By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 4-1 Red Sox: It’s all over. The Red Sox have won four straight games against the defending champs, and they’re now headed to the World Series.
Kimbrel got Correa to go down swinging at a 99 mph heater for the first out.
Gurriel then walked on four pitches.
Marwin Gonzalez then struck out looking on three pitches. He never took the bat off his shoulder.
Benintendi then caught Kemp’s fly ball to end it.
Middle 9th, 4-1 Red Sox: Nothing doing from the Boston bats. Betts put a jolt into one, but Kemp made a warning track grab for the second out. Benintendi struck out to end the frame.
So here we go. Craig Kimbrel, after a shaky outing in Game 4, is coming on. Correa, Gurriel and Gonzalez are due up.
End 8th, 4-1 Red Sox: The Red Sox are three outs away.
Eovaldi retired Brian McCann (grounder into the shift on the right side) and Bregman (strikeout swinging, which might not end up on Bregman’s Instagram story) before Springer laced a two-out single.
The threat ended there, though, as Altuve lined out to center to end the inning.
Three outs away from reaching the World Series. Madness.
Bradley, Betts, and Benintendi are due up to try to make it easy for Kimbrel in the ninth.
Middle 8th, 4-1 Red Sox: Ian Kinsler ripped a one-out double, though he was nearly thrown out on an excellent throw by left fielder Tony Kemp. That didn’t produce much though, as Devers struck out looking and Brock Holt (hitting for Vazquez) grounded out to first to end the inning.
Eovaldi back out there for the eighth. If it goes well, and quickly, you wonder if Cora might keep him out there for the ninth. Kimbrel was taxed quite a bit last night, and he wasn’t particularly effective. But that’s a looooong way away at this point.
End 7th, 4-1 Red Sox: Eovladi needed all of two pitches to get out of the inning. Reddick put a decent swing on an 0-1 inside fastball, but he got under it just a bit. Betts made a catch somewhat deep in right, with ease, to end the inning.
Boston is now just six outs away from reaching the World Series.
Bottom 7th, 2 outs, 4-1 Red Sox: Barnes couldn’t get it done. He couldn’t get through the eighth, as he walked Tony Kemp after serving up the tater.
So Alex Cora isn’t waiting around on Barnes, and he’s instead calling upon Nathan Eovaldi to close out this inning.
Eovaldi was/is the presumed Game 7 starter, so Cora clearly trusts him to get the job done now. Either way, he’d be ready for Sunday if needed.
Bottom 7th, 2 outs, 4-1 Red Sox: Barnes almost made very short work of the Astros in the seventh, but Gonzalez launched a two-out bomb to left field for a solo homer. It wasn’t far from where Devers’ homer landed, and the Astros now have some life.
Middle 7th, 4-0 Red Sox: The Astros turned to their closer, and he made short work of the Red Sox. Benintendi, Martinez, and Bogaerts all grounded out, with Gurriel fielding Bregman’s short-hop for the final out of the inning.
Matt Barnes is entering for Boston.
End 6th, 4-0 Red Sox: Last night, there was of course the “controversial” fan interference ruling in right field. We nearly saw the same exact play to start this inning, when Bregman sent a 1-1 fastball on the outer half deep to right field. Betts ran back to the wall, and the fans in right field stood up in anticipation of a solo bomb. Instead, Betts timed his leap and casually made a catch on the warning track while flying toward the wall.
Ho-hum. One out.
Pretty crazy that it happened one night after the interference call, but it at least goes to show that Betts would have made that catch last night. (Not that that should have ever been in question, really.)
Springer then grounded out to third, before Price got Altuve to chase a changeup for strike three.
That’s a playoff career high nine strikeouts for Price. That’s likely the end of his night. It was a tremendous start.
Middle 6th, 4-0 Red Sox: It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on that opportunity. Rafael Devers teed up a first-pitch fastball from Verlander, and he crushed it over the high wall in left-center field. It didn’t come down until it was with the spectators, and when it did, the Sox had themselves a 4-0 lead.
That is, obviously, massive.
That’s all the Red Sox could get in the sixth, though Vazquez put forth quite the battle (thanks in part to Maldonado wanting nothing to do with leaning over the dugout rail on a foul pop). Vazquez ultimately flew out to left on the ninth pitch of his at-bat. Bradley then grounded out first, before Betts flew out to right.
But the damage was done. If Price can get the Red Sox three more outs, they will be in business. That won’t be easy though, with Bregman, Springer and Altuve due up this inning.
Top 6th, 0 out, 1-0 Red Sox: Boston has something going here. Moreland led off with a wall ball double to left. (Kemp almost made a near-identical catch to the one he made in Game 3, but he let the ball pop out of his glove to avoid any controversy.)
Kinsler didn’t bunt Moreland over, and he instead lined a single through the right side.
Two on, nobody out for Devers.
End 5th, 1-0 Red Sox: Another quick one for David Price, who’s doing it all tonight.
He started the inning by getting Tony Kemp to swing over a 1-2 changeup for strike three. That eighth strikeout marks a career playoff high for Price.
Maldonado then gave one a ride to deep right-center, but Bradley made the catch with about 15 feet to spare in front of the wall.
Marisnick then swung at a first pitch and sent a swinging bunt down the third base line. Price bounced off the mound, pounced on the ball, and though he didn’t get a great grip on the ball, his one-hopper to first beat the runner in time for the final out of the inning.
At just 82 pitches, Cora could try to get another inning out of Price. But with the top of the order due up, it might be safest to go to the bullpen.
Regardless, Price has been outstanding this evening.
Middle 5th, 1-0 Red Sox: J.D. Martinez singled up the middle with two outs, but that’s all the Red Sox would get in this one. Bogaerts squared up a 1-0 fastball over the heart of the plate, but hit it directly at Springer in right field for the final out.
Betts had grounded out sharply to third, and Benintendi popped out in foul ground to Bregman.
End 4th, 1-0 Red Sox: David Price is having a night.
He got Altuve and Correa to strike out swinging to start the inning, getting Altuve on a heater and Correa on a changeup. Then Price and Gurriel engaged in quite the battle, with Gurriel fouling off six straight pitches to start the at-bat. Gurriel then took two balls before lacing a line drive double to left field.
Price took his time against Gonzalez (remember, he took Price DEEP in Game 2), and eventually got him to flail at a changeup in the dirt for strike three.
That’s seven strikeouts for Price through four innings, and most importantly, that’s no runs on the board for Houston.
Middle 4th, 1-0 Red Sox: Justin Verlander just buzzsawed through that inning. Devers went down looking, Vazquez struck out swinging, and Bradley grounded out to first base.
Verlander’s been good, save for one hanging breaking ball to Martinez. Houston bats are going to want to string together some at-bats vs. Price sooner than later.
End 3rd, 1-0 Red Sox: Boston gave David Price a lead, and he didn’t immediately give it back.
In fact, he retired the Astros in order, getting Marisnick to fly out, Bregman to strike out (looking), and Springer to ground out weakly to short to end the inning.
Both Price and Verlander have thrown 47 pitches apiece through three innings. So far, so good on Price, as far as Boston is concerned.
Middle 3rd, 1-0 Red Sox: The Red Sox have a lead, thanks in part to home plate umpire Chris Guccione.
The ump ruled that a slider that caught plenty of the plate and was plenty high enough to be a strike was in fact a ball. It would have been strike three. Instead it was ball one.
Sure enough, on the very next pitch, Martinez clobbered a high and tight curveball, sending it sky high to left field, deep over the wall, to put the Sox up 1-0.
Verlander has every reason to be mad about that one, but it won’t be coming off the board.
Benintendi had led off the inning by looking at strike three. After the homer, Bogaerts flew out to deep left field, before Moreland singled over the shift in shallow right. Kinsler then pulled slider down the third base line, but Bregman made a great play to field the ball, plant his feet, and throw across the diamond on one hop to beat Kinsler by a half-step.
End 2nd, 0-0: Kind of a long grind out there, as David Price certainly took his time between pitches. But he got his job done, despite allowing a sharply hit leadoff single by Gurriel.
Price got Gonzalez and Kemp to weakly fly out after that, and then got Maldonado to strike out looking to end the inning.
Price has three strikeouts through two scoreless innings, throwing 35 pitches thus far.
Middle 2nd, 0-0: Mookie Betts just had himself a golden opportunity. But Justin Verlander won.
Betts stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, a prime chance to put the Sox up early. But he fouled off a 1-1 curveball, before fanning at a high fastball at the letters for strike three.
Moreland flew out to start the inning, but then Kinsler reached on a throwing error by Bregman. (Gurriel dropped the ball on the tag, which would have been in time.)
Devers flew out to deep left field for the second out, before Vazquez lined a 1-2 fastball through the right side for a two-out single.
Verlander then got behind Bradley 3-0, filled up the count with consecutive strikes, but then walked him to load the bases.
The Sox got nothing on the scoreboard, but they at least made Verlander work. He’s at 34 pitches through two innings.
End 1st, 0-0: A good start for David Price, who struck out two batters in the opening frame. He did allow a one-out single to Altuve, but he came back to get Correa staring at strikes two and three to end the inning.
The frame began with Bregman flying out to deep left field on the first pitch, followed by Springer striking out swinging.
Middle 1st, 0-0: That was a quick inning, and it was almost even quicker. Betts popped out on the second pitch, before Benintendi flew out on the first pitch of his at-bat. Martinez then fell behind 0-2, but managed to lay off four straight pitches for a walk. A couple of those were close, too.
That was it for Boston, though, as Verlander induced a weak grounder to third. Bregman fired to second for the third out of the inning.
And now it’s time for David Price.
Top 1st: Verlander’s first pitch to Betts is a strike right down the pipe.
This one is underway. Who knows what’s going to happen?
6:50 p.m.: Alex Cora had a pretty great description for how he handled last night’s game.
“It was very fun. We talk about my experience last year and learning all that. Game 5 of the World Series, that prepared me for that one last night, because that game, Game 5, that was — I consider that game, it was the worst best game ever,” he said. “It was awful and it was good. But yesterday when Reddick made that play, I was, like, here we go. Something is going to happen because I know how it goes with them. They feed off plays like that. They feed off their home crowd. And Josh made an outstanding play, and I had a feeling that the ninth inning was going to be interesting and it was.
“But I don’t know, man. I think when I played I used to get more anxious, because I had to battle against whoever was pitching or make a play. Now you put them in situations that you feel they’re going to be successful, and they make you look good or bad. That’s it.”
4:05 p.m.: Mitch Moreland will make his return to the starting lineup in Game 5.
Moreland has been coming off the bench as a pinch hitter in recent games while Steve Pearce handled duties at first base. But Alex Cora has Moreland starting at first and batting fifth for Thursday’s game. It marks his first start since pulling his hamstring in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees.
Brock Holt, who had a rough time against Verlander in Game 1, is replaced by Ian Kinsler. Devers is starting at third.
For the Astros, Josh Reddick is out, replaced by Jake Marisnick. It’s his first start of the postseason.
1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
–LHP David Price
1. Alex Bregman, 3B
2. George Springer, RF
3. Jose Altuve, DH
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
7. Tony Kemp, LF
8. Martin Maldonado, C
9. Jake Marisnick, CF
–RHP Justin Verlander
1:15 p.m.: Everybody has barely had enough time to recover from the emotional roller coaster that was Game 4. But it’s time for another one. And it’s a doozy.
The Red Sox will take the field at Minute Maid Park knowing that they’re potentially nine innings away from earning a trip to the World Series. But they’ll also know that the defending champions won’t exactly be rolling out a red carpet for that trip. The Astros are going to make it tough.
And, well, nobody knows quite what to expect out of David Price. He considered his Game 2 start to be “baby steps,” which is appropriate terminology. In his first two postseason starts as a member of the Red Sox, Price went 0-2 with a 14.40 ERA and a 2.600 WHIP. In Game 2 against the Astros, he pitched what was the equivalent of a 7.71 ERA and a 1.923 WHIP.
The Red Sox are probably going to need him to take a big boy step on Thursday night. And there’s no more of a big boy stage than Game 5 of the ALCS, with a World Series berth at stake.
He’ll be opposed by Justin Verlander. He has a 13-6 record, a 3.08 ERA, and a 1.005 WHIP in his long postseason career. With Houston in the playoffs, he’s 6-1 with a 2.44 ERA and a 0.833 WHIP.
Pretty good. No baby steps needed there.
But the Red Sox are feeling pretty good at the plate. Let’s see if they can keep it going against Verlander.
First pitch is at 8:09 p.m. Hopefully the final pitch is a lot sooner than 1:15 a.m.