BOSTON — The Astros lifted themselves off the mat Tuesday night at Fenway Park, and now we have ourselves a bona fide American League Championship Series.
A seven-run, ninth-inning outburst — all with two outs — gave Houston an 9-2 victory over the Red Sox in ALCS Game 4, pulling the clubs even, 2-2, after Boston had hammered the ’Stros to the collective tune of 21-8 in the prior two contests. This series is headed back to Houston for a Game 6 Friday, at the least, and a gamble by Boston manager Alex Cora, turning to his ace Nathan Eovaldi to pitch the ninth inning, backfired, as the former Yankee, throwing on two days’ rest, got charged with four runs while recording just two outs.
Carlos Correa, no surprise, sparked the rally by leading off the ninth inning with a double. He scored the game-winning run on Jason Castro’s two-out single after Eovaldi thought he had Castro struck out on a 1-and-2 curveball that grazed the strike zone, and the runs flowed like lava from there, Michael Brantley providing the key hit with a bases-clearing, three-run double.
Even less surprising than Correa’s clutch moment, Jose Altuve put the Astros back into this game, his solo, eighth-inning homer over the Green Monster, against former Yankees minor leaguer Garrett Whitlock, tying the proceedings at 2-2. That marked Altuve’s 21st career postseason homer, putting ahead of newly minted Hall of Famer Derek Jeter for third place all time behind only Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez (29) and Jeter’s Yankees teammate Bernie Williams (22).
Altuve’s homer pumped up the volume following six innings of scoreless ball. Alex Bregman stroked a two-out, first-inning homer over the Green Monster off Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta only to see the Sawx counterstrike once again as Xander Bogaerts followed Rafael Devers’ two-out, first-inning walk with a two-run, 413-foot homer onto Lansdowne Street behind the Monster against Zack Greinke.
The Astros appeared doomed for another blowout when their ultra-accomplished veteran Greinke, making his first start since Sept. 19, tallied just four outs; as a sign of how this series has gone for Houston, Greinke’s line of 1 ¹/₃ innings pitched and two runs allowed actually lowered his team’s starting pitchers ERA for this series from 20.25 to 18.92.
However, after the Fenway faithful bid Greinke adieu by repeatedly chanting his name one last time, Brooks Raley stopped the immediate bleeding by getting through the second inning without any more damage, and Cristian Javier followed with three shutout frames, keeping this one a ballgame and ultimately leaving the door open for the visitors.
“The series is not over,” Cora said before the game. “It’s a good baseball team, and the only guaranteed thing here is it’s Game 6, right? That’s it. We’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got to keep doing the things that we do. They’re going to do the same thing. They’re not going to quit.”
Cora proved to be fully correct. Far more correct than his call on Eovaldi.