October 22, 2021

ALCS 6: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

Red Sox - 000 000 000 - 0  2  0
Astros - 100 001 03x - 5 10 0

On Monday, the Red Sox set a major league record by getting 10+ hits in their sixth consecutive postseason game. Then, as suddenly as flicking off a light switch, their bats went ice cold. They managed 10 hits total in their next three games, losing all three games.

Boston's season came to an end on Friday night, as the Astros pitcher Luis Garcia (5.2-1-0-1-7, 76) held the Red Sox without a hit for 5.2 innings. Houston won ALCS Game 6 by a score of 5-0, clinching the American League pennant. On Tuesday, they will play in their third World Series in the last five seasons.

Yordan Alvarez was named the MVP of the ALCS. He hit .522 and had an OPS of 1.408 OPS. Alvarez  went 4-for-4 on Friday; he doubled in the Astros' first run in the opening inning, doubled in the fourth, tripled and scored the Astros' second run in the sixth, and singled and scored the Astros' third run  in the eighth (coming home on Kyle Tucker's three-run homer). 

In the final three games of the series, Alvarez went 9-for-13, collecting one fewer hit than the entire Red Sox team. In Game 5, Alvarez became the first left-handed hitter in more than six seasons to knock three hits off Chris Sale. 

In the eighth inning of Game 4, the score was tied 2-2 and the Red Sox led the series two games to one. After that, everything fell apart for the Red Sox (starting with a blown inning-ending strike 3 call by umpire Laz Diaz), Houston outscored Boston 22-1.

This was the first time ever that the Red Sox were shut out on two or fewer hits by the Astros.

Despite the agonizing finish, the 2021 Red Sox must be regarded as a success. No one thought this team would (or could) end up only two wins away from the World Series.

The Red Sox caught a break at the start of Game 6, when Kyle Schwarber swung and missed a cutter from Luis Garcia, but was able to get to first when the ball eluded the catcher. Schwarber got to third but Xander Bogaerts could not bring him home, grounding out to third.

The Astros, on the other hand, took full advantage of their good fortune in the bottom of the first. Nathan Eovaldi had two outs after only three pitches. Alex Bregman singled and Alvarez drove the ball to deep right-center. Kiké Hernández attempted a basket catch of sorts on the warning track, but the ball hit the bottom of his glove near his wrist and fell for what was ruled a double. Bregman scored.

Garcia walked Alex Verdugo in the second, but other than that, he was dealing. After that walk, he retired 13 batters in a row, using a devastating cutter that numerous Red Sox batters could not lay off of. Christian Arroyo saw five balls outside the strike zone in the second inning and he swung at three of them, eventually popping to second. Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez had zero luck hitting the cutter in the fourth. Arroyo and Hunter Renfroe both chased pitches they could not do anything with, let alone reach, and whiffed in the fifth.

Hernández broke up Garcia's no-hit bid (and ended his night) with a triple off the wall in left-center. Unfortunately, it came with with two outs. Phil Maton retired Rafael Devers on one pitch, a pop-up to shortstop. (As Hernández stepped in, Boston had been 3-for-its-last-46 (.065).)

Hernández became the second player in Red Sox history to break up a postseason no-hitter in the sixth inning or later with a triple. Tris Speaker did it against the New York Giants, on October 8, 1912, with  one out in the sixth inning of World Series Game 1.

And right after that, Alvarez led off the home sixth with a triple of his own, off Josh Taylor, to right field, a no man's land devoid of Red Sox fielders, and into the corner. He scored, of course, though the Red Sox nearly pulled off a triple play. Tanner Houck came in and hit Correa. Tucker lined hard to first. Schwarber gloved the ball on a short hop, but Correa couldn't see that and thought he caught it on the fly. He got back to first, the umpire signaled fair ball (as opposed to an out), and he came off the bag , knowing he had to run to second. Schwarber tagged him, stepped on the base a split-second later, and fired home. Alvarez slid in ahead of Christian Vázquez's tag.

After Garcia's low pitch count (13-18-10 11-10-14), the Red Sox made Kendall Graveman work a bit in the seventh. Bogaerts struck out on seven pitches and Martinez drew a seven-pitch walk. Verdugo singled on a 1-0 pitch, sending Martinez to third. Travis Shaw pinch-hit for Arroyo. He swung through a too-high fastball and watched three balls up and away. He took a called strike on the outside edge. Graveman made a throw to first before striking out Shaw with a 96 mph fastball. Verdugo was off on the pitch and was thrown out at second.

That double play, which ended the inning with a man on third in a 2-0 game, and left the Red Sox only six outs in the game, felt like the death knell. Graveman gives up a lot of ground balls, but Verdugo is not very fast, Maldonado has a good arm, Shaw is far from guaranteed to make contact, and there is a runner on third base. It took a perfect throw from Maldonado to get him, but that's exactly what happened.

The Red Sox ended the season 0-for-their-last-17 with runners at second and/or third.

The Astros scored three runs in the eighth, effectively nailing the Red Sox's coffin shut. Tucker lifted a pitch from Adam Ottavino to left-center, where it found a landing place in the first or second row of seats just to the left of the point where the outfield gets a bit deeper.

The Red Sox went meekly in the ninth. Facing Ryan Pressly, Hernández flied to center, Devers struck out, and Bogarts flied to left.

Nathan Eovaldi / Luis Garcia

"Don't Let Us Win Friday Night!"

The 2021 Red Sox will play another win-or-go-home game, tonight in Houston. 

The Red Sox faced the possible end of their season back on October 5, in the American League Wild Card game against the Yankees. They responded to that challenge with a convincing 6-2 victory. They were expected to serve as roadkill for the Rays, but that never came close to happening.

And now they must win tonight for the opportunity to play another do-or-die game on Saturday night. It's rough and mean . . .

As Chad Jennings (The Athletic) writes: "This is not the first time we've prematurely written the 2021 Red Sox obituary."
"This is our story," J.D. Martinez said. "We've been written off all year. Nobody, I don't think anyone in [the press box] either, thought we were going to be here. . . . [W]e know what we're capable of . . . We split [the first two games in Houston]. We won two in a row, they won two in a row, you know? So, it's very possible.
Xander Bogaerts: "We can still get hot. I mean, we've done it before."

True enough. They have beaten the Astros in two straight games within the last week. Why not again?

It all comes down to this: the Red Sox have to hit. To have any kind of chance of winning tonight (and Saturday), it's essential that the bats find at least some of the success they showed in Games 2 and 3. If not, if they squander the scoring opportunities as they have in the last two games, they will be Texas Toast. None of this is insightful.

Also: Boston's pitching — starters and bullpen — are rested and lined up, waiting for the call.

Astros starter Luis Garcia is a complete wild card. He faced only eight batters in Game 2, giving up five runs, four of them coming on a mega-quadrangular by Rafael Devers. Jennings notes Garcia "could be unhittable, or he could be out after a couple of batters".

That's how it goes.

It's harder than it looks . . .


allan said...

Orlando Cabrera was interviewed by Bill Nowlin for "Don't Let Us Win Tonight" on June 20, 2013, at the Consulado de Colombia in Boston and the Park Plaza Hotel. I wanted Bill to ask O-Cab about the seven fingers he flashed during ALCS Game 6 (while the umpires were discussing the fall-out from Rodriguez slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove, I believe), a picture of which was published in the New York Daily News. But he was not facing the Yankees dugout. Cabrera was facing his own dugout, the third base side of the field, and I wanted to know what was going on. This is verbatim from the interview transcript I received from Bill:

BN: I've got a couple of photographs here that my co-author sent me while I was waiting in the consulate there. I don't know if you remember. You made some motions to the fans. One of the ones has you like pretending to be crying.

OC: Yeah, there was two wise guys there. Suits. Italian guys.

BN: In the stands.

OC: Yeah. I was going like [demonstrates] crying. "Waaa." Then I was going [shows another gesture holding up seven fingers] – "That's right! Seven. Tomorrow." I was sending it to those two guys. They were going nuts.

BN: They weren't on the Yankees side.

OC: No, they were on the right side.

BN: Out past the Red Sox dugout, out toward left field.

OC: Yeah. When I'd be coming in, they'd be screaming some shit at me. Screaming some shit. Front row. They were in suits. They looked like wise guys. They were going like [pantomimes pointing a pistol at his head].

BN: They made that to your heads.

OC: Yeah. I'm going, "That's all right…." I'm from Colombia, though. That doesn't do anything [meaning it doesn't intimidate him]. If you're going to do it, you're going to do it.

BN: Colombia's developed a bit of a reputation in America. A lot of Americans are scared to go there.

OC: I'm scared to go there. But I was telling them "Game Seven. You got another shot. Don't worry."

BN: You never heard from those guys again.

OC: No, never.


I figured Cabrera was telling someone: "You're not winning the pennant tonight. We're forcing Game 7." And he was sarcastically cheering them up: "Hey, guys, don't worry. You got another chance tomorrow."

Paul Hickman said...

Nice to reference an Aussie Institution - Bon & the Boys !

tim said...

I hope you are as furious as me at the Santana PH earlier. Otherwise hope you guys are well!

MThomas said...

While it didn't end in October glory, I'm sure we are all proud of this team for making it this far when most (including myself) expected a 4th place finish on opening day and feared even worse after that opening sweep by Baltimore.

That said, my favorite part of this playoff run, aside from YED at the hands of the Red Sox, is the return of your game recaps, something that always made me feel closer to the team and the season. I don't think any regular columnist captures the most important moments, pitches, and momentum changes as well as you do. Video game recaps miss the nuances of pitch by pitch battles at the plate. You, however, seem to capture, eloquently and concisely, all the important moments in each game.

I can't comprehend how much work it must be to do that day in and day out for an entire season, but you do it best.

The joy of following the Red Sox has absolutely changed since 2004 and the subsequent WS wins. This team was both painful and joyful to watch. But I found myself rooting for them again, most likely due to their imperfections, inconsistency, and underdog status. Hopefully they've drawn you back in as well. I'm excited for the possibilities in 2022, and I hope you have a safe and relaxing winter.

Jere said...

"This was the first time ever that the Red Sox were shut out on two or fewer hits by the Astros."

78 total games though. By comparison the Red Sox have played the Yankees 2,290 times.

allan said...


You are far too kind. I don't think my recaps do quite what you say, but I'm very glad you (and, I presume, others) enjoy them. It was a lot of work (in past seasons) and that doesn't include watching the actual games! I took this season off because I wanted to focus on other writing and I did not do as much of that as I wanted or expected. Which I find both annoying and not all that surprising.

I wonder how much higher my attention level would be if the game was not being fucked with on so many fronts, from incompetent umpires (which enrage and depress me more than I express here, I think) to new gimmicks introduced as actual rules to stupid announcers constantly saying strange and false things. Perhaps my interest would have waned to the same degree, even without all that garbage. I still enjoy reading about the oddities and rare events and kooky, fortuitous linescores as much as I ever have. And the failures of the Yankees still fill me with the same amount of glee!

Who knows about 2022? We have to weather a winter of labour negotiations first . . .

allan said...

"This was the first time ever that the Red Sox were shut out on two or fewer hits by the Astros."
78 total games though. By comparison the Red Sox have played the Yankees 2,290 times.

78 games (63 regular season, 15 playoffs) is not nothing.
But, yes, it includes only 2003, 2008, 2011, 2013-21. . . . 1 out of 78 is 1.282%.

The Red Sox have been shutout on 0, 1 or 2 hits by the Yankees 30 times in 2,290 games. That's 1.131%.

I picked the Tigers at random: 17 times in 1,2047 games: 0.83%.

allan said...

The Red Sox are 12-1 against the Reds! (Obviously, regular season only.)
The Red Sox's worst winning percentage is against the Yankees. I would not have guessed that.

FenFan said...

As always, Allan, your posts have been both enjoyable and illuminating this season. You pull no punches and offer no apologies. I don't know of anyone who provides a more unique view of the joys of being a Red Sox fan: the good, the bad, and the (sometimes) ugly.

A quick story to wrap up the season: this afternoon, I was grocery shopping with my wife while wearing my Red Sox windbreaker and cap. As we stood in line at the checkout, there was an elderly gentleman and his wife in front of me. He looked at me with a wry smile and asked: "Are you sure you're comfortable wearing that jacket today?" I responded: "Today and every damn day!" They both laughed, and his wife said: "Good for you! That's the sign of a true fan."

I've learned to take the good with the bad and the ugly because when it's a good day for the Sox, it's often a REALLY good day for all of us.

I'm looking forward to the 2022 season and more threading. Thanks as always for doing what you do!

Paul Hickman said...

I just checked Baseball Reference to make sure I was correct & unsurprisingly it is

The first 3 games of 2021 v Birds

Runs scored


That WAS our worst streak of the entire season until the Last 3


So it was a Shit Start & a Shit End ......

Ohhhh well, Such is Baseball

Paul Hickman said...

Top Answer

Still plenty to be proud of .... being a Sox Fan EVERY day

laura k said...

I never expected to see the Sox in October this year. Beating NYY and then Tampa was so much fun. I thought the Rays would be in the WS, so when we beat them I thought we were invincible.

Of course I wish we had gotten past the Astros, and I wish the Dodgers had put down the Atlanta Racist Logos. But all the October wins were bonus rounds. Great fun.

I'm not watching baseball every day anymore, but like Paul Hickman, I'm proud to be a Red Sox fan every day.