The Houston Astros are one game away from the World Series after a 9-1 Game 5 win over the Boston Red Sox.
Framber Valdez allowed just one run in eight innings to lift the Astros on Wednesday at Fenway Park, giving the team a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
The game was a pitchers' duel early, with a Yordan Alvarez solo home run the only thing separating Valdez and Boston starter Chris Sale through five innings. Houston finally broke it open in the sixth with some clutch hitting to plate five runs:
Alvarez finished with three hits and three RBI to key a big effort for the Houston offense while Valdez took care of the rest on the mound.
Boston ended the shutout on a Rafael Devers home run, but it wasn't enough to climb out of the massive hole as the team moves to the brink of elimination.
Framber Valdez, SP, HOU: 8 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 5 K
Yordan Alvarez, DH, HOU: 3-for-5, HR, 3 RBI
Yuli Gurriel, 1B, HOU: 3-for-5, 3 RBI
Chris Sale, SP, BOS: 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 7 K
Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS: 2-for-3, HR
Enrique Hernandez, CF, BOS: 0-for-4
Framber Valdez Shuts Down Red Sox Offense
It didn't seem like anyone was going to slow down the Red Sox this postseason after they scored at least five runs in six of their first eight playoff games. Even when the team was held to two runs in Game 4, Astros starter Zack Greinke only lasted 1.1 innings before the bullpen took over.
Valdez didn't need as much help with his outstanding start keeping Boston off the scoreboard.
Alex Rodriguez @AROD
When a sinker ball pitcher has it working there’s not much a hitter can do and that’s what we’re seeing with Valdez today.<br><br>Pitching to contact… quick outs and A LOT of routine ground balls. 8 groundouts for Sox hitters through 4. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ALCS?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ALCS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLB?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLB</a>
The success put him in rare territory:
Phil Murphy @Phil_Sports
No pitcher has ever retired the first 10 batters at Fenway in postseason history (91 games)<br><br>Valdez is perfect through 9 batters tonight in Game 5 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ALCS?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ALCS</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ForTheH?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ForTheH</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DirtyWater?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DirtyWater</a>
The 27-year-old got the first 12 batters out and remained effective on his way to a big-time performance.
The only blemish came when Devers hit a seventh-inning solo home run:
Valdez still found success limiting baserunners, holding leadoff hitter Enrique Hernandez to an 0-for-3 night. Hernandez entered with a .463 postseason batting average, including nine hits in his first four ALCS games.
Key players like Kyle Schwarber, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez were also held hitless on Wednesday.
With Houston's talent on offense, this type of production on the mound could be enough to bring home a World Series title.
Yordan Alvarez Gets Clutch Hits for Houston
If it weren't for Yordan Alvarez, we might be talking about the incredible start by Chris Sale.
Alvarez represented the first run of the game after a long shot over the Green Monster in the second inning:
Alvarez got his second hit in the fourth before any other player on either team got their first hit of the game.
In the top of the sixth, the designated hitter helped blow the game open with a two-run double that knocked Sale out of the game.
AlaNNa Rizzo @alannarizzo
Yordan Alvarez is the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Astros?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Astros</a> offense tonight. A HR, 1B and 2B. He has driven in all of Houston's runs. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Astros?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Astros</a> lead 3-0 in the 6th.
MLB Stats @MLBStats
Yordan Alvarez joins Carlos Correa (2015, 2017) as the only <a href="https://twitter.com/astros?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@astros</a> players 24 or younger to have 3 H, 3 RBI in a <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/postseason?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#postseason</a> game. <a href="https://t.co/ChAkBOCPl2">pic.twitter.com/ChAkBOCPl2</a>
The production from the left side of the plate was especially rare against Sale:
Bill Koch @BillKoch25
Left-handed hitters managed just a .346 OPS against Chris Sale in 2021. They've hit 12 regular season homers against him in 1304 career plate appearances.<br><br>The numbers said Sale could eventually get Yordan Alvarez out. His first two at-bats said something else. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RedSox?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RedSox</a> <a href="https://t.co/mRCvM7761k">https://t.co/mRCvM7761k</a>
Alvarez had a hit in each of the first four games of the series, but he especially stepped up in the biggest game of the year for Houston.
Yuli Gurriel helped the Astros add to their lead with his own three-hit, three RBI night.
The Astros showcased their deep lineup while pulling away, even without many hard-hit balls throughout the night.
Alvarez was still the biggest star in Game 5 and a major reason Houston is leading this series.
The series shifts back to Minute Maid Park for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7. Nathan Eovaldi is expected to take the mound for Boston in Game 6 on Friday at 8:08 p.m. ET. The Astros have not yet named a starter.