The first round goes to the Houston Astros.
Houston defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-4 in Friday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park. Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve hit clutch home runs and led the way for the victors, who are looking to reach the World Series for the third time in five years.
Enrique Hernandez played well in the losing effort for the Red Sox, who now need to win four of the next six games to reach their second Fall Classic in four years.
Notable Player Stats
- Carlos Correa, SS, HOU: 3-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
- Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU: 1-for-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB
- Chas McCormick, CF, HOU: 3-for-4, 1 R
- Enrique Hernandez, CF, BOS: 4-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Astros Use Home Runs to Overcome Missed Chances
There was a time when Chris Sale starting a game meant instant trouble for the opposition.
After all, he is a seven-time All-Star who finished in the top six of American League Cy Young voting seven years in a row from 2012 through 2018. However, he missed the 2020 campaign, made nine starts this season and allowed five runs in one inning during his last playoff appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays.
It looked as if he was well on his way to another brutal showing when Yordan Alvarez drove in Altuve with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, and Houston loaded the bases in the second. However, Sale escaped when he struck out Altuve and was bailed out by an incredible diving catch from Hernandez on a sinking fly ball from Michael Brantley.
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Altuve with a two-run 💣 <a href="https://twitter.com/BRWalkoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BRWalkoff</a><br><br>Tie ball game.<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/MLBONFOX?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLBONFOX</a>)<a href="https://t.co/aryGaOrp0J">pic.twitter.com/aryGaOrp0J</a>
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Same energy ⌚️ <a href="https://twitter.com/BRWalkoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BRWalkoff</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamCJCorrea?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamCJCorrea</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/Dame_Lillard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dame_Lillard</a> <a href="https://t.co/25uzsVW6Bp">pic.twitter.com/25uzsVW6Bp</a>
Houston also wasted an opportunity in the third inning with two runners on and one out, although it at least knocked Sale out of the game before Yuli Gurriel's ground out ended the threat.
The Astros let another chance slip away in the fifth when Kyle Tucker flew out with two runners on, but they finally broke through in the sixth when Altuve launched a game-tying two-run homer off Tanner Houck.
That was only the start of the home-run heroics, as Correa unloaded on a high fastball from Hansel Robles in the seventh to give Houston the lead. The two-time All-Star took some well-deserved time to admire his work, and the crowd responded to the moment accordingly.
Houston added an insurance run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly from Altuve, which proved to be necessary when Hernandez continued his stellar play in the top of the ninth with his second homer.
Houston's Bullpen Silences Boston's Bats
Lance McCullers Jr. is not on Houston's ALCS roster because of a forearm injury, which puts more pressure on the rest of the starting staff to make up for the loss.
First up was Framber Valdez, who struggled in his one appearance against the Chicago White Sox when he gave up four runs in 4.1 innings. It was more of the same Friday, as he was unable to protect the Astros' early 1-0 lead thanks to a poor third inning.
Hernandez started the rally with a solo home run before Xander Bogaerts walked, moved to second on Rafael Devers' single and scored on an error by Altuve. Hunter Renfroe's double extended the lead to 3-1, and Boston suddenly went from comeback mode to protecting the lead.
Valdez's day also came to an end during that three-run third, although only two of the runs were earned.
Houston's bullpen deserves plenty of credit for keeping the team within striking distance after the slow start. Yimi Garcia, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Brooks Raley and Ryne Stanek slammed the door shut on the visitors in the middle innings, which allowed the offense to take the lead by playing long ball.
Things were a bit more tense in the late innings for the Houston crowd when Travis Shaw took Kendall Graveman to the warning track, and Hernandez went long against Ryan Pressly, but the back end of the bullpen did its job as well.
The series remains in Houston for Saturday's Game 2.