“You go a 100 miles an hour,” John Farrell said after the Red Sox season ended on Monday afternoon, “Then, all of sudden, you face plant into a wall when the season is over.”
That’s well said, even for fans who follow every game, every at-bat, and every pitch through a long season only to face the emptiness of another premature ending to a postseason drive. The Sox, who led by one from the fifth inning until the eighth, were undone on Monday by the least likely culprits.
As in each of the previous games in the series, Rick Porcello welcomed the Astros to a first-inning lead. Xander Bogaerts tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the frame, his 1st postseason extra-base hit since tripling in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series at St. Louis. Porcello allowed a 2-1 Astros lead in the second, but there the game stayed until the bottom of the fifth, when Houston turned to veteran pitcher Justin Verlander for his 1st-ever appearance in relief. Unimpressed, Andrew Benintendi pounded him with a two run, 383-foot shot and in so doing became the 7th-youngest player with a go-ahead HR in an elimination game.
Clinging To A Lead
Chris Sale, pitching in relief for the 1st time since May 8, 2012 with the White Sox, set the Astros down 1-2-3 in the fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth, Houston phenom Yuli Gurriel reached on a two-base error, but Sale worked around it for preserve the one-run lead.
In the seventh inning there were signs of weakness, with Christian Vázquez reaching to corral Sale’s delivery. George Springer and Carlos Correa connected for singles, but Sale again preserved the lead with a strikeout of Houston’s RBI champ, Marwin González.
That should’ve been the day for Sale, but the Sox got greedy. Rather than turn to their set-up man, Addison Reed, they sent Sale back out for the eighth and Alex Bregman greeted him with a 368-foot home run to tie the game. With a man on first and two outs, the Sox turned to Craig Kimbrel only to watch him walk a man and allow a single from Josh Reddick that resulted in a 4-3 Astros lead.
Back out in the ninth, Kimbrel showed uncharacteristic lack of control, hitting a man and then giving up a single before pinch-hitter Carlos Beltrán knocked in an insurance run. Beltrán improved to a .325 career postseason batting average, second only to Steve Garvey (.338) for the highest such mark in major league history (minimum 200 at-bats).
Devers Inside-The-Park HR
With the Sox down 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Fenway was quiet. The crowd, however, roared to life when Rafael Devers became the 1st Sox batter in 102 seasons to belt an inside-the-park postseason home run. The only other Red Sox with postseason inside-the-park blasts were Larry Gardner on October 11, 1916 and Patsy Dougherty on October 2, 1903. The last such home run at Fenway during the regular season was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s on September 19, 2011 (Game 2) against the Orioles.
Devers’ home run was the 17th inside-the-park home run in postseason history and the 1st to come in the ninth inning or later. Devers is the 1st rookie ever with an inside-the-park HR in the postseason.
The last postseason inside-the-park home run was by Oakland’s Mark Kotsay‘s in Game 2 of the 2006 American League Division Series.
Postseason Plans Shattered
Tying the game with a feat like Devers’ would have been dramatic. Winning it that way would have been beyond description. But Devers homer, no matter how historic, was just one run and the Sox couldn’t muster a second to extend hope for at least one more postseson game.
Boston is now 6-6 in Division Series, with losses in back-to-back seasons. The team is 17-7 in 24 elimination games since 1999, including 15-9 when facing elimination at home.