BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox left for Houston on Thursday, and they’ll either return to Boston to prepare for the World Series or to clean out their lockers for the offseason.

Boston manager Alex Cora is confident that it will be the former rather than the latter, despite his team’s struggles at the plate over the last two games. The Astros have taken a 3-2 series lead in the ALCS, winning each of the last two games in Boston.

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Now the Red Sox have to go to Houston and win two straight, starting Friday night with Game 6. A win and they move on to a deciding Game 7 on Saturday night. A loss, and the Red Sox will head home for the winter.

“Obviously, we are where we are but we just have to — use any cliché you want — we have to take it one pitch at a time, one game at a time,” Cora said Thursday before departing for Texas. “Play another good game tomorrow and another good game in two days.”

Boston’s offense exploded in Games 2 and 3, putting the Red Sox in the driver’s seat with a 2-1 series lead and two more games set to be played at Fenway Park. But after scoring 21 runs in those two victories, the Red Sox mustered just three runs over those two home games. Boston was held to only three hits in Wednesday night’s Game 5 loss.

Cora said Thursday that there were too many empty at-bats from his team over those two defeats, and they’ll be making adjustments to change that heading into Friday night’s must-win tilt.

“Empty at-bats can’t happen in the playoffs. Every pitch, every run counts,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re relentless in the strike zone. … We’ll make our adjustment and get them out of their comfort zone, the same way they got us out of our comfort zone.

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“If you’re going to get an out, make it a quality at-bat,” Cora added. “We did it for six games in a row, so we can do it for two more days in this series.”

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who drove in Boston’s only two runs in Game 4 but was 0-for-4 in Game 5, said that the Houston pitching staff has done a great job at keeping the Red Sox grounded over the last two games. Boston grounded out 13 times against Framber Valdez on Wednesday night, including a pair of double plays by Hunter Renfroe.

Bogaerts hopes that changes come Game 6

“Start by getting the ball in the air. Let’s try that out,” he said of Boston’s change in approach. “Set up a good game plan again. Yesterday we had a great game plan, but it’s not always going to work or line up with what they have planned for our hitters.

“For the most part of the year we’ve been dealing with these kinds of situations,” Bogaerts added. “What better team than us to deal with these situations?”

The Red Sox may have their backs against the wall, but they remain confident that the season will still be going after Friday night — and after Saturday night as well.

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“Our goal is to go [Friday] and play a whole baseball game, win and move on to the next one and do the same thing,” said Cora. “We’ll be in the World Series if we do that.”

CBSBoston.com Staff