BOSTON (CBS) — What a dud. The once powerful Red Sox offense has gone missing, and Boston is now on the brink of elimination in the ALCS.

The Red Sox bats mustered just three hits in Wednesday night’s 9-1 loss to the Astros, giving the Fenway Park crowd very little to cheer for in Game 5. The Boston offense made Houston starter Framber Valdez look like a Cy Young winner, as he needed just 93 pitches to shut down the Red Sox for eight innings. He allowed only one run in his dominant outing, just five nights after Boston chased him after just 2.2 innings in Game 1.

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Two of Boston’s hits on Wednesday were off the bat of Rafael Devers, including a solo homer in the seventh inning. But by that point the Red Sox were in a 7-0 hole. They could have used one of those grand slams that the team was hitting earlier in the series, but that would have required runners to get on base. That only happened four times Wednesday night — not including Devers’ trip around the bags.

It has been long ball or bust for the Red Sox this series, and that is finally starting to catch up to them.

Christian Vazquez was the only other Boston player to get a hit in Game 5; a one-out double in the sixth inning. Second base was as far as he’d get, as Kiké Hernandez flew out to right and Kyle Schwarber lined out to first to end the inning.

J.D. Martinez reached base twice, once via a HBP in the fifth (giving Boston two on and one out) and once by way of a walk in the seventh. Hunter Renfroe followed each of those by grounding into a double play.

The Red Sox were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in Game 5, one night after going 0-for-9 in such situations in Game 4. The top of the Boston order — Hernandez, Schwarber and Xander Bogaerts — went 0-for-12 on Wednesday.

“We know we can hit,” Boston manager Alex Cora said after the loss. “Two bad games doesn’t mean that all of a sudden we’re not a good offensive team. It’s just a matter of regroup, make some adjustments and attack from the first pitch on.”

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Valdez retired the first 12 batters of the game in order. Boston’s offense sat down 1-2-3 six times in Game 5; in the first four innings and in the final two.

Mix in a pair of errors, and it was a complete waste of a solid outing by Chris Sale. The Red Sox lefty allowed only two runs (four earned) over his 5.1 innings, striking out seven Astros. It was his finest outing of the postseason, but the offense gave him zero support for his efforts.

The Astros now get to go home to Houston with a 3-2 series lead and all of the momentum on their side. They’re hitting like the Astros again, with 18 runs off 23 hits over the last two games. Designated hitter Yordan Alvarez has five of those hits for Houston, and was a triple short of the cycle in Game 5.

Boston will have to win two roads games if they want to take the series and advance to the Fall Classic. The Red Sox know they have to take it one game at a time, starting Friday night with Game 6.

“If we don’t win the next game the season is over,” said Cora. “But we’ve been in this situation before so nothing is going to change. Over the next 24 hours we’ll take a look at a few things and learn from our mistakes, what they’ve been doing the last few days. We’ll be ready for the next one.”

“Not in a good spot going back to Houston, there’s no denying that,” said Sale, who added that he’d pitch whenever Cora calls upon him the rest of the way. “But this team has won two games in the playoffs back-to-back before, and we think we can do it again.”

The Red Sox will turn to Nathan Eovaldi in Game 6, who won Game 2 but suffered a loss in relief in Game 4. Cora has all the confidence in the world in his ace.

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But he better hope that Boston’s bats make the trip to Houston. If the Red Sox want any shot at extending the series, they’re going to need the offense to return to form and start putting runs on the board.

CBSBoston.com Staff