By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There can be no arguing about the entertainment factor of Wednesday night’s Game 4 of the ALCS.
From early leads, to a controversial call, to a tremendous exchange of body blows from the two best teams in baseball, Game 4 had every spectator and participants feeling uncertain from start to finish.
At various points throughout the evening, both teams had reason to believe they were in control of this all-important game. But those feelings didn’t last long, as the Red Sox and Astros took turns coming through with clutch hit after clutch hit.
There was quite a bit of time for those feelings, too, as this one took over four-and-a-half hours to complete.
That was … kind of long.
But sometimes, good things take time.
The Red Sox ultimately prevailed, 8-6, to take a 3-1 series lead. And because Game 5 will be starting awfully quick after the conclusion of Game 4, here’s a quick run-through of who’s up and who’s down after their performances in Game 4 for the Red Sox.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
All he does is deliver clutch hits. Literally. He’s got three hits in this series, the most recent of which was a two-run homer in Game 4 off Lance McCullers. That came a night after his grand slam in Game 3, which followed his three-run wall-ball double in Game 2.
Jackie Bradley Jr., the unlikeliest source, has been providing the pop for Boston.
Ryan Brasier/Matt Barnes
The bullpen was supposed to be a postseason weakness for the Red Sox, but that memo apparently never made it to these guys.
Brasier entered with a runner on in the bottom of the sixth, with the Red Sox leading by one run and the top of the order due up for Houston. Brasier buzzed right through Alex Bregman, George Springer and Jose Altuve to get out of the inning. He came back out for the seventh and allowed a single, but came back to retire Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick.
Brasier then surrendered a double to Carlos Correa, which brought about a pitching change.
With the tying run on second base, Barnes entered the game to face pinch hitter Tyler White. Barnes dropped two curveballs into the exact same spot for called strikes two and three, ending the threat and getting the game to the eighth inning.
Words are not necessary. Here, watch this:
And that’s that.
If Benintendi misses that catch and lets the ball gets past him, the Astros walk off with a victory to even the series at two games apiece. But he didn’t miss it.
Considering how much trouble Craig Kimbrel got himself into, the throw Mookie Betts made to gun down Tony Kemp to lead off the eighth was a massively important play.
Xander Bogaerts drove in two runs, as did Rafael Devers. Brock Holt drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk. J.D. Martinez delivered an insurance run in the eight with a two-out single. And Bradley of course hit the big homer.
Not to be lost in that was a two-out double by Christian Vazquez prior to the Bradley home run. The offense was spread out evenly in this game, and when the Red Sox do that, they are tough to beat.
Steve Pearce is up because he survived this tumble:
That could have been bad.
The Sox’ starter didn’t bring much on this night. He pitched four ineffective innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk. Generating swings and misses proved difficult, and every inning was a grind.
The Sox entered this game knowing that Chris Sale was unavailable for Game 5, thus putting more pressure on Porcello to go deep in Game 4. Didn’t happen.
“Adventure” doesn’t begin to describe what the Sox’ closer has been this postseason. While he is technically 4-for-4 in save opportunities this postseason, he sure does like to push the limits.
In this one, he allowed a single and a double, and he hit a batter in the eighth inning, allowing one run to score. It would have been worse if not for Betts’ spectacular throw.
In the ninth, with a two-run lead and one out, he walked consecutive batters on five pitches. After a deep flyout for the second out, Kimbrel … walked the No. 9 hitter.
That brought up Alex Bregman, who made decent contact and might have delivered a big-time hit, but Benintendi prevented it from happening with that diving catch to end the game.
It was the first ever six-out save in Kimbrel’s career, and that in and of itself deserves credit. But, well, there’s not a whole lot of faith in Kimbrel right now when he enters these postseason games.
Kelly got the win for this game, which shows just how odd baseball rules can work. He entered the game in the fifth inning, just after the Sox tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth. But he allowed singles to Gurriel and Reddick, with a wild pitch thrown in the middle, thus allowing the Astros to regain the lead.
Bradley’s homer in the top of the sixth gave the Red Sox the lead and thus put the win on Kelly. But the reliever did give a lead back to Houston immediately after Boston had built some momentum in the top half of the fifth.