by about 10 feet. Fortunately for him, the ball bounced off the corner of the wall and stayed in play; 5 inches to the right, and it’s in the dugout to move the runners to second and third.
Still there was work to be done, as Altuve stepped up with two outs and two on. Altuve worked the count full after falling behind 1-2, and then took a high fastball at his eyes for ball four.
Up stepped Carlos Correa. To the surprise of many, Porcello got right to work, striking out Correa on just three pitches. Fastball up, fastball up, fastball up and away.
So, he limited the damage, but Porcello is now at 56 pitches (32 strikes) through just two innings. He is not long for this baseball game. Joe Kelly was warming up during that inning.
End 1st, 1-1: The Sox got that run right back.
After Pedroia grounded out to start the frame, Bogaerts (0-for-14 entering today) smashed a 3-1 fastball deep to right-center, clearing the wall of the Red Sox bullpen to tie the game at one run apiece.
Betts followed up a Benintendi groundout with a single off the Monster before stealing second. Moreland, though, struck out swinging at a pitch in the dirt to end the inning.
Morton needed 20 pitches to get through the first, as both starters had shaky starts to this one.
Middle 1st, 1-0 Astros: Early trouble for Rick Porcello. He had a 1-2 count on Springer, and with Vazquez standing upright, the right-hander tried to throw a fastball up and out of the zone. He missed by a good foot, foot-and-a-half, serving up a BP fastball which Springer rocketed out to left-center. Bradley’s throw to second was close, but Springer was in with a double.
Springer then advanced to third on a breaking ball in the dirt (Vazquez appeared to either have been crossed up or he didn’t expect the ball to break so short of the plate) before Reddick worked a walk. Altuve, the hottest hitter in the series, stepped to the plate and smoked a hot shot back through the box. It caught the mound, which slowed it down, but Pedroia and Bogaerts were still able to turn the double play as the run scored.
With the bases then empty, Porcello walked Correa on five pitches before hitting Gonzalez in the elbow.
Bregman stepped up with two on and two out, but Porcello fired a 95 mph fastball for a swinging strike three to end the inning.
So, it was just one run, but it took 25 pitches — only 11 of which were strikes. Rough start for Rick.
Top 1st, 0-0: Rick Porcello’s first pitch to Springer goes for a called strike, and Game 4 is underway.
1 p.m.: Minutes from first pitch, which is going to happen. The weather’s not too bad. Players might prefer a little bit of moisture with this temperature as opposed to dry and freezing cold.
11:56 a.m.: Word from Fenway is that MLB expects the game to go on as scheduled. Current conditions aren’t great, but that’s the expectation.
11:30 a.m.: Manager John Farrell said that Chris Sale is available to pitch if needed today.
“There is no tomorrow. He’s aware of it, as he was yesterday,” said Farrell. “He’s fine and ready to go.”
Using Sale in Game 4 might prevent him from being available in Game 5, depending on usage. But then again, if there’s no promise of a Game 5 without Sale shutting down Houston in Game 4, then it’s a bit of a moot point.
Then again, based on Sale’s results in Game 1, there’s no guarantee that he shuts anybody down in either game.
11:26 a.m.: And here’s the Houston lineup:
1. George Springer, CF
2. Josh Reddick, RF
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Marwin Gonzalez, LF
6. Alex Bregman, 3B
7. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Brian McCann, C
10:40 a.m.: Here’s a look at your Red Sox lineup for Game 4:
1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS
3. Andrew Benintendi, LF
4. Mookie Betts, RF
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Hanley Ramirez, DH
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
It’s noteworthy that A) Farell is sticking with the struggling Pedroia and Bogaerts atop the lineup, and B) Vazquez returns. Vazquez is 2-for-3 so far this postseason.
9:30 a.m.: After an offensive outburst and a most-surprising show of dominance from David Price in Game 3, the Red Sox are still alive. They’ll need another showing like that one this afternoon in Game 4 if they hope to keep their season alive for one more day.
That responsibility will fall on the shoulders of one Mr. Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award winner who’s struggled mightily in 2017. He went 11-17 with a 4.65 ERA, giving up a league-leading 38 home runs. That number looms large against the Astros, who’ve proven this series they can hit the long ball as well as anyone.
If Porcello struggles — he looked fine in a relief inning during Game 2, but he had a 5.93 ERA in the final month of the season — the Red Sox won’t have David Price there to save the day once again. Craig Kimbrel should be rested enough to go two innings if needed, and Addison Reed should be fine after throwing just seven pitches in his inning on Sunday. So for John Farrell, the challenge is just getting through six innings with Porcello and whoever else might be needed.
Offensively, the Sox will be up against right-hander Charlie Morton, who posted a solid 3.62 ERA this season.
The Red Sox are desperate to get something — anything — out of Xander Bogaerts, who is 0-for-14 this series. Andrew Benintendi (2-for-12) and Dustin Pedroia (2-for-11) have also been hurting at the dish. But as Rafael Devers proved by going 2-for-3 with a homer and 3 RBIs in Game 3 after going 0-for-5 to start the series, things can change rather quickly.
Also, there’s the threat of some rain today. Maybe not any downpours, but some steady light rain. That obviously warrants watching, as there is a built-in day off tomorrow that would work if needed. But it feels like, for now, they can play baseball. We’ll keep an eye on that.
We’ll have lineups shared right here as soon as they’re posted, as well as updates and analysis all day, from first pitch to the final out.