Live Sox Playoff Updates: Renfroe dropped to eighth in lineup, Sawamura questionable

·122 min read

Oct. 22—Hunter Renfroe has struggled throughout the postseason, and with Boston's season on the line manager Alex Cora has opted to bump him down in the lineup for Game 6.

After grounding into two double plays in Game 5 on Wednesday, Renfroe will bat eighth for the Red Sox in Game 6, Cora confirmed.

Kyle Schwarber will lead off, Kiké Hernández will bat second, and J.D. Martinez will bump up to fifth ahead of Alex Verdugo and Christian Arroyo. Kevin Plawecki will bat ninth and start at catcher, as he often has for Nathan Eovaldi's starts.

In addition, Cora also announced that right-handed relief pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura is dealing with a right hamstring injury and is questionable for tonight. If he is unavailable, the Red Sox can replace him on the roster, and Matt Barnes would be the most likely candidate to fill his spot on the ALCS roster.

Cora also said Garrett Richards (left hamstring) is improving and that he recently threw a flat ground session. Richards went down during the ALDS but is eligible to return for the World Series if the Red Sox advance.

As far as the team's Game 6 pitching plans are concerned, Cora said it'll be all hands on deck and they will figure out their plans for Game 7 later if they are fortunate enough to extend the series.

He also said the team, coaches and front office personnel all enjoyed "gladiator" meals during Thursday's off-day.

"Very expensive, from what I heard," Cora said.

The lineups for Game 6 are as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts

5. J.D. Martinez DH

6. Alex Verdugo LF

7. Christian Arroyo 2B

8. Hunter Renfroe RF

9. Kevin Plawecki C

10. Nathan Eovaldi P

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley LF

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Alvarez DH

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Chas McCormick CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Luis Garcia P

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Astros name Garcia starter for Game 6

The starting pitching matchup for Game 6 is officially set. Nathan Eovaldi will take the mound for Boston against Houston's Luis Garcia in a rematch of Game 2.

Garcia lasted only one-plus inning during his last outing, allowing a first-inning grand slam before exiting the game in the second with knee discomfort. His final line was two hits, five runs, three walks and two strikeouts, and the Red Sox would go on to win the game 9-5.

Following the outing there were questions about whether Garcia would be able to pitch again in the series, but Astros manager Dusty Baker said they believe he's ready to go.

"All I can do is go on his word, go on the trainer's word, and go on [pitching coach Brent Strom's] word. They said that he didn't feel anything," Baker said on Thursday. "I try to tell our guys to come clean with me 100%. Most athletes, they're going to say I'm doing good even when they're not, but you can usually sense, see a wince on one of their faces after a pitch or whatever. I just hope whatever adjustment that they made that he is not thinking through the act of pitching while he is making his adjustment. Things have to be so natural that you're not thinking about it."

Eovaldi pitched 5.1 innings while allowing three runs in the Game 2 win, but he took the loss in Game 4 after coming out of the bullpen to pitch the ninth. He threw 24 pitches in that appearance, but Eovaldi said he feels good and is ready to go Friday.

"I think having the two days in between definitely helps," Eovaldi said. "I took [Wednesday] off. I didn't really throw. Made sure I was nice and recovered. Just got done playing catch today. I feel great. I don't think there's any limitations. My arm feels good, and mentally I'm going to be ready and prepared for this game."

Game 6 is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park.

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Sox designate Franchy Cordero for assignment

Franchy Cordero, one of the prospects the Red Sox acquired in the Andrew Benintendi trade, has been designated for assignment.

The Red Sox announced the move as part of a roster clearing decision to accommodate righty relief pitcher Phillips Valdez's activation from the COVID-19 injured list.

Cordero was acquired along with RHP Josh Winckowski and three players to be named later, who turned out to be outfielder Freddy Valdez and righties Grant Gambrell and Luis de la Rosa.

Cordero, a 27-year-old outfielder and first baseman, appeared in 48 games for the Red Sox this season and was not productive. He batted .189 with one home run and nine RBI and posted a -0.7 Wins Above Replacement mark, indicative of a player not ready for the big leagues. He was sent down to Triple-A in mid-August and remained there for the rest of the season other than a quick cameo during the club's September COVID-19 outbreak.

While Cordero didn't work out, the Benintendi trade was never going to hinge on his development. Winckowski enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign and now ranks as the No. 14 prospect in the organization, and the No. 7 pitching prospect, according to SoxProspects.com.

Benintendi, meanwhile, is coming off a season in which he batted .276 with 17 home runs, 73 RBI, a .766 OPS and 2.4 Wins Above Replacement. That production is comparable Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe, the two players Boston has since brought in to man the corner outfield positions.

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Cora gave no thought to pulling Sale earlier in sixth

When Chris Sale started to run into trouble in the top of the sixth, it was fair to wonder why the Red Sox didn't have anybody warming up. After all, Sale was about to face the top of the Astros lineup for the third time, which has typically been a point when Alex Cora has been aggressive in making a change before things have a chance to go bad.

After the game Cora said he gave no consideration to pulling Sale any earlier than he did.

"He was throwing the ball great. There was some weak contact throughout the night. He was in command," Cora said. "The walk put us in that place, but then we didn't make a play. Then Bregman hits a comebacker to the pitcher, and Alvarez gets a hit. Sometimes we get caught up too much on third time through the order. He was throwing the ball great. The stuff was really good. He was throwing 97 with a good slider.

"I understand how people think, but there were two lefties coming up too in that pocket, right? Brantley, who he did an amazing job early on, and we had Alvarez. Still he is who he is, but he is Chris Sale. He is a lefty. He has made a living getting lefties out."

Cora added later they didn't give any thought to walking Alvarez either, even though he was already 2 for 2 against Sale with a home run at that point.

"No, no, we didn't think about walking him there. We thought about making pitches," Cora said. "We were supposed to go up, and he left it over the plate, and he went the other way."

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Sox on Valdez: "Unbelievable"

Houston Astros starter Framber Valdez pitched one of the best games of his career on Wednesday, shutting the Red Sox down over eight innings while allowing only a harmless solo home run to Rafael Devers in his team's 9-1 win in Game 5.

Afterwards, the Red Sox had nothing but praise for the opposing pitcher.

"Their guy was amazing," said manager Alex Cora. "He was throwing harder than usual. The ball was moving. We didn't hit the ball hard at all. I think we had two fly balls, if I'm not mistaken, and a home run, right? Credit to him. His sinker was unreal tonight. Unreal."

"Valdez came out today and he was unbelievable," said J.D. Martinez. "I mean, going through my at-bats, and I was thinking I don't think I got one pitch that I could have done anything with, and that's a credit to him and his execution."

"I think Valdez got everything today. Good sinker, great curveball, was mixing, his velo was up too," said catcher Christian Vazquez. "So no excuse. We don't hit, we lose, you know?"

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Dusty Baker knows better than most that 3-2 series lead isn't safe

The Houston Astros are ahead 3-2 in the ALCS and now have two chances to put away a Red Sox team that has scored three runs in the last two games at home. Astros manager Dusty Baker must feel pretty good about his team's chances, right?

"I feel good. I don't feel great," Baker said. "I won't feel great until we accomplish our goal."

Baker probably knows better than anyone how quickly things can change.

Back in 2003 while he was managing the Chicago Cubs, Baker's team famously went ahead 3-2 over the Florida Marlins in the NLCS. They were one win away from reaching their first World Series since 1945 with two chances to clinch at home, but everything fell apart after the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6. The Marlins scored eight runs after getting a second chance on the catchable two-out foul ball and went on to win Game 7 at Wrigley Field the next night.

A year prior, Baker also saw a 3-2 lead slip away in the 2002 World Series. That time he was managing the San Francisco Giants, who led 3-2 before the Anaheim Angels came back to win the last two games at home.

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FINAL: Astros 9, Red Sox 1

The Red Sox are on the brink of elimination.

For the second straight night, Boston allowed a big Houston Astros rally to snowball until the game was out of reach. This time the damage was done during a five-run top of the sixth inning, which put the Astros fully in control of what would eventually become a 9-1 Game 5 win.

As a result, Houston now returns home with a 3-2 series lead and is one win away from its third World Series appearance in five years.

Boston had no answer for Houston starter Framber Valdez, who pitched a gem and went eight innings while allowing only one run, a solo homer by Rafael Devers in the seventh. He surrendered three hits and a walk while striking out five, and reliever Ryne Stanek came on to close things out with a drama-free bottom of the ninth.

Houston's last two runs came in the top of the ninth on a bases-loaded, two-run single by Yuli Gurriel against Martin Perez.

With the loss, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has now suffered back-to-back playoff defeats for the first time in his career. Boston will now have to beat Houston twice on the road if it hopes to reach the World Series.

Game 6 will be Friday at 8:08 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.

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Bottom 7th: Devers homers to end drought

The Red Sox are finally on the board.

Rafael Devers hit his fifth home run of the postseason, wrapping a solo shot around Pesky's Pole in right field to make it a 7-1 Astros lead.

In doing so Devers now has eight playoff homers for his career, tying him for the record among players under 25. The others to hit eight playoff home runs before their 25th birthday are Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols and Carlos Correa.

The Red Sox couldn't get anything more in the inning, as Hunter Renfroe grounded into his second double play of the night to end the seventh. The Astros previously scored again after Jose Altuve singled, reached second on an error by the pitcher and scored on an RBI single by Michael Brantley in the top of the seventh.

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Top 6th: Astros blow game open with five-run sixth inning

For the second night in a row, the Red Sox left the door open for the Astros and Houston barreled right through.

The Astros lead 6-0 after the top of the sixth after batting around and scoring five runs in the inning. Chris Sale was chased after allowing a two-run double to Yordan Alvarez, who is now 3 for 3 on the day, and by the time it was over the Astros had six runners reach base, including four hits and two doubles.

Jose Altuve walked to start the rally, then Michael Brantley reached on an error after Kyle Schwarber dropped a throw at first to set up runners at the corners. Sale got Alex Bregman to ground out but then Alvarez struck to end Sale's day.

Ryan Brasier came on to strike out Carlos Correa for the inning's second out, but he then allowed three straight hits to Kyle Tucker, an RBI double to Yuli Gurriel and a two-run single by Jose Siri. Martin Maldonado finally flew out to end the inning.

Coming to bat in the bottom of the sixth, Christian Vazquez doubled but the Red Sox couldn't get him in. Hansel Robles is now on to pitch the top of the seventh.

Sale finished his day with 5.1 innings, 3 hits, four runs, two earned runs, two walks and seven strikeouts.

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Bottom 5th: Sox get first scoring chance but can't tie game

The good news, the Red Sox aren't going to get no hit. The bad news, they had a golden opportunity to tie the game and couldn't capitalize.

Rafael Devers led off the bottom of the fifth with a hard line drive to right for the team's first hit of the game, and then Framber Valdez hit J.D. Martinez with a pitch to put two runners on with no outs. That prompted a mound visit by Astros manager Dusty Baker, and Valdez was able to recover by forcing Hunter Renfroe to ground into a double play.

Even after that, Devers was able to advance to third, but the Red Sox left him stranded when Alex Verdugo grounded out to first to end the inning.

The Red Sox still trail 1-0 heading to the top of the sixth.

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Top 4th: Sale dials it up, escapes jam in dominant fashion

The real Chris Sale showed up at Fenway Park tonight, and he is not messing around.

After allowing a hard liner by Yordan Alvarez for the second time tonight, which put runners at the corners with one out, Sale seemed to find another gear and rediscover who he is.

The big lefty first struck out Carlos Correa on three straight pitches, dominating him with a fastball, a slider and then another fastball for the quick out. Then, facing Kyle Tucker, he really dialed it up. Sale went right at him with four straight fastballs at 97-98 mph, the last of which he got Tucker swinging with a 98.5 mph heater, the fastest pitch he's thrown since before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Sale came off the mound as fired up as he's ever been, and he's now thrown 71 pitches through four innings while allowing only two hits, both to Alvarez.

He still trails 1-0, however, as the Red Sox offense hasn't been able to pick him up. Boston went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fourth and remains hitless on the day.

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Bottom 3rd: Valdez perfect through three

Framber Valdez is pitching brilliantly for the Astros so far, and the Red Sox haven't been able to get anything against him.

Through the first three innings Valdez has retired all nine batters he has faced. That includes four strikeouts and the rest grounders in the infield. Houston's outfielders haven't had so much as a pop fly to deal with so far.

Valdez is currently at 36 pitches, including 26 sinkers and 10 curveballs. This Game 5 outing is night and day compared to his performance in Game 1, when he allowed three runs and nine baserunners through 2.2 innings.

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Bottom 2nd: Astros take 1-0 lead on Alvarez solo home run

The Houston Astros have struck first once again in Game 5.

Yordan Alvarez caught a waist-high fastball off the plate from Chris Sale and sent it into the Green Monster seats for a solo home run on the first pitch of the second inning. The homer gives Houston a 1-0 lead early.

Outside of that one blemish, Sale has looked much better than he has all playoffs. His fastball, slider and changeup all have more life and he sent down each of the other six batters he faced in the first two innings, three via strikeout.

On the other side, Houston is finally getting a good outing from one of its starting pitchers. Framber Valdez is perfect through two with three strikeouts, and he has relied particularly heavily on his sinker, throwing 18 out of his 23 total pitches.

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Slumping Renfroe is due for big game

What's going on with Hunter Renfroe?

After a terrific regular season in which he hit 31 home runs with 96 RBI, the Red Sox right fielder has fallen into a deep slump. Renfroe hasn't hit a home run since Oct. 1, and since the playoffs began he is only hitting .226 with two doubles and one RBI.

His current stretch of 11 games without a home run is his third longest homerless streak of the season, behind only a pair of 13-game droughts between April 14-30 and June 1-13. So far in the American League Championship Series, he is 1 for 11 with an RBI double, four walks and six strikeouts.

On one hand, that's not an encouraging development for the Red Sox. On the other hand, it also likely means Renfroe is due for a big game sometime soon.

Renfroe will look to heat back up tonight. He is back up in the sixth spot in the lineup after batting seventh in Games 2-4.

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Cora says Schwarber ok after injury scare

Kyle Schwarber is a player the Red Sox can't afford to lose, which made it particularly alarming when he suddenly grabbed his left hamstring in pain after a foul tip during Tuesday's Game 4 loss.

Schwarber reportedly cramped up, but after being looked at by the trainer he finished the at bat, didn't receive any additional treatment and remained in the game. According to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Schwarber is fine and will be in the lineup batting second for Game 5 this afternoon.

In addition, Cora also confirmed that Nathan Eovaldi is still on track to start Game 6 despite his ninth inning appearance last night, and that the bullpen remains in good shape, though they will likely try to stay away from Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta if possible.

Cora also elaborated on his decision to go with Martin Perez in the ninth after Eovaldi. Perez had previously beaten Astros left fielder Michael Brantley and Cora said they liked the lefty on left matchup. This time it didn't work out, as Brantley "ambushed" Perez and greeted him with a bases clearing double to effectively seal the win for Houston.

Boston's Game 5 lineup is as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kiké Hernández CF

2. Kyle Schwarber 1B

3. Xander Bogaerts SS

4. Rafael Devers 3B

5. J.D. Martinez DH

6. Hunter Renfroe RF

7. Alex Verdugo LF

8. Christian Arroyo 2B

9. Christian Vazquez C

10. Chris Sale P

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley LF

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Alvarez DH

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Jose Siri CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Framber Valdez P

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Cora, Eovaldi take high road after missed calls

If the Red Sox are fuming about the missed ball and strike calls that altered the course of Game 4, they aren't showing it publicly.

Alex Cora, Nick Pivetta and Nathan Eovaldi all passed on the chance to criticize home plate umpire Laz Diaz's strike zone following the team's 9-2 loss. Pivetta bluntly declined to comment and shut down the line of inquiry entirely, while Cora said he didn't agree with the one specific strike three call on J.D. Martinez in the third inning but otherwise felt he needed to watch the film before jumping to conclusions.

"I got to take a look at the video and see how it went," Cora said. "I really disagreed with the one early on. It was the third inning, and a 3-2 count. J.D. is very — he doesn't argue too much, and the way he reacted, you know, I had to jump right away. I don't want him getting thrown out."

"It is what it is," he continued. "It's a tough job. I know Laz since our days in Miami, you know? He used to cover our games when I played at the University of Miami. Every Friday he as the man in those games, so it's a hard job. I understand that."

Eovaldi acknowledged he thought his 1-2 curveball to Jason Castro should have been a strike to end the inning, but he placed blame on himself for not making better pitches overall.

"Yeah, I thought it was a strike," Eovaldi said, before later adding, "I felt like I made a good pitch on the outside corner, and it didn't go my way, but I got to come back and I got to answer back and make another good pitch. I threw a fastball and he fouled it off, and I went with the splitter. I had a good feel for it tonight, and he put a good swing on it and got a base hit."

"You're going to get calls that go your way and some that don't go your way," he continued. "Our job is to go out there and keep attacking the zone. Whether we get a pitch that goes our way or it doesn't, we have to move on to the next pitch and not let it affect us and keep attacking the strike zone."

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Sale to start Game 5 for Red Sox

It's official, it will be Chris Sale vs. Framber Valdez in a rematch of Game 1 on Wednesday.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced that Sale will get the ball, meaning the big lefty will be entrusted with getting the team back on track after a tough Game 4 loss.

"You can't keep us down," Sale said. "We've faced adversity the whole year. We know who we are. We have confidence in ourselves."

Sale has not been effective in the playoffs so far. In two starts he has pitched a combined 3.2 innings while allowing six runs and an opponent's OPS of 1.153. In those two outings against the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros he largely relied on only two pitches — his fastball and slider — while he's continued to work on getting comfortable with his changeup again.

Despite recording just eight outs in Game 1 against the Astros, Sale was notably more upbeat, and on Tuesday night he said he's definitely made progress over the past week or so.

"Overall everything is coming out a lot better," Sale said. "I feel a lot more comfortable. Things have been trending in the right direction, and it's all about putting it out on the field. I know my guys will be behind me."

But whether he's back to his full pre-Tommy John form or not, Sale said the time for excuses is past.

"This is crunch time. This isn't let's work back from Tommy John and try to find some stuff. We need it now," Sale said. "Look where we're at. I got to put as much work as I can, and I got to do my job."

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Pivetta available out of bullpen for Game 5

Nick Pivetta pitched five strong innings in Game 4 for the Red Sox, allowing only one run on a solo shot by Alex Bregman while giving up two hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

Now, with his starting work likely done for the series, he says he'll be ready to pitch again in Game 5 if needed.

"Yeah, I'll just go to the bullpen tomorrow, and whenever my name is called, I'll just go."

Pivetta threw 65 pitches in his outing on Tuesday, meaning that any potential relief appearance in Game 5 would likely be limited to an inning. If he isn't needed until Game 6 or later, however, he could conceivably be used as a multi-inning weapon in a similar manner to how he was deployed throughout the ALDS, and to how rookie Tanner Houck has been used throughout the postseason.

First pitch for Game 5 will be Wednesday at 5:08 p.m. at Fenway Park

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Red Sox melt down after umpire's missed call, lose Game 4

Nathan Eovaldi was ahead of Jason Castro in the count 1-2. Carlos Correa stood at second and Yuli Gurriel at first with two outs. If Eovaldi gets strike three, the inning is over and the game goes into the bottom of the ninth tied 2-2.

Eovaldi delivers a curveball right to the top left corner of the strike zone.

Ball two.

Home plate umpire Laz Diaz, whose strike zone had been a bone of contention for both teams all game, ruled Castro was still alive. Castro quickly took advantage of his second chance by delivering the go-ahead RBI single to put the Astros ahead.

Then the wheels completely came off.

Eovaldi walked Jose Altuve to load the bases, and Alex Cora removed him in favor of Martin Perez. Michael Brantley immediately greeted Perez with a bases clearing double to make it 6-2, and the Astros would tack on three more before the Red Sox finally escaped the inning trailing 9-2.

The Red Sox still got to bat in the bottom of the ninth, but the game was all but over. Astros closer Ryan Pressly sent Boston down without much drama to close it out and the series is now tied at 2-2.

More to come from a stunning Game 4 loss.

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Top 8th: Altuve homers, ties game at 2-2

Jose Altuve only needed one swing of the bat to complete change this game.

Much like he did in Game 1, Altuve homered to tie the game with a big shot to left field. This time it was a solo home run to the Green Monster seats on the first pitch of the inning from Garrett Whitlock, knotting the score at 2-2 in the top of the eighth.

Whitlock subsequently allowed a single to Michael Brantley but forced Alex Bregman into a double play and Yordan Álvarez into a flyout to center to end the inning.

Eovaldi is back up warming for the ninth after sitting for a period of time. The Red Sox will now look to take the lead with Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez and Hunter Renfroe due up in the bottom of the eighth.

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Bottom 7th: Whitlock pitches scoreless seventh, Eovaldi warming

Could a one-run lead be enough?

The Red Sox are now six outs away from pulling out a tight 2-1 win in Game 4, and by the looks of it the team won't be messing around as far as the final innings go.

Garrett Whitlock came on for a scoreless seventh inning, recording three outs with a hit allowed on just 12 pitches, and chances are he will be back on for the eighth.

Behind him for the ninth? Most likely Nathan Eovaldi, who has already begun warming in the Red Sox pen.

In the meantime, the Red Sox will send Kiké Hernández, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts to the plate in the bottom of the seventh looking to put some separation between themselves and the Astros.

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Top 7th: Pivetta pitches gem, bullpen aims to hold one-run lead

Nick Pivetta did his job.

The Red Sox starter went five innings and allowed just one run on two hits, plus two walks and three strikeouts. The lone blemish on Pivetta came courtesy of Alex Bregman's solo home run in the first inning, but otherwise Pivetta was solid.

Since then, Josh Taylor and Adam Ottavino combined for a scoreless sixth inning and Garrett Whitlock is now on for the seventh.

Despite the offense's inability to drive in runners tonight, Boston does still lead 2-1 thanks to Xander Bogaerts' two-run homer in the first. The bullpen will now be tasked with holding that lead, which it was unable to do in Game 1 under similar circumstances.

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Bottom 6th: Sox squandering early scoring chances

Outside of Xander Bogaerts' home run in the first inning, the Red Sox have not capitalized on their scoring chances so far.

Through the first five innings the Red Sox have stranded a man in scoring position in every inning and have left seven men on base overall. Collectively Boston is 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, notably failing to capitalize on Christian Arroyo's one-out triple after Kyle Schwarber grounded out and Kiké Hernández popped out to end the fourth.

Schwarber had an injury scare during his at bat as well, grabbing his left hamstring after fouling off a pitch. He stayed in the game, did not receive any extra treatment back in the dugout and returned to first base for the top of the fifth.

The Red Sox also left two men on in the first, two in the second and one at second base in the third. That inning was also punctuated by a brutal called third strike on J.D. Martinez that was several inches off the plate, a call that enraged Red Sox manager Alex Cora and led to a heated argument on the field.

Xander Bogaerts also doubled in the bottom of the fifth but was left stranded there as well.

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Bottom 2nd: Astros starter Greinke pulled after 1.1 innings

Zack Greinke's day is done already.

For the fourth straight game the Houston Astros' starting pitcher failed to make it out of the third inning, and Greinke didn't even finish the second after lasting only 1.1 innings. He completed one turn of the Red Sox lineup, allowing two runs on the Xander Bogaerts while walking three with no strikeouts.

Greinke threw 37 pitches, only 18 for strikes, and was relieved by Brooks Raley, who also walked a man but otherwise managed to strand two Red Sox baserunners for a scoreless second. Cristian Javier is now on for the bottom of the third and will likely try to eat up the middle innings for the Astros.

Meanwhile, Nick Pivetta is now scoreless through three and pitched a clean 1-2-3 inning against the top of the Astros order in the top of the third.

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Bottom 1st: Bogaerts answers early Astros homer with two-run shot of his own

The Astros struck first, but the Red Sox hit back harder to start off Game 4.

Alex Bregman hit a solo home run to left field to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. That came after Nick Pivetta forced Jose Altuve to fly out to left field on the first pitch of the game and then struck out Michael Brantley. Yordan Alvarez flied out to shallow right to end the inning.

Then the Red Sox offense came to bat and went right to work.

Zack Greinke, starting for the first time in a month after dealing with COVID-19 and a neck issue in late September, came out of the gate throwing 89 mph fastballs and 86 mph changeups. He got Kyle Schwarber to fly out and Kiké Hernández to ground out, but then he walked Rafael Devers and paid for it when Xander Bogaerts immediately took him deep for a two-run shot all the way over the Green Monster.

Alex Verdugo then reached after Astros third baseman Alex Bregman threw away a routine grounder that should have ended the inning, and Greinke walked J.D. Martinez to put two men back on. But Bregman redeemed himself by making a nice play at third to end the inning, keeping the score at 2-1 Red Sox heading into the second.

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Sale expected to start Game 5, available out of pen

Unless he is needed out of the bullpen in Game 4, Chris Sale will likely start Game 5 for the Red Sox.

Alex Cora confirmed the team's Game 5 plans during his pregame press availability on Tuesday afternoon. He also confirmed that the Red Sox will stick with the same lineup for Game 4 as they used in Game 3.

Sale started Game 1 last Friday and would be pitching on normal rest. He is coming off back to back poor outings since the playoffs began, giving up five runs in Game 2 of the ALDS to Tampa Bay before lasting only 2.2 innings in Game 1 of the ALCS to Houston.

In addition to the Sale announcement, Cora also expanded on his thoughts regarding Eduardo Rodriguez's mocking Carlos Correa wrist tap celebration from Game 1. In effect, he doesn't believe Rodriguez needs to apologize and he was happy to hear Correa wasn't offended, he just wants his players to stay locked in and not to react to what the other team is doing.

He also praised the news that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone has received a three-year extension. "Excellent," he said. "Good for Boonie."

The Game 4 lineups are as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Christian Vazquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Nick Pivetta P

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley LF

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Álvarez DH

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Chas McCormick CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Zack Greinke P

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E-Rod catches scolding for mocking Correa's celebration, but intended target 'loved it'

When Carlos Correa hit the go-ahead home run in Game 1, he tapped his wrist and let everyone at Minute Maid Park know whose time it was.

When Eduardo Rodriguez finished his outing by forcing Correa to ground out to end the sixth, he returned the favor.

Rodriguez, ordinarily mild mannered on the mound, let slip a little flair as he wrapped up his most important outing of the year by mocking his opponent's signature celebration.

The move didn't go over well with his manager, but ironically, it's target was far more receptive.

According to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, Correa "loved it" when Rodriguez mimicked his "it's time" celebration. He reportedly added "that's the way baseball should trend" and commended Rodriguez for having fun and pitching a good game.

Even so, Alex Cora scolded Rodriguez as he left the field, telling him "don't do that," and Rodriguez was apologetic after the fact.

"I will apologize to Correa if I see him in person because that's not something I normally do," Rodriguez said. "It was just part of the game. That's it."

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Iglesias helped Arroyo with successful sac bunt in ALDS

Jose Iglesias isn't eligible to play in the postseason, but according to his Red Sox teammates the veteran infielder has continued to find ways to make an impact.

After Monday's Game 3 win, Christian Arroyo said Iglesias recently gave him a pointer on bunting that helped him lay down his successful sacrifice in the clinching Game 4 of the ALDS.

"One of the games I tried to lay a bunt down, and right after the inning, he tells me, hey, I used to do the same thing you did with my back foot. Keep your back foot still," Arroyo said. "Little things like that that you don't really think much about, and then two days later here I am having to put a sac bunt down, and that's the first thing I thought was, don't move your back foot, and I got it down."

Besides giving helpful pointers, Iglesias has also taken over as the driver of the laundry cart ride after Red Sox home runs. Between his litany of off-field contributions and his role in getting the Red Sox into the playoffs in the first place, his teammates continue to hold him in high regard.

"Let's be honest, we're not here without that guy," Schwarber said of Iglesias. "He did a phenomenal job from coming over here and stepping right into a role and playing unbelievable defense, having great offensive at-bats and just the energy he brings on a daily basis is great."

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Schwarber shouts out fans, reps Waltham shirt

Ever since arriving at the trade deadline, Kyle Schwarber's legend in Boston has continued to grow. With his grand slam in the second inning, Schwarber delivered an iconic moment that sent the sellout crowd at Fenway Park into a state of utter pandemonium.

Schwarber, who is no stranger to big playoff moments, said it was the kind of moment he'll remember for the rest of his life.

"That gave me a headache, and I loved it. I loved every second of it," Schwarber said. "Like I said, this is what you live for, right? This is it. You know, obviously, we still have steps to where we want to be, but to have the atmosphere like that, we feed off that, and that's only going to help us be better, and it's going to help us to where we want to be."

Schwarber went on to praise the Red Sox faithful for their passion, noting that he had a chance to play in front of great fans with the Chicago Cubs too so getting to play for another engaged fanbase like in Boston has been special.

"You don't realize how lucky you are as a player to have a fan base like this," Schwarber said. "I was lucky, I had a great fanbase in Chicago for how many years I was there, and then to be able to walk into another great fanbase, you can't take that for granted."

His choice of postgame attire will likely endear him further with the local fans. Schwarber was wearing a Waltham Hawks t-shirt, embracing the "Kyle from Waltham" persona bestowed upon him recently by certain parts of the fanbase.

"Waltham, I guess that's where I'm from according to people from Boston," said Schwarber, a native of Middletown, Ohio, who repeatedly mispronounced the city's name as "Wal-tam."

"So go Hawks!"

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It's official: Game 4 will be Pivetta vs. Greinke

The pitching matchup for Game 4 is officially set. Nick Pivetta will take the mound for the Red Sox against Houston's Zack Greinke.

Pivetta will be fully rested for Game 4 after several strong outings out of the bullpen against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. He has not yet appeared in the ALCS but allowed three runs over 4.2 innings in Game 1 against the Rays and then came on in the 10th to throw four scoreless innings in Boston's eventual 6-4 walk-off win in Game 3.

Greinke has not started a game for the Astros since Sept. 19 and was moved to the bullpen after testing positive for COVID-19 and suffering a neck injury down the stretch. He has appeared once in the postseason, pitching a scoreless inning of relief for the Astros in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox.

The future Hall of Famer, who turns 38 on Thursday, has made four appearances at Fenway Park in his career. He's gone 0-2 with a 10.22 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched.

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FINAL: Red Sox 12, Astros 3

For the second game in a row, the Red Sox pounded the Astros early and never looked back.

Boston beat Houston 12-3 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, seizing control on a second inning grand slam by Kyle Schwarber and finishing with four home runs overall.

The Red Sox scored six runs in the second inning to chase Astros starter Jose Urquidy after just 1.2 innings, and tacked on three more runs in the third to take a commanding 9-0 lead.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, enjoyed arguably his best start of the season, pitching six strong innings while allowing only a three-run home run to Kyle Tucker in the top of the fourth.

In addition to Schwarber, Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez both had two-run home runs and Rafael Devers hit a solo shot in the eighth for his fourth homer of the postseason. Hansel Robles, Martin Perez and Hirokazu Sawamura pitched three scoreless innings of relief to shut the door, setting the Red Sox pitching staff up well for Game 4 and beyond.

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Bottom 6th: E-Rod pitches gem, J.D. homers again

Eduardo Rodriguez's day is done, and what a day it was.

The Red Sox lefty wrapped up an outstanding performance, going six innings while allowing three runs on five hits with no walks. He had seven strikeouts and the only blemish on his evening was the three-run home run he allowed to Kyle Tucker.

After the home run and a single to Yuli Gurriel, Rodriguez retired the last seven Astros batters he faced, including a quick 1-2-3 inning in the top of the seventh. He was subsequently relieved by Hansel Robles for the top of the seventh.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of the sixth, J.D. Martinez added to Boston's lead with a two-run home run to make it 11-3.

One thing to keep an eye on, Kiké Hernández left the game for the top of the seventh. Alex Verdugo took his place in centerfield and Danny Santana came in to play left.

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Top 4th: Tucker homers to put Astros on the board

The Houston Astros finally got to Eduardo Rodriguez.

With two outs in the top of the fourth and down 0-2 in the count, Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker hit a three-run home run to right field to get his team on the board.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a single and Yordan Alvarez followed that with a single of his own, setting the table for Tucker's shot.

The Astros continued to threaten after Yuli Gurriel also singled, but Rodriguez was able to force Jose Siri to ground out on a nice play at third by Rafael Devers to end the inning.

Boston still leads 9-3 after stranding two runners in the bottom of the fourth.

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Bottom 3rd: Arroyo hits two-run home run to put Sox up 9-0

The runs just keep coming for the Red Sox.

Boston scored three more times in the bottom of the third to take a 9-0 lead in Game 3, with Christian Arroyo delivering a two-run home run to cap off the rally.

Hunter Renfroe walked for the second time tonight to start the action. He advanced to third on a stolen base and a throwing error by the catcher that should have been stopped by second baseman Jose Altuve, and then scored on an RBI single by Christian Vazquez to make it 7-0.

Then Arroyo stepped up and hit a liner into the Green Monster stands, giving the Red Sox a nine-run lead for the second straight game.

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Bottom 2nd: Schwarber grand slam powers Red Sox to 6-0 lead

They did it again.

Days after belting two grand slams in a big Game 2 win over Houston, the Red Sox got a third to take a commanding 6-0 lead in Game 3.

Kyle Schwarber delivered the goods this time, smashing a home run to deep right field to cap off a six-run second inning. His slam followed an RBI single by Christian Vazquez and a run scored on an error by Jose Altuve, who booted what could have been an inning-ending double play ball up the middle and gave Schwarber the opportunity with the bases loaded.

Initially it looked as if Astros starter Jose Urquidy was cruising. He struck out Xander Bogaerts to start the inning and had Alex Verdugo down 0-2 before the lefty battled back and walked after an 11-pitch at bat. Then J.D. Martinez doubled and Hunter Renfroe walked to load the bases, and Vazquez struck to put the Sox on the board.

Then Altuve's error happened, and Schwarber made the Astros pay.

Urquidy wound up allowing singles to Kiké Hernández and Bogaerts before Dusty Baker finally pulled the plug. He allowed six runs over 1.2 innings and threw 57 pitches before giving way to Yimi Garcia.

For the third straight game, it will be a long and busy day for the Astros bullpen.

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Eduardo Rodriguez lights out through two innings

Eduardo Rodriguez brought his A-game tonight, and then some.

Rodriguez has been phenomenal through the first two innings tonight, striking out four of the first six batters he's faced to shut down the Astros early. His fastball has been the best it's been all season, reaching a season-best 96 mph to send down Michael Brantley in the first inning, and his cutter is showing excellent movement, making Carlos Correa look foolish on a swinging strikeout.

Overall he has thrown 29 pitches and has looked the best he has all season. On the other side the Red Sox offense has yet to record a baserunner against Astros starter Jose Urquidy and the game remains scoreless entering the bottom of the second.

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Cora says Kiké's 'D' also special

When Kiké Hernández first arrived in Boston, Alex Cora had a specific role envisioned for the versatile super-utility man.

If he played in the outfield, Cora said he would primarily play left field with Alex Verdugo in center. And towards the end of the game if the Red Sox had the lead, Hernández would likely move back into the infield at second base most of the time.

Instead, Hernández proved himself to be one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball.

"The way he played centerfield, it's eye-opening," Cora said. "That first step is amazing, the instincts, the arm, the decisions, communication, we could keep going on and on."

By most metrics Hernández has been among the best defensive centerfielders in baseball this season and will be among the favorites to win the Gold Glove. He has reliably made both the routine and spectacular plays, and Cora compared him favorably to former Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., widely considered among the best defensive outfielders in team history.

"He's great. We had one of the best defensively in '18 and '19, and he's still great, Jackie, right? But this kid, he's up there with him," Cora said. "The best of the best defensively and we're very proud of him."

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Cora: David Ortiz, Mike Lowell special teammates

It was announced on Monday that ex-Red Sox superstar slugger David Ortiz will be inducted into the Dominican Sports Hall of Fame.

When told of the honor Alex Cora didn't hold back.

"David is bigger than life, man," said Cora before Game 3. "I always said he's a rock star — he was a rock star playing baseball. The chains, the glasses and, I mean, he is David ... For you guys it's Big Papi."

Cora went on to call Ortiz not only one of the greatest hitters that ever lived, but the kind of guy you wanted on your team.

"David is one of the best teammates I ever played with," said Cora. "That was a special group in '07. We created a bond. Mikey (Lowell) is number one. He is, like, my favorite teammate of all-time, Mike Lowell.

"But David was a game-changer," said Cora. "On a nightly basis you always thought he was going to do something great."

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Verdugo to start against lefty killer Urquidy

Compared to most right-handed pitchers, Jose Urquidy has given left-handed batters a lot of trouble this year.

Houston's Game 3 starter has held opposing lefties to just a .190 batting average and a .574 OPS, leaving Red Sox manager Alex Cora with a decision to make. Start lefty Alex Verdugo and hope his .321 average against righties can overcome Urquidy's intimidating splits, or sub in righty Bobby Dalbec and see if his power can play.

According to Cora, it was a no brainer.

The Red Sox will be sticking with the same lineup they've used against righties throughout the playoffs, opting to hit Verdugo out of the five spot while using Dalbec as a bat off the bench. Kyle Schwarber will again lead off, Kiké Hernández will hit second and J.D. Martinez will hit sixth.

"We feel like our lefties are swinging the bat well," Cora said. "They've been really good against righties, his numbers are his numbers but our numbers are pretty good too. We have to execute and see how he does."

Cora has good reason to stick with the winning formula. Prior to the playoffs Boston had never used this current lineup configuration in the regular season, but since the AL Wild Card Game they have gone 5-0 while scoring 8.2 runs per game with Schwarber and Hernández batting 1-2 and Verdugo fifth in the order.

During his pregame remarks, Cora also said they will try to stay away from Nick Pivetta is possible so he can start Game 4, and also that Nathan Eovaldi told him he is available to pitch an inning if he's needed.

The full Game 3 lineup is as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Christian Vazquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Eduardo Rodriguez P

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley LF

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Álvarez DH

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Jose Siri CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Jose Urquidy P

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Eduardo Rodriguez to start Game 3

It will be Eduardo Rodriguez for the Red Sox in Game 3.

The big lefty will get the start as the Red Sox welcome the Houston Astros to Fenway Park on Monday, Alex Cora announced on Sunday afternoon. He will go up against Houston's Jose Urquidy.

Rodriguez started two games in the American League Divisional Series. His first outing in Game 1 was a disaster, as he went 1.2 innings while allowing two runs on two hits and two walks in a 5-0 Red Sox loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. He came back with a much stronger outing in the series-clinching Game 4 win, allowing two runs on three hits over five innings of work.

Cora also said Nick Pivetta will be available out of the bullpen and will likely start Game 4 if he isn't needed to pitch in relief on Monday.

Game 3 will be Fenway Park at 8:08 p.m.

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Ailing Devers still producing this postseason

The past few weeks have been a grind for Rafael Devers.

The 24-year-old third baseman is dealing with persistent right arm soreness, and the pain is at its worst when Devers swings and misses. Sometimes on really big cuts it's so bad that Devers can't even hold onto the bat, and at one point during Game 2 the trainer even had to come out to take a look.

"You hate to see him like that. It hurts me when I watch him swing, and he puts the bat down like that," J.D. Martinez said. "But it shows his heart. He is out there competing, and he is putting tough at-bats together, and that was a big hit. That was a really big hit."

And yet, not only is Devers still playing every day, but he's come through in some huge spots.

Saturday Devers delivered Boston's second grand slam, putting the Red Sox ahead 8-0 in the second inning and dealing a crushing blow to the Astros right out of the gate.

Overall he's played every inning of all seven of Boston's playoff games so far, and during that time he's batted .310 with three home runs, 10 RBI and a 1.032 OPS.

Plus, go back a bit earlier, Devers practically carried the Red Sox into the playoffs himself by going 4 for 5 with two home runs, including the go-ahead shot in the ninth inning, to beat the Washington Nationals in the regular season finale.

Devers acknowledged that his arm has been bothersome, but as bad as it might look at times, he's not going to rest until the Red Sox postseason run is done.

"Obviously, it's something that's — it doesn't really limit me as much because I'm able to play every single day. But, obviously, it's a part of it right now," Devers said after Game 2. "We have a couple more weeks to play and just trying to grind it out and be there for my teammates right now, so I can still play."

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Happy homecoming for J.D., Kiké

Once upon a time, before they were big league teammates making a push to the World Series, J.D. Martinez and Kiké Hernández were prospects in the Houston Astros minor league system.

Neither player ended up doing much with the Astros in the bigs. J.D. Martinez was cut loose after three uninspiring seasons, and Hernández only played 24 games with the big club before being traded to the Miami Marlins, and later to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still, this ALCS has had something of a homecoming feel for both players.

"We talked about that the other day," Martinez said. "I never got to be around him enough because he was always two levels under me. Because I asked him, where were you in 2010 or whatever when I was in Lexington, and he was in the GCL.

"We would always see each other in passing when we were in Spring Training and stuff. But I just always knew of him because the scout that drafted me, Greg Brown, drafted him too, so he always kind of would tell me, he is, like, you guys are my guys, you guys are my guys, so I always knew of Kiké."

The Astros would eventually come to regret letting both players go, as Martinez's career flourished with the Detroit Tigers and Hernández became a key cog on the Dodgers' championship roster.

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Astros pitching in disarray

The Houston Astros pitching staff was already working without several key contributors, but now the Astros pitching plans for the rest of the series have been thrown into disarray.

Jake Odorizzi, who came on in relief of Luis Garcia early in Game 2, threw four innings and 82 pitches out of the bullpen. He was originally supposed to be Houston's Game 4 starter, but now the Astros will have to figure something else out, manager Dusty Baker said.

"We got to try to figure it out," Baker said. "Like I said, we've been trying to avoid using Odorizzi the first couple games. That's why we used everybody yesterday. We had planned on him being a Game 4 starter, but every time you make a plan, it's always followed by something, and today it was followed by the grand slam in the first. I don't know if I've ever seen a grand slam in the first and second."

Garcia left the game with right knee discomfort and now his availability for the remainder of the series is in question. Houston is also without ace Lance McCullers Jr. (forearm tightness) and Zack Greinke is expected to be limited to bullpen work after missing the last few weeks of the season due to injury.

Jose Urquidy will start Game 3 at Fenway Park on Monday.

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Eovaldi explains injury scare, says everything is fine

Nathan Eovaldi might be the last player the Red Sox could afford to lose to an injury, which is why it was so nerve wracking when the trainers came out to look at him in the bottom of the fifth.

Eovaldi talked with Alex Cora and the training staff briefly, threw two warmup pitches and was good to complete his outing. He even came back out for the sixth afterwards before a Yordan Álvarez single spelled the end of his day in the sixth.

After the game, Eovaldi explained that he tweaked his back on the fly out by Jose Altuve, but it was nothing serious.

"The pitch when he popped up to the first baseman I felt like I overstrided and I felt a little grab in my back, and that was really it," Eovaldi said. "It feels fine now, but at the time I felt the grab and I was a little hesitant on throwing the next pitch, the curveball, and it was a bad pitch.

"So they came out and talked, I've had it happen during the game and it hasn't stopped me," he continued. "It's one of those things in the moment where you make sure everything feels good and I threw the two fastballs to warm up and I was fine to go. I didn't think it had any reason for taking me out, I think it was just because I had given up the hit."

Eovaldi finished 5.1 innings and allowed three runs on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts. He earned the win and came out after only 81 pitches.

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FINAL: Red Sox 9, Astros 5

The American League Championship Series is all tied up at 1-1.

Boston jumped on Houston early in Game 2 and became the first team in baseball history to hit two grand slams in a single postseason game. J.D. Martinez went deep in the top of the first and Rafael Devers struck in the top of the second, and from there the pitching took care of the rest in the Red Sox 9-5 win.

After Kiké Hernández hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, Houston rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fourth but couldn't get anything else off Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Ottavino or Garrett Whitlock.

Things got little tight in the bottom of the ninth after Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro tagged Darwinzon Hernandez for a pair of solo home runs, but Ryan Brasier came on and got Jose Altuve to fly out to left for the game's final out.

Check back for more updates on Game 2's win throughout the night

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Bottom 6th: Eovaldi done after 5.1, Ottavino escapes jam

Nathan Eovaldi's day is done.

The Red Sox ace once again came through with a strong performance, going 5.1 innings while allowing three runs on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts. He left after allowing a single to Yordan Álvarez with one out in the sixth inning and turned the ball over to Adam Ottavino.

The Astros nearly cut into Boston's six-run lead after Kyle Tucker singled and stole second to put two men in scoring position, but Ottavino was able to escape the jam by forcing Yuli Gurriel to ground out to end the threat.

The Red Sox still lead 9-3 heading into the top of the seventh inning.

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Bottom 4th: Astros rally for three

The Houston Astros aren't going quietly.

After Nathan Eovaldi recorded nine straight outs, he walked Yordan Álvarez with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and proceeded to give up three straight hits.

Kyle Tucker's RBI double got the Astros on the board and Yuli Gurriel followed that with a two-run single to make it 9-3.

A long way to go with five innings still to play.

Top 4th: Kiké homers again, Sox lead 9-0

Stop me if you've heard this before, but Kiké Hernández just homered again.

The Red Sox centerfielder's epic postseason hot streak continued in the top of the fourth after Hernández hit a solo home run into the Crawford Boxes in left field.

He's now 2 for 3 on the day and put the Red Sox up 9-0. Boston nearly got another three-run home run by J.D. Martinez later in the inning but the ball was just foul and he struck out to end the inning on the next pitch.

Hernández is genuinely having one of the most prolific playoff performances by any player in baseball history. Dating back to the American League Wild Card Game he is now 16 for 31 with five home runs, four doubles and nine RBI. He is now one of just two players to ever record 16 hits over his team's first seven playoff games, with Hideki Matsui (Yankees, 2004) being the other.

He also has 15 hits over his last five games, the most over a five-game stretch by any player in MLB history, and his five home runs in the 2021 playoffs ties David Ortiz (2004, 2013) and Todd Walker (2003) for the most in a single postseason in team history. He is the only one to do it over a five-game stretch.

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Bottom 3rd: Eovaldi dealing through three innings

Nathan Eovaldi is cruising in Game 2.

The Red Sox ace, despite sitting for close to 40 minutes between the bottom of the first and second innings, didn't show any signs of rust and has shut down the Astros the first time through the order.

Heading into the top of the fourth, Eovaldi has allowed only one hit through three scoreless innings, and he's only thrown 39 pitches, including 25 for strikes.

The lone baserunner to reach against Eovaldi so far was Alex Bregman on a single in the bottom of the first. He was left stranded the next at bat after Yordan Álvarez hit a liner to deep centerfield that Kiké Hernández was in perfect position to catch.

The Red Sox still lead 8-0 heading into the fourth inning.

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Top 2nd: Devers hits team's second grand slam, Sox lead 8-0

The Red Sox are doing all kinds of damage at Minute Maid Park this afternoon.

Just one inning after J.D. Martinez hit a grand slam to put the Red Sox on the board in the top of the first, Rafael Devers followed with a grand slam of his own in the top of the second to blow Game 2 wide open.

Devers' shot came off Jake Odorizzi, who came on in relief after Luis Garcia left the game with the trainer. Garcia walked Kevin Plawecki to lead off the inning and then departed after only recording three outs, and Odorizzi was given nearly 15 minutes to warm up due to the injury.

Once the game finally resumed, Christian Arroyo greeted him with a single, Kyle Schwarber struck out and Kiké Hernández singled to load the bases with one out. Devers took advantage, and by the time the inning was over Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi had an eight-run lead to work with heading into the bottom of the second.

The Red Sox are now the first team in MLB history to record two grand slams in a single postseason game, and they did it in back to back innings.

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Top 1st: J.D. Martinez grand slam puts Sox up 4-0

The Red Sox lost Game 1 in large part because they couldn't capitalize on their big scoring chances early.

J.D. Martinez made sure that wouldn't be the case again in Game 2.

The Red Sox slugger smashed a grand slam in the top of the first to put his team up 4-0 over the Astros right out of the gate in Game 2. Martinez's homer came after Kyle Schwarber doubled to lead off the game and Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo both walked.

Kiké Hernández also nearly had another hit after going 4 for 5 last night, but he was robbed after his sinking liner was caught in spectacular fashion by Astros center fielder Chas McCormick, who laid out to make the catch for the first out of the inning.

Nathan Eovaldi will now look to protect the four run lead when he takes the hill in the bottom of the first.

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Cora won't announce Game 3 starter yet

Will Nick Pivetta or Eduardo Rodriguez start Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday at Fenway Park? That will depend on how things go tonight in Game 2, Alex Cora said before Saturday's game.

Cora said the team won't announce a starter for the next game until after Game 2, and other than Chris Sale everyone will be available in the bullpen to pitch.

That includes everyone else who pitched in Game 1, plus Pivetta and Rodriguez.

One pitcher we won't see for a while is Garrett Richards, who is dealing with a left hamstring strain and is out until the start of the World Series at the earliest. Cora said Richards hasn't begun throwing yet and he's still a little while off from any potential return.

In addition, Cora also confirmed that Kevin Plawecki will start at catcher, as he often does for Nathan Eovaldi's starts, and the rest of the lineup will otherwise remain the same. Kyle Schwarber will be back in the leadoff spot to face Houston righty Luis Garcia and J.D. Martinez will bat sixth as he did several times against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The full lineups for Game 2 are as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Kevin Plawecki C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Nathan Eovaldi P

Astros

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley LF

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Álvarez DH

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Chas McCormick CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Luis Garcia P

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FINAL: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

They just kept coming, and in the end the Red Sox couldn't hold them off.

On a day where the Red Sox offense couldn't sustain the momentum that carried it past the Tampa Bay Rays, the bullpen had to hold the high-powered Houston Astros down for nearly the entire game. That proved too tall an order as the Astros rallied in the late innings to earn a 5-4 win in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

After Jose Altuve tied the game with a two-run homer in the sixth, and Carlos Correa gave the Astros the lead with a solo shot in the seventh, Houston added another insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

That last run turned out to be pivotal, as Kiké Hernández greeted Astros closer Ryan Pressly with a sizzling liner for a solo home run in the top of the ninth. Hernández finished 4 for 5 with two home runs, a double, a single and two RBI, but the Red Sox collectively only went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

After the Hernández home run, Pressly finished things off with relatively little drama. He got Kyle Schwarber, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers to ground out to wrap up the Game 1 victory.

Game 2 will be Saturday at 4:20 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park.

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Bottom 7th: Correa goes deep, puts Astros ahead 4-3

Carlos Correa knew it was gone the moment the ball left the bat.

The Astros shortstop got all of a changeup from Red Sox righty Hansel Robles, pointing at his wrist and gesturing "it's time" to his dugout as his go-ahead home run left the yard.

The solo home run gave the Astros a 4-3 lead, and now Houston has delivered back-breaking home runs in consecutive innings against the Red Sox bullpen.

Robles would escape the inning without further damage, but now the Red Sox have only six outs to tie the game or take the lead.

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Bottom 6th: Altuve homers to tie game at 3-3

You knew the Astros weren't going to stay down forever.

Jose Altuve tied the game with a two-run home run off Tanner Houck in the bottom of the sixth to knot the score at 3-3. The homer came shortly after Chas McCormick got on base with a single, and Altuve ambushed a hanging slider to crush the ball 382 feet into the Crawford Boxes in left field.

Houck struck out Michael Brantley to end the inning, and now the Red Sox will look to get the bats going again heading into the top of the seventh.

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Bottom 5th: Red Sox escape jams in third, fifth to hold lead

The Red Sox aren't making it easy on themselves, but so far they've managed to hold on to their 3-1 lead.

In both the bottom of the third and fifth Houston got two men on with a chance to either tie or take the lead, and both times Boston has escaped without allowing a run.

In the third Adam Ottavino came on for Chris Sale with two outs and two on and got Yuli Gurriel to ground out to second, and then proceeded to get a clean fourth inning. Josh Taylor came on to pitch the fifth, went single, flyout to center and strikeout against his pocket of lefties, and Ryan Brasier then came on and allowed a single to Carlos Correa before getting Kyle Tucker to fly out to deep center on a play that almost twisted up Kiké Hernández.

Meanwhile, Hernández doubled in the top of the fourth, putting him at 3 for 3 and a triple short of the cycle, but the Red Sox couldn't drive him in. Boston went 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth.

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Top 3rd: Hernández makes incredible catch, homers to lead Sox rally

Kiké Hernández is at it again.

In a play reminiscent of Andrew Benintendi's ALCS-clinching catch three years ago, Kiké Hernández made one of the defensive plays of the season for the Red Sox, a diving grab in centerfield with two outs and the bases loaded to stop a Houston rally.

Then, to lead off the top of the third, Hernández tied the game with a towering solo home run to the left field train tracks. Boston would follow that up with two more runs, with Xander Bogaerts walking, Rafael Devers singling and J.D. Martinez scoring Bogaerts after Jose Altuve booted what should have been an inning ending double play. Hunter Renfroe tacked on an RBI double to make it 3-1.

Hernández is coming off one of the most prolific offensive playoff series in team history in the ALDS, and now he's already 2 for 2 in Game 1 while likely saving at least two runs on defense.

Astros starter Framber Valdez, meanwhile, is finished after just 2.2 innings. He allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Yimi Garcia came on in relief and struck out Christian Arroyo with two men on to end the inning.

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Bottom 1st: Astros 1, Red Sox 0

Chris Sale still doesn't look anywhere close to his normal self.

The Red Sox starter labored through a tough first inning, allowing a run on a sacrifice fly while throwing 29 pitches. Sale allowed a leadoff walk, a single and then had both runners move into scoring position after a wild pitch. Yordan Álvarez scored Jose Altuve on a sacrifice fly and Sale was able to get out of the inning without further incident.

Two concerning things to watch with Sale, he's still throwing almost exclusively fastball and sliders. Sale has spoken recently about not having his curveball back since Tommy John surgery, and in the first inning he only threw one. The other problem, he's having difficulty locating his pitches, and his slider in particular.

Boston's offense was more promising in the top of the first, getting two hits and two walks, but the Red Sox didn't score thanks to a double play and a flyout with the bases loaded. Houston leads 1-0 going into the second.

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Verdugo to start over Dalbec against lefty

Alex Verdugo will get the start in Game 1 over Bobby Dalbec despite a lefty being on the mound for the Astros, the team announced this afternoon.

For most of the second half Dalbec has started against lefties given his monster splits, while Verdugo has comparatively struggled with lefties on the mound and often found himself the odd man out with Kyle Schwarber playing left field. Recently, however, Verdugo has been one of Boston's most productive all-around players while Dalbec is now 2 for his last 31 dating back to Sept. 22, so Verdugo will start in left and Schwarber will play first base with Houston starter Framber

Valdez pitching.

In addition, Kiké Hernández will bump back into his usual leadoff spot, Schwarber will bat second and J.D. Martinez will shift back down to fifth after spending much of the ALDS in the sixth spot.

During his pre-game remarks, Red Sox manager Alex Cora also explained the rationale for adding Hirokazu Sawamura and Darwinzon Hernandez to the ALCS roster over Matt Barnes and Austin Davis. He said they felt those pitchers matched up against the Astros better, and also that "stuff plays" as far as having more power out of the pen, which would certainly explain the decision to keep Hernandez over Davis as the third lefty.

As for Game 1 starter Chris Sale, Cora said Sale is "full go" and that the bullpen is rested and ready to go as well.

Full lineups for Game 1 are as follows:

Red Sox:

1. Kiké Hernández CF

2. Kyle Schwarber 1B

3. Xander Bogaerts SS

4. Rafael Devers 3B

5. J.D. Martinez DH

6. Hunter Renfroe RF

7. Alex Verdugo LF

8. Christian Arroyo 2B

9. Christian Vázquez C

10. Chris Sale

Astros:

1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley DH

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Álvarez LF

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Chas McCormick CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Framber Valdez P

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McCullers officially ruled out for ALCS

Lance McCullers Jr. will not pitch in the ALCS, the Houston Astros announced Friday morning.

The Astros ace suffered forearm tightness in his last start in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox, and with him sidelined Houston will be without its best starter.

The Red Sox also announced their roster, which is similar to the ALDS roster only with two changes in the bullpen. Righty Hirokazu Sawamura and lefty Darwinzon Hernandez are in, taking the place of former closer Matt Barnes and trade deadline acquisition Austin Davis.

The full Red Sox and Astros ALCS rosters are as follows:

Red Sox

Pitcher (13): Ryan Brasier, Nathan Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Hansel Robles, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Garrett Whitlock

Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vázquez

Infielders (5): Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw

Infielders/Outfielders (2): Kiké Hernández, Danny Santana

Astros

Pitchers (13): Luis Garcia, Yimi Garcia, Kendall Graveman, Zack Greinke, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Jake Odorizzi, Ryan Pressly, Brooks Raley, Ryne Stanek, Blake Taylor, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez

Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Martin Maldonado

Infielders (5): Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, Yuli Gurriel

Outfielders (6): Yordan Álvarez, Michael Brantley, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Jose Siri, Kyle Tucker

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Red Sox announce Sale will start Game 1

Alex Cora announced Thursday afternoon that Chris Sale will start Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday, and that Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Game 2 on Saturday.

Sale (5-1, 3.16 ERA) will face Astros lefty Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14) in Game 1, and Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75) will take on righty Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30) in Game 2.

Sale has not yet faced the Astros this season, and Eovaldi faced Houston once in the regular season, taking a loss on June 9 after allowing five runs on 11 hits over 5.2 innings of work. Valdez went 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox and Garcia went seven innings with one run allowed in his lone start against Boston this season.

The decision to start Sale in Game 1 was a surprise considering that Sale has struggled recently and is coming off a tough outing in Game 2 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay. Cora said they are confident in Sale's ability to get the job done, that he won't be an "opener" and that he will have no limitations.

Cora also said he expects the Red Sox will be aggressive with the bullpen and that Eduardo Rodriguez will be available to pitch in relief if needed.

In addition, Major League Baseball also announced the start times and TV channels for the first three games of the series. Game 1 will be Friday at 8:07 p.m. ET on Fox, Game 2 will be Saturday at 4:20 p.m. on Fox and FS1 and Game 3 will be Monday at 8:07 p.m. on FS1.

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Report: McCullers' availability for ALCS in doubt

The Houston Astros may be without their top starting pitcher for the American League Championship Series.

Lance McCullers Jr. left Game 4 of Houston's 10-1 win over the Chicago White Sox with arm discomfort, and according to a report by MLB Network's Jon Heyman, his status for the ALCS is in serious doubt.

"Heard Lance McCullers had an MRI and word is that he should be fine in the long run. No official word on the next few weeks however."

"There is great concern for McCullers in the short term, and he's most likely out for the ALCS."

Speaking to Houston beat writers, Astros general manager James Click said McCullers is still being examined and did not elaborate on his status for the ALCS. The team will have to make a decision on whether or not to include him on the ALCS roster by Friday morning.

If McCullers is indeed unavailable to pitch, it would be a huge blow to the Astros. McCullers was the team's top starting pitcher this season, going 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 162.1 innings, and he threw 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Houston's Game 1 victory over the White Sox last week.

Framber Valdez will start Game 1 for the Astros and Luis Garcia will start Game 2. The Red Sox are expected to announce their starters for Games 1-2 by Thursday afternoon.

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Eovaldi: Astros "aren't high on my list"

Nathan Eovaldi doesn't have a high opinion of the Houston Astros.

That's not unusual these days. The Astros' reputation was tarnished in early 2020 after details of their sign stealing operation came to light, and even two years later Houston continues to face persistent hostility from opposing teams and crowds.

But the Red Sox starter has more reason than most to dislike the team, and he acknowledged that he's not a fan when asked during an appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Wednesday.

"Yeah, they have a tendency of rubbing guys the wrong way," Eovaldi said. "I don't necessarily hate any team, but they're not high up on my list."

Why might that be? Besides the sign stealing scheme, Eovaldi was also the victim of a social media troll job by Houston third baseman Alex Bregman during the 2018 ALCS. Bregman posted a video of Eovaldi giving up three straight home runs to the Astros earlier that season as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.

"It happened. I gave up three homers back-to-back-to-back," Eovaldi said. "But we were able to come out on top in that series and hopefully we're going do be able to do it again this time."

During his appearance Eovaldi was also asked how the clubhouse felt about the team's perceived inactivity at the trade deadline. He admitted that the players were "a little frustrated that we didn't make more moves," but that the three players the team acquired, and Kyle Schwarber especially, have played a huge part in getting the team as far as it has.

He also praised Red Sox Nation for its support, saying the crowd energy at Fenway Park through the playoffs has been the best he's ever seen since joining the club.

Eovaldi is currently the favorite to start Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday. Manager Alex Cora has not yet announced starters for any of this weekend's games, but Eovaldi would be in line to start on full rest should he get the ball.

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What the Astros are saying about facing Red Sox

Since the Red Sox clinched their trip to the American League Championship Series on Monday night, several members of the Houston Astros have commented on the matchup, both as a hypothetical and then once the ALCS was confirmed following their own series clinching win over the White Sox on Tuesday. Here is what a few members of the Astros had to say when asked about playing Boston.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, Tuesday before Game 4, on former Astros bench coach Alex Cora advancing with Red Sox again: "I think it was a great game both sides. Very happy for Cora. Obviously, he was here with us, and it's a guy that I love very much, so I was very happy. I text him after the game. Obviously, nobody had them win that series. Nobody had them getting to the playoffs. Especially after the way they played last year, and he came in and put the team back on the map and, you know, they've accomplished so much more than people thought they would accomplish this year, so, obviously, I'm proud of him. Very happy.

But if we get this win today, obviously, he will be the enemy, so that love will be gone for a couple of days, but I'm very happy that he is able to accomplish that after everything he went through, not only him, but also his family, so it's — it was a beautiful moment for him, his daughter, his family, and, you know, I'm very proud of him."

Manager Dusty Baker, Tuesday before Game 4, asked if he'd watched the Red Sox clincher the prior night and if he had any thoughts on possibly facing Boston in the next round: "You wish you were in that position yourself, but you have action on getting into that position. I wasn't really locked on it. I was following the score and, you know, it was 5-1 and 5-3. Actually my wife was more locked on it than me because she's better on her phone than I am, you know, picking up scores.

I kind of felt that Boston might win it. I've been in both sides where sometimes when you play, play, play and keep on playing with no off days, you tend to be sharper. And so, again, I wasn't locked on it. I was really locked on my stone crabs from Joe's Stone Crabs really. You know what I mean? That's what I was really locked on. Sure was good."

Second baseman Jose Altuve, Tuesday after Game 4, on facing the Red Sox: "I think they're a really good team obviously. They just beat the Tampa Bay Rays, which they won 100 games, so we're playing another good team. I feel like, you know, every single team in the playoffs have something that can make them a potential winner. So we got to go out there with the same mentality. We got to prepare ourselves and win as many games as we can."

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ALCS tickets on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

The Red Sox announced this week that tickets for the team's American League Championship Series games at Fenway Park will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

The team will play at least two and possibly three home games at Fenway between Oct. 18-20. Game 3 will be Monday, Oct. 18, Game 4 on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and if necessary Game 5 on Wednesday, Oct. 20. All start times are still to be determined.

Tickets will be available online at redsox.com/postseason, and all tickets will be delivered through the MLB Ballpark App. Tickets won't be sold at the Fenway Park ticket office.

The Red Sox are set to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS for the second time in four years. Boston previously beat Houston in 2018 en route to the team's most recent World Series championship.

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Red Sox to face Astros in ALCS

For the third time in five years, the Boston Red Sox will face the Houston Astros in the playoffs.

Houston wrapped up its American League Divisional Series with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, winning Game 4 by a score of 10-1 to clinch the series 3-1. The Red Sox and Astros will now square off in the American League Championship Series, with Game 1 scheduled for Friday at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

Boston and Houston previously faced off in the 2017 ALDS, which the Astros won 3-1, and then again in the 2018 ALCS, which the Red Sox won 4-1. Both teams went on to win the World Series after their respective victories, and this is now Houston's fifth straight trip to the ALCS overall.

One storyline you can expect to hear a lot of over the next week is Red Sox manager Alex Cora's return to Houston for the first time in the playoffs since his involvement in the Astros' sign stealing scandal came to light. Cora previously served as bench coach of the Astros in 2017 and was suspended by MLB — and fired by the Red Sox — when details of the scandal were first published in early 2020. He was rehired by the Red Sox after the following season and has now led the team back to the ALCS in his first year back.

The Astros also incurred substantial penalties as a result of the scandal and remain an object of scorn among large segments of the baseball community, even though only five members of the 2017 team remain on the roster. Led by new manager Dusty Baker the Astros are looking to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2019, when they lost to the Washington Nationals.

The ALCS schedule is as follows:

2021 American League Championship Series

Game 1: Fri., Oct. 15, 8:07 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 2: Sat., Oct. 16, TBD, Fox or FS1

Game 3: Mon., Oct. 18, TBD, FS1

Game 4: Tues., Oct. 19, TBD, FS1

Game 5*: Wed., Oct. 20, TBD, FS1

Game 6*: Fri., Oct. 22, TBD, FS1

Game 7*: Sat., Oct. 23, TBD, Fox or FS1

* If necessary

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Red Sox win Game 4 on walk-off sac fly by Hernández

The Red Sox are going to the American League Championship Series!

With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth and runners at the corners, Kiké Hernández capped off his epic series with a walk-off sacrifice fly to score Danny Santana. The Red Sox win Game 4 6-5 and will now play the winner of the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox series starting on Friday.

Hernández's winner came after Christian Vazquez led off the inning with a single, and he moved into scoring position on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt by Christian Arroyo. Travis Shaw pinch hit and reached on a single that probably should have been an error, putting runners at the corners and setting the stage for Hernández to send the Red Sox through to the ALCS.

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Top 8th: Rays tie game on three straight doubles

We have ourselves a tie ballgame.

Trailing 5-3 in the top of the eighth, the Rays tagged Ryan Brasier for three straight doubles to knot the score at five. Mike Zunino, Kevin Kiermaier and Randy Arozarena all hit liners into the right centerfield gap.

With the go-ahead run at second base and no outs, Garrett Whitlock came on and escaped the inning without further damage. He also made perhaps the defensive play of the game by backing up an errant throw to third to prevent Arozarena from advancing.

In the bottom of the eighth, Alex Verdugo reached on a throwing error by Wander Franco, putting him at second with no outs. The Red Sox couldn't capitalize, as J.D. Martinez flew out to right, Hunter Renfroe flew out to center and then Verdugo was thrown out by Kevin Kiermaier trying to advance to third.

Whitlock will be back out to pitch the top of the ninth.

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Bottom 7th: Red Sox six outs away

The Red Sox are six outs away from the ALCS.

Lefty Josh Taylor came on in relief for the top of the seventh and sent the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning. Boston still leads 5-3 and will see Tampa Bay's 8-9-1 hitters in the eighth.

The Red Sox had a chance to add to their lead, with Kiké Hernández and Rafael Devers each singling to bring up runners at the corners with one out, but Xander Bogaerts grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Ryan Brasier is now on to pitch the top of the eighth. Bobby Dalbec is in as a defensive replacement for Kyle Schwarber at first base.

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Top 6th: Franco homers, cuts Sox lead to 5-3

The Rays have something special in Wander Franco.

The 20-year-old phenom hit a two-run home run off Tanner Houck in the top of the sixth to cut the Red Sox lead to 5-3. His blast came shortly after Kevin Kiermaier hit a bloop fall into shallow left for a double.

Houck also gave up a long fly ball for an out in center to Randy Arozarena but escaped the inning without further damage.

The Red Sox now come to the plate in the bottom of the sixth to face Luis Patino, who allowed the walk-off home run to Christian Vazquez on Sunday night.

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Bot 5th: Rodriguez departs after excellent start

Before the game Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Eduardo Rodriguez would be the team's "bulk guy" and would be counted on to carry the load in Game 4.

Rodriguez delivered in a big way.

The Red Sox starter's day is done after pitching five-plus innings of brilliant baseball. He allowed three hits and at the time of his departure only one run with a man at second base in the top of the sixth. Tanner Houck is now on in relief.

The Rays, meanwhile, turned to closer Andrew Kittredge to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Kittredge has pitched two perfect innings to slow down a Red Sox offense that was looking like a runaway train in the third. The Red Sox lead is now 5-1 after the Rays scored a run on an Austin Meadows groundout in the top of the fifth.

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Bottom 3rd: Devers three-run homer highlights rally

The Red Sox are sensing blood, and now they have the Rays on the ropes.

Rafael Devers' three-run home run highlighted a five-run rally in the bottom of the third, with the Red Sox sending 10 men to the plate in the team's best offensive inning of the playoffs.

Christian Vazquez singled to start it off, Kyle Schwarber walked and then Devers blasted a shot to straightaway centerfield with two outs to give the Red Sox the lead.

Then Xander Bogaerts singled and came around to score on an RBI double by Alex Verdugo, who came around to score himself the following at bat on a single by J.D. Martinez.

The rally primarily came against Shane McClanahan, the Rays' Game 1 starter who came on in relief of Collin McHugh. McHugh had pitched two scoreless innings out of the gate but McClahanan was chased after allowing five runs on 0.2 innings. J.T. Chargois came on in relief and struck out Vazquez to finally end the inning.

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Top 3rd: Rodriguez wins 17-pitch at bat against Meadows

After an at bat that seemed to go on forever, Eduardo Rodriguez finally came out on top.

Rodriguez struck out Rays outfielder Austin Meadows after a 17-pitch at bat, with Meadows fouling off pitch after pitch before the Red Sox starter finally caught him chasing on a slider.

Rodriguez didn't have to work as hard to send down Mike Zunino or Kevin Kiermaier and remains perfect through three innings.

The Rays, meanwhile, have pulled opener Collin McHugh after two scoreless innings. Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan is on for the bottom of the third.

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Bottom 2nd: E-Rod dealing early

Eduardo Rodriguez didn't even last two innings in Game 1. He's got that beat and then some so far tonight.

The Red Sox starter brought his A-game out of the gate in Game 4, recording six straight outs for two scoreless innings early. Heading into the top of the third he has four strikeouts with no baserunners allowed.

Rodriguez has had a little bit of help too. On the first at bat of the game, Randy Arozarena charged a liner into the right field gap but Hunter Renfroe made an incredible running catch. Then Rodriguez struck out Wander Franco looking the next at bat on a pitch that was far outside the strike zone.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have so far managed only a single against Rays starter Collin McHugh through two. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier has already gotten a lot of work, recording all three outs in the bottom of the second, including one on a great diving play.

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No yellow uniforms for Marathon Monday

It may be Marathon Monday, but the Red Sox won't be wearing their special colors for Game 4 tonight.

Alex Cora confirmed that both the team's yellow marathon-inspired City Connect uniforms and the "Boston Strong" home white alternates aren't available, so the team will wear either their traditional white or red alternate uniforms instead.

The special uniforms have mostly been donated to charity, so there aren't enough around for the whole team, Cora said.

Regardless of their colors, the Red Sox have an opportunity to clinch the American League Divisional Series tonight. Eduardo Rodriguez is officially the team's Game 4 starter, and Cora said he will be entrusted to carry the bulk of the innings.

Beyond Rodriguez, Cora said Tanner Houck will also be available out of the bullpen. Hansel Robles, who wasn't feeling well after Game 3, is feeling better and isn't dealing with anything COVID-19 related.

Even Nathan Eovaldi, yesterday's starter, came to Cora's office after the game and made himself available for an inning if needed. Cora said Eovaldi will be in the bullpen as well.

The Red Sox lineup is similar to Game 3, with Vazquez subbing in for Kevin Plawecki at catcher. Here are the full lineups for each team:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Christian Vázquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Eduardo Rodriguez

Rays

1. Randy Arozarena RF

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Brandon Lowe 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Jordan Luplow 1B

6. Yandy Diaz 3B

7. Austin Meadows LF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Kevin Kiermaier CF

10. Collin McHugh P

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Umpires explain rule on Kiermaier's ground-rule double

In order to avoid any confusion regarding the rules surrounding Kevin Kiermaier's ground rule double in the top of the 13th, crew chief Sam Holbrook and umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford spoke to reporters to explain why the play was ruled as it was.

"If you don't mind, what I'd like to do, this is our umpire manual, and what I'd like to do is just quote from the manual," Holbrook said. "It's item 20 in the manual, which is balls deflected out of play, which is in reference to official baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(H). It says, if a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch.

"So in this play right here, the ball was no longer in flight because it hit the front part of the wall. So you cannot catch the ball off the wall. The wall is basically an extension of the playing field, the front part of the wall is. So once that ball hit the wall, it was no longer in flight. Now the ball bounces off the wall and is deflected out of play off of a fielder, that's just a ground-rule double.

"There's no, he would have done this, would have done that, it's just flat out in the rule book. It's a ground rule double."

Holbrook also explained that they reviewed the play at the request of Rays manager Kevin Cash, but all of the umpires were on the same page and the replay confirmed everyone's initial interpretation of the play.

"They confirmed that it was just a ball off the wall, hit the fielder, and deflected out of play. Very simple. From an umpire's standpoint, very simple textbook in the rule."

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FINAL: Red Sox win 6-4 on Vazquez walk-off homer in 13th

It's over!

Christian Vazquez hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th to give the Red Sox a thrilling 6-4 win over the Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Vazquez finished it off after Hunter Renfroe drew a walk, and the big finale came minutes after a wild and improbable sequence in the top of the 13th that kept the game tied.

The Red Sox now have a 2-1 series lead and will look to clinch Monday in Game 4.

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Top 13th: Game still tied after improbable ground-rule double

Thanks to one of the most bizarre and improbable bounces you'll ever see, the Red Sox and Rays are still tied at 4-4 heading into the bottom of the 13th.

With a man at first, Kevin Kiermaier hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that bounced off the base of the wall. Under almost any other circumstances the hit would have scored the lead runner Yandy Diaz, but the ball bounced off right fielder Hunter Renfroe and over the bullpen fence.

Upon further review and after much discussion, the umpires ultimately ruled the ball a ground rule double and ordered Diaz stopped at third. Nick Pivetta then struck out Mike Zunino to get out of the inning and the Rays came away empty handed.

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Extra innings: Red Sox 4, Rays 4

We are in extra innings here at Fenway Park.

After the Rays tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the eighth, the Red Sox failed to score in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings. Garrett Whitlock shut the door in the top of the ninth and now Nick Pivetta is likely on to pitch for as long as it takes.

The Rays and Red Sox both went down scoreless in the 10th. Rays outfielder Manuel Margot was caught stealing for the third out of the inning, and in the bottom of the frame Alex Verdugo reached on a single and J.D. Martinez nearly hit a towering fly ball to deep center that didn't quite have enough.

In the 11th, Randy Arozarena reached on a leadoff walk and stole second on a bizarre play after Kevin Kiermaier struck out, nearly advancing to third and then getting caught in a pickle before he got back to second safely. Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino and Jordan Luplow to end the inning.

Then, in the bottom of the frame, Christian Arroyo doubled down the line for his third hit of the game, but Bobby Dalbec and Kiké Hernández couldn't get him in.

Both the Rays and Red Sox went 1-2-3 in the 12th without any drama.

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Top 8th: Franco, Arozarena lead Rays rally, tie game

The Rays aren't going quietly in Game 3.

Trailing by two entering the top of the eighth inning, Tampa Bay rallied against Red Sox reliever Hansel Robles to tie the game at 4-4.

Wander Franco hit a solo home run to lead off the inning, and Austin Meadows followed that up with a double to deep centerfield. Robles recovered by forcing Nelson Cruz to ground out and then striking out Yandy Diaz, but he subsequently allowed an RBI double by Randy Arozarena to tie it up.

Prior to Sunday, Robles had not allowed a run since Aug. 29.

The Red Sox summoned closer Garrett Whitlock from the pen, and after intentionally walking Kevin Kiermaier, Whitlock struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning and strand the go-ahead run at second.

Boston couldn't get anything going in the bottom of the eighth. Whitlock will be back out to pitch the top of the ninth.

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Bottom 5th: Kiké Hernández on historic postseason tear

No hitter in postseason history has ever gotten as hot as Kiké Hernández is right now.

With his solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hernández is now 3 for 3 on the day and 8 for 9 dating back to the start of Game 2. According to ESPN, his eight hits are the most by any player over a two-game span within a single postseason in baseball history.

Beyond that, Hernández has also now recorded a hit in seven straight at bats, which is the longest streak in Red Sox postseason history and one off the MLB record.

Hernández's hits haven't been cheapies, either. Over this two-game stretch he's hit three doubles, two home runs, and one of his singles on Sunday was a rope of a line drive off the Green Monster.

The Red Sox lead 4-2 heading into the top of the sixth.

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Bottom 3rd: Devers caps off rally to give Red Sox lead

The Red Sox have the lead!

Boston's bats got going in the bottom of the third as the team recorded four straight hits to open the inning. Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber started things off before Kiké Hernández tied the game with an RBI single, chasing Rays starter Drew Rasmussen from the game.

Rafael Devers then delivered the go-ahead RBI single off Josh Fleming to make it 3-2 before the Rays eventually summoned closer Andrew Kittredge to face J.D. Martinez a couple of batters later with men on second and third.

Kittredge got the job done and escaped the jam without further damage, but Rasmussen finished the day with three runs allowed over two-plus innings, allowing six hits on just 33 pitches.

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Top 3rd: Eovaldi up to seven strikeouts

Nathan Eovaldi is bringing his A-game today.

Outside of a single and a two-run home run in the top of the first, Nathan Eovaldi has looked great for the Red Sox today. He currently has seven strikeouts through three innings, and since the home run the only baserunners he's allowed came on a walk and an error by Kyle Schwarber at first.

Eovaldi's biggest punch out came against Mike Zunino in the second, finally getting him after an 11-pitch battle.

The Rays still lead 2-1 head into the bottom of the third.

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Bottom 1st: Rays 2, Red Sox 1

The Rays struck first in Game 3, but Kyle Schwarber didn't waste any time delivering a response.

Tampa Bay scored two runs in the top of the first, with Austin Meadows hitting a two-run home run immediately after Wander Franco singled. Outside of those two blemishes, Nathan Eovaldi looked sharp out of the gate, striking out three to end the inning.

Then, when the Red Sox came up, Schwarber smashed the second pitch he saw from Drew Rasmussen into the Green Monster seats. Kiké Hernández followed that up with a liner off the wall for a single but the Red Sox couldn't keep the rally going.

The Rays lead 2-1 heading into the top of the second.

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Sale available out of bullpen after all

During his travel day remarks on Saturday, Alex Cora said Chris Sale would not be used out of the bullpen during the playoffs "for health reasons."

A day later, the team has evidently had a change of heart.

Sale will be in the bullpen for Game 3 today, as will Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta. Cora said they decided to change course after giving it more thought and determining that health-wise and team-wise it would be the best decision for the club.

"We changed our mind," Cora said. "He feels ok and he's willing to do it. So we'll go with it."

Cora declined to elaborate further on what Sale's usage might be, including whether or not he might start another game in the ALDS. He then quipped that he was being very Bill Belichick-like, and noted that the New England Patriots coach had actually reached out to him for the first time.

"Bill texted me the other day, so I'm in the club," Cora said. "I texted him today, I was like beat the Texans. He wished me luck before the Wild Card game and congratulated us after."

In addition to the news about Sale, Cora also said the team hasn't made a decision on what uniforms they might wear for Game 4, which coincides with the pandemic-postponed Boston Marathon. He said the yellow City Connect uniforms the team has worn this year might not be available because a lot have been donated to charity and given away by players, but they will look into it and make a decision tomorrow.

The Red Sox also announced their lineup for Game 3, which is as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Kevin Plawecki C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Nathan Eovaldi P

Rays

1. Brandon Lowe 2B

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Austin Meadows LF

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Ji-Man Choi 1B

6. Randy Arozarena RF

7. Kevin Kiermaier CF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Joey Wendle 3B

10. Drew Rasmussen P

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Cora: Pivetta likely to start Game 4

While a final decision has not yet been reached, Red Sox manager Alex Cora indicated that Nick Pivetta will most likely start Game 4 of the ALDS for the Red Sox on Monday.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Cora explained that whether or not Pivetta starts will depend on how Game 3 plays out, and Cora noted that Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale could both be available too. Rodriguez and Sale were Boston's Game 1 and 2 starters but neither pitched beyond the second inning and have low pitch counts as a result.

Cora also confirmed that Sale will not be used out of the bullpen "for health reasons." Sale is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and the team has been careful to manage his workload.

Despite throwing five innings of relief in Game 2, Tanner Houck will be available in the bullpen on Sunday for Game 3. Cora did not indicate whether he will be considered for a possible start in Game 5.

One thing that is set in stone is Nathan Eovaldi will start Game 3. Eovaldi, who was an all-star and has been Boston's best and most consistent starter all season, got the win in Tuesday's AL Wild Card Game over the New York Yankees and is now in position to give Boston a commanding 2-1 lead over the Rays in the ALDS.

"Game 3's huge. If we win tomorrow, then we need one more and we're going to be at home," Eovaldi said. "So having split the series over there in Tampa 1-1 and then having the opportunity to take it here again in Boston, it's huge for us.

"You saw the atmosphere we had when the Yankees were in town, the electricity in the stadium, and the fan support, it was awesome," he continued. "Having them to push us along the way, it's going to be great."

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FINAL: Red Sox 14, Rays 6

Take a bow Kiké Hernández.

The Red Sox centerfielder had one of the most prolific offensive performances in postseason history Friday, going 5 for 6 with four extra-base hits to lead Boston to a decisive 14-6 win over Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS.

Hernández had three doubles, a solo home run and a two-run single in the top of the ninth to lead Boston's 20-hit performance. In doing so he became one of 10 players to record five hits in a postseason game while also tying the record for most extra-base hits in a playoff game (4).

He had plenty of company filling up the scoresheet. J.D. Martinez also had a four-hit day, and Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez all had three hits as well. Collectively the No. 2 through 6 hitters went 16 for 25 with 12 RBI, four doubles, five home runs, two walks and only two strikeouts.

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Top 8th: Devers homers, Red Sox lead big

Rafael Devers may very well have just delivered the dagger.

The Red Sox third baseman, despite dealing with an apparent arm injury, powered a huge two-run home run to straightaway center to put Boston up 11-6 in the top of the eighth.

The homer came immediately after Kiké Hernández tallied his third double of the day. He's now 4 for 5 with four extra-base hits, becoming the first player in Red Sox history to accomplish that feat in a postseason game.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox bullpen has been outstanding since Houck came out of the game. Ryan Brasier and Hansel Robles have kept the Rays off the board in the seventh and eighth innings, leaving Tampa Bay with only three outs to work with in the bottom of the ninth.

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Top 7th: Rally falters, but Vazquez comes through

The Red Sox couldn't come up with a big rally, but they didn't come up completely empty-handed in the top of the seventh either.

After Boston got two men on with a pair of leadoff singles, Hunter Renfroe grounded into his second double play of the night to leave only Alex Verdugo at third base. But Christian Vazquez singled down the right field line to drive Verdugo in, pushing the Red Sox back ahead three by a score of 9-6.

Ryan Brasier will enter the game for the Red Sox in the bottom of the seventh.

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Bottom 6th: Choi homers, Verdugo makes incredible catch

Ji-Man Choi hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to 8-6, but outside of that Tanner Houck completed an outstanding effort out of the bullpen to give the Red Sox a chance to win.

Prior to Choi's homer, Houck also benefitted from an outstanding catch in left field by Alex Verdugo, who leaned over the short wall to make the grab in foul territory near the left field pole. The home run itself was briefly reviewed after a fan reached over the fence to make the catch, but the umpires ruled the ball would have been gone anyway.

If Houck's day is indeed done, he will have gone five innings with only one run on two hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

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Top 5th: Martinez homers, Red Sox lead 8-5

J.D. Martinez's status has been up in the air all week. Since spraining his ankle on Sunday, the big question every day has been "can he play?"

Today, the answer was yes, and boy did he just deliver.

With the game tied 5-5 in the top of the fifth, Martinez smashed a three-run home run to dead centerfield, giving the Red Sox a 8-5 lead to complete a remarkable comeback.

Martinez's homer came after Kiké Hernández tied the game with a solo shot of his own to lead off the inning, and then Rafael Devers walked and Xander Bogaerts singled to set the table for the Red Sox slugger.

Overall, the Red Sox have now scored six unanswered runs since falling behind 5-2 in the bottom of the first. Red Sox pitchers have also retired 11 straight Rays hitters since Jordan Luplow's grand slam.

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Bottom 4th: Houck throws ninth consecutive perfect inning

Tanner Houck has achieved perfection! Kind of.

Dating back to his start against the Washington Nationals last weekend, the Red Sox rookie has now pitched nine consecutive perfect innings.

Houck was perfect through five on Saturday, threw a perfect seventh in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday and has now pitched three perfect innings in relief since coming on for Chris Sale in the second inning of tonight's Game 2.

It won't go down as a perfect game, obviously, but it's still quite impressive.

Overall Houck has tallied five strikeouts and stabilized things for the Red Sox after the Rays landed a huge blow early.

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Top 3rd: Bogaerts, Verdugo homer to cut deficit to 5-4

The Red Sox aren't going down without a fight.

After allowing five runs to fall behind by three in the bottom of the first, the Red Sox have punched back with back-to-back solo home runs in the top of the third.

Xander Bogaerts went deep to left field first, and then Alex Verdugo followed that up with a shot to right to cut the deficit to 5-4.

Rafael Devers also nearly homered in the inning, but his line drive to deep centerfield was caught by gold glove outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who made a leaping grab before crashing into the wall.

Rays rookie Shane Baz allowed Bogaerts' shot and was removed from the game after giving up three runs over 2.1 innings. Collin McHugh came on in relief and received a rude welcome from Verdugo.

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Bottom 1st: Rays 5, Red Sox 2

Chris Sale had a very bad day.

The Red Sox ace, who acknowledged Thursday that he's been struggling to rediscover his changeup, was effectively a two-pitch pitcher when he took the mound for Game 2. That made it far too easy for the Tampa Bay Rays, who teed off against him to surge in front for a 5-2 first inning lead.

Four of the Rays first five batters reached base, setting the table for Jordan Luplow to unload on a high 0-2 fastball for a grand slam. Yandy Diaz had an RBI single just before as well, and after Sale eventually got out of the inning his day was done.

Sale finished with one inning, five runs, four hits, a walk and two strikeouts. He threw 30 pitches and was subsequently replaced by Tanner Houck for the start of the second.

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Top 1st: Red Sox 2, Rays 0

After getting shut out in Game 1, the Red Sox offense wasted no time getting after the Rays early in Game 2, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

Five of the Red Sox first six batters reached base, with Kyle Schwarber walking on four pitches to start the rally before Kiké Hernández doubled to bring up runners at second and third.

Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo delivered back-to-back RBI singles off of Rays rookie Shane Baz, and J.D. Martinez singled to load the bases with one out.

But Baz escaped the jam without further incident, forcing Hunter Renfroe to ground into an inning-ending double play.

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Injury update: Richards out, Barnes in

Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Richards has suffered a left hamstring strain and won't be available to pitch for the remainder of the American League Divisional Series, the Red Sox announced on Friday.

Richards, who came on in relief and recorded one out to finish the second inning of Thursday's Game 1 loss, has been removed from the roster. Matt Barnes, the all-star closer who was initially left off the ALDS roster, has been added to take his place.

Major League Baseball approved the roster substitution, and by rule Richards won't be eligible to participate in the remainder of the ALDS or in the American League Championship Series if the Red Sox advance. He would be eligible to return for the World Series.

Richards finished the regular season with a 4.87 ERA but was much sharper after moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen. Following the switch Richards had a 3.42 ERA in 18 appearances out of the pen.

Barnes, meanwhile, was outstanding in the first half before falling off significantly over the final two months. From Aug. 7 onwards Barnes had an ERA of 10.13 in 16 appearances and struggled to get back to form after spending several weeks on the COVID-19 injured list.

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Game 2 Lineups: Martinez will start at DH

J.D. Martinez is back in the Red Sox lineup.

The Red Sox confirmed the designated hitter will be back in action for Game 2 of the ALDS about an hour prior to first pitch. Red Sox manager Alex Cora previously said Martinez would go through his pre-game routine before deciding whether or not he could go. He will bat sixth tonight.

Martinez had missed Boston's last two games since spraining his ankle in Sunday's regular season finale against Washington. The 34-year-old has been one of the club's most prolific power hitters, posting a .286 batting average with 28 home runs and 99 RBI.

Other changes to the lineup include Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff and Kiké Hernández batting second, flipping back to the AL Wild Card lineup from Tuesday night, and Alex Verdugo hitting fifth between Xander Bogaerts and Martinez.

The Red Sox and Rays full lineups are as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Christian Vazquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Chris Sale P

Rays

1. Randy Arozarena LF

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Brandon Lowe 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Yandy Diaz 3B

6. Jordan Luplow 1B

7. Manuel Margot RF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Kevin Kiermaier CF

10. Shane Baz P

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Verdugo says he could have got ball if not for catwalk

One of the biggest plays of Game 1 came when Rays slugger Nelson Cruz hit a fly ball off Tropicana Field's C-Ring catwalk, which by rule is a home run.

Settling underneath the ball at the time was Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo, and he said on Friday that if not for the catwalk he thinks he would have had a play on the ball.

"From my point of view it looked like the ball was going to get caught right up against the fence because I felt like I had a pretty good beat on it," Verdugo said. "I was drifting back just a little bit, but when it hit the catwalk, it was coming down, pretty significant drop.

"It wasn't really at that angle," Verdugo continued, making a sloping angle gesture to suggest a trajectory into the left field stands. "It was a steep drop, so I didn't think it was a home run like that, but obviously the rule is the rule. If it hits that catwalk, it's considered a homer. So nothing we can do about it."

Verdugo said he'd never seen a ball hit the catwalk at Tropicana Field before, or anywhere for that matter.

"It's just one of those things. It's a weird stadium," Verdugo said. "And, hey, he hit it, and give it to him."

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The next two-way player?

During his pregame remarks, Alex Verdugo also floated an interesting ambition he harbors: evidently he wants to become a two-way player.

"100%, yeah," Verdugo said. "I don't know if I'll pitch next year, but definitely by 2023 I want to try to just be a two-way. You know, not an Ohtani where he is starting and all that. I just want to be a reliever. Come in, help the boys out, something like that."

What would possibly compel Verdugo to think he could pull something like that off? He hasn't pitched since high school, but back then Verdugo was legitimately an excellent pitcher whose fastball topped out at 97 mph. In those days he was considered a genuine top pitching prospect, and many teams were reportedly torn on whether he should pitch or hit as a pro.

This isn't the first time Verdugo has expressed interest in pitching either. He did shortly after joining the Red Sox during a March 2020 interview with The Athletic just before the pandemic postponed spring training.

Then, as now, he insists he's serious.

"I know I got a ways to go, and my thing was give me a year or so to build up my arm strength, long toss and all that, make sure the arm can handle the hard throws and, hey, a couple of blowout games," Verdugo said on Friday. "If my stuff is good, if I'm getting swing and miss, why not run with it? If it's flat, average, and I'm not getting the job done, then hey, at least I said I tried it."

What does Verdugo's manager think of all this?

"We're like, no, you're not doing that," Alex Cora said when asked about the possibility.

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Cora offers praise for Rays rookie Baz

A day after getting shut down by one Rays rookie, the Red Sox are going to try and make sure it doesn't happen against a second.

Shane Baz, who was only recently called up to the big leagues in late September, will make his playoff debut on Friday when he starts Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series.

Though Baz has only had a handful of starts, Red Sox manager Alex Cora says he's been impressed by the 22-year-old.

"Very simple mechanics, very clean delivery, good fastball, good breaking ball, great athlete on the mound," Cora said. "He's one of those guys where you look and you're like wow, he plays the part as a pitcher. He's throwing the ball well for them."

Baz is the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Rays system and one of the top prospects in baseball. Since making his debut on Sept. 20 Baz has gone 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13.1 innings over three starts.

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No decision made on J.D. Martinez for Game 2

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday afternoon that J.D. Martinez (ankle) is feeling better and could potentially be in the lineup for Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cora said they are going to give Martinez more time to undergo treatment and go through his pre-game routine to see how he feels. If he's good to go, Martinez will start at designated hitter and Kyle Schwarber will be at first base. If not, Cora said Bobby Dalbec will be at first instead.

"He's going to let me know if he's good," Cora said. "We'll trust the player, obviously he's not going to lie to us, if he feels he can go at this level we'll go with him."

In addition to the update on Martinez, Cora also confirmed that Nathan Eovaldi will start Game 3 for the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday, and that Nick Pivetta will be a candidate to start Game 4 should the series go that far.

Cora did not provide any more details on Rafael Devers' arm, repeating his statement from Thursday night that no players are going to be 100% after 162 games.

Game 2 will begin at 7:02 p.m. and can be watched on FS1.

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Cora downplays concerns about Devers' arm

When Rafael Devers struck out on a 100 mph fastball from Rays rookie Shane McClanahan to end the first inning, something looked off.

Devers seemed to be uncomfortable afterwards, and observers speculated that he might have hurt his arm or wrist.

Was that so? Alex Cora downplayed any such concerns after the game.

"A few days ago everybody said he was showing up the pitcher whenever he drops the bat. Today because he didn't get a hit, he is hurt," Cora said. "It's a grind of 162, right? Things happen and you get treatment, and you grind, you know? Not everyone is 100% right now."

Even so, it does appear that Devers is dealing with something. According to a report by the Boston Globe, Devers has been dealing with discomfort in his forearm since the team's season-ending road trip, and the issue is a bigger problem on swings and misses than when Devers makes contact.

Devers was not made available to comment following the game.

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Tough luck for Red Sox offense

Despite getting shut out, the Red Sox actually hit the ball better than the numbers would suggest. They compiled nine hits over the course of the evening and saw numerous other hard hit balls turn into outs.

Bobby Dalbec probably had the worst luck of all, going 0 for 4 despite making hard contact three times. His first at bat he lined into a double play, the second was a frozen rope directly into the third baseman's glove, and the third was a deep fly ball to the warning track but playable for the right fielder.

Overall the Red Sox went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. The team also did not record a walk or an extra base hit, which went a long way towards the team's inability to scratch a run across the plate.

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Red Sox not bothered by goofy Tropicana ground rules

With it's pale grey roof and low-hanging catwalks, Tropicana Field is one of the most unique venues in Major League Baseball, and both teams got the full Tropicana Field experience in Game 1.

On three separate occasions players on both teams had difficulty locating fly balls against the dome's roof, and in the third inning Nelson Cruz hit a ball off the stadium's C-ring catwalk, which according to the stadium's ground rules is a home run.

Christian Arroyo, who previously played with the Rays, said he was surprised the ball hit the catwalk and that he thought Alex Verdugo would have a play on it, but once it did he and the others knew the deal.

"Obviously, that's always like a topic of discussion whenever you're coming to play here, but that's the ground rules," Arroyo said. "That's what they've set. It's part of it. It's the same thing when you get three strikes and you take a third strike, you're out. "

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FINAL: Rays 5, Red Sox 0

Randy Arozarena is really something else.

After scoring from first on a double and smashing a towering home run, Arozarena has topped himself yet again with a straight steal of home plate.

Standing at third after another Wander Franco double in the seventh, Arozarena took off against Red Sox lefty Josh Taylor and was two thirds of the way to the plate before Taylor had any idea what was happening. He was safe by a mile, putting the Rays up 5-0.

According to Rays PR, Arozarena is the first player with a straight steal of home since Javy Baez did it for the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS.

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Fifth inning: Arozarena homers, Rays lead 4-0

Randy Arozarena is at it again.

The breakout star of the 2020 postseason, who hit 10 home runs in Tampa Bay's World Series run, homered again in the fifth inning to extend the Rays' lead to 4-0.

Where Cruz's hit the catwalk, Arozarena's was a no-doubter. Statcast had the ball at 106.7 mph off the bat with a projected distance of 397 feet.

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Third inning: Cruz homers off Tropicana catwalk

Tropicana Field strikes again!

The indoor stadium's unique ground rules were in the spotlight when Rays slugger Nelson Cruz banged a towering fly ball off one of the dome's catwalks. Specifically, Cruz hit the C-ring catwalk, and any balls in fair territory hit off that are home runs.

The solo home run made it 3-0 for the Rays. The Red Sox have so far managed only two hits heading into the top of the fourth.

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Second inning: E-Rod pulled early

Eduardo Rodriguez's day is done.

The Red Sox starter lasted only 1.2 innings, allowing two runs and generally struggling against the aggressive Tampa Bay lineup.

He was pulled after recording five outs through nine batters, and he finished with two runs allowed on two hits and two walks with one strikeout. He threw just 41 pitches, 24 for strikes.

Garrett Richards recorded the final out of the inning. The Rays still lead 2-0 entering the third inning.

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First inning: Rays take 2-0 lead

Tampa Bay has drawn first blood.

The Rays took an early 2-0 lead over the Red Sox in the bottom of the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Wander Franco and an infield single by Yandy Diaz.

Randy Arozarena led off the inning with a walk and came all the way around to score from first on Franco's double. The Rays also benefitted from a miscue in center by Kiké Hernández, who bobbled the ball and took just long enough to collect it that Arozarena was able to score. Diaz then drove Franco in two batters later after legging out a slow roller to third, diving into the first base bag to beat Rafael Devers' throw.

Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan, meanwhile, was dominant in the top of the first. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced, including Devers to end the inning with a 100 mph heater.

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Iglesias, Barnes among nine-man "taxi squad"

During the playoffs every team is allowed to keep a "taxi squad" of nine players who are not on the active 26-man roster but who are available if the need arises.

Prior to Thursday's game, Red Sox general manager Brian O'Halloran confirmed the nine players who made the trip to St. Petersburg. They are:

* Jonathan Araúz, INF

* Matt Barnes, RHP

* Eduard Bazardo, RHP

* Jarren Duran, OF

* Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP

* Jose Iglesias, INF

* Charlie Madden, C

* Hirokazu Sawamura, RHP

* Connor Wong, C

The players who make the trip can be called upon in the event of injury or other unforeseen circumstances, but sometimes they are kept around the club for other reasons. For instance, Jose Iglesias is ineligible for the postseason because he joined the organization after Aug. 31 and can't play in any playoff game, but he is still around for his clubhouse presence after playing a major role in leading the team to the playoffs in September.

Madden, meanwhile, is a minor league catcher who has spent a significant time with the big league club as a bullpen catcher.

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MLB announces ALDS schedules

Major League Baseball has announced the full schedule for all four Divisional Series, including the previously unannounced start times for Games 4 and 5 if those games are necessary.

Should the series extend that far, Game 4 would be played Monday at 7:07 p.m. in Boston, and Game 5 would be played Wednesday at 5:07 p.m. in Tampa Bay. If it is the only game on the schedule, Game 5 could also be shifted to primetime and would start at 8:07 p.m.

A potential Game 4 would also take place on the same day as the 2021 Boston Marathon, which was postponed from its usual April date to this fall due to the pandemic. Traditionally the Red Sox play at 11 a.m. on Marathon Monday, but that will not be happening this year.

2021 American League Divisional Series — Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Game 1: at Tampa Bay, Thurs., Oct. 7, 8:07 p.m., FS1

Game 2: at Tampa Bay, Fri., Oct. 8, 7:02 p.m., FS1

Game 3: at Boston, Sun., 4:07 p.m., MLB Network

Game 4*: at Boston, Mon., 7:07 p.m., FS1

Game 5*: at Tampa Bay, Wed., 5:07 p.m., FS1

* If necessary

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J.D. Martinez not in lineup, available off bench

J.D. Martinez is not in the starting lineup for Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, but he is available off the bench and could be ready to start by series' end.

"He is available tonight. He is. Obviously four at-bats it's going to be hard probably, but he will keep getting treatment," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "If we need it in a big spot and in a situation that we feel is the right one, not only because of his bat, but where he's at physically, we'll use him."

Martinez is out of the lineup for the second straight game since spraining his ankle on Sunday. Cora said he is feeling much better, and depending on how he progresses he could also be back in the lineup as soon as Game 2.

Kyle Schwarber will start at designated hitter in his place and the Red Sox will use their traditional outfield alignment with Alex Verdugo in left, Kiké Hernández in center and Hunter Renfroe in right.

Christian Vazquez will get the start at catcher over Kevin Plawecki, with the Red Sox opting to keep Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez together despite the unfavorable righty/lefty matchup.

Hernández is back in the leadoff spot after batting second on Tuesday, and Kyle Schwarber has bumped down to the No. 2 spot after his leadoff cameo against the Yankees.

The full lineups for both teams are as follows:

Red Sox Lineup

1. Kiké Hernández CF

2. Kyle Schwarber DH

3. Xander Bogaerts SS

4. Rafael Devers 3B

5. Hunter Renfroe RF

6. Alex Verdugo LF

7. Bobby Dalbec 1B

8. Christian Vazquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

Rays Lineup

1. Randy Arozarena LF

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Brandon Lowe 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Yandy Diaz 3B

6. Jordan Luplow 1B

7. Manuel Margot RF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Kevin Kiermaier CF

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Red Sox announce 26-man rosters for ALDS

The Red Sox have announced their 26-man roster for the American League Divisional Series, and ailing designated hitter J.D. Martinez (sprained ankle) will be included.

In addition to Martinez, the Red Sox also included infielder Danny Santana, who was recently activated from the COVID-19 injured list. Chris Sale, who was not on the Wild Card roster due to having started the regular season finale two days earlier, is also back in the fold, and so is lefty relief pitcher Martin Perez.

There were also a handful of notable omissions.

Matt Barnes, who earned an all-star nod after a brilliant first half as Boston's closer, was left off the ALDS roster. So were fellow relievers Hirokazu Sawamura and Darwinzon Hernandez, neither of whom was on the Wild Card roster either.

Rookies Jarren Duran, Jonathan Araúz and Connor Wong, all of whom were on the Wild Card roster, were left off for the ALDS.

Here are the Red Sox and Rays complete 26-man ALDS rosters:

Red Sox

* Pitchers (13): Ryan Brasier, Austin Davis, Nathan Eovaldi, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards, Hansel Robles, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Josh Taylor, Garrett Whitlock

* Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vazquez

* Infielders (5): Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw

* Outfielders (4): J.D. Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo

* Infielder/Outfielders (2): Kiké Hernández, Danny Santana

Rays

* Pitchers (13): Shane Baz, JT Chargois, Pete Fairbanks, J.P. Feyereisen, Josh Fleming, Andrew Kittredge, Shane McClanahan, Collin McHugh, Luis Patino, Drew Rasmussen, David Robertson, Michael Wacha, Matt Wisler

* Catchers (2): Francisco Mejia, Mike Zunino

* Infielders (5): Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Joey Wendle

* Outfielders (5): Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier, Jordan Luplow, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows

* Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz

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E-Rod, McClanahan coming in hot

When Eduardo Rodriguez and Shane McClanahan take the mound in Game 1 of the ALDS tonight, both will come in riding a considerable hot streak dating back nearly a month.

Over his last five appearances (four starts) Rodriguez has put together some of his best performances of the season. He's gone 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA while posting 26 strikeouts against eight walks over 21.1 innings, and on Sunday he came out of the bullpen to pitch a perfect eighth inning, helping the Red Sox punch their ticket to the playoffs.

McClanahan, meanwhile, is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA over his last four starts, striking out 16 batters against four walks over 18 innings.

The two starters also have an interesting postseason history to draw from.

Rodriguez has pitched in eight postseason games in his career, but he's only started one. That was Game 4 of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he allowed four runs over 5.2 innings while striking out six. The Red Sox would go on to win the game 9-6 and clinched the title the following night.

McClanahan actually made his major league debut in the playoffs last year, making four appearances out of the bullpen during the Rays run to the World Series.

Given how he missed all of 2020 due to COVID-19 related complications, Rodriguez said having the opportunity to start Game 1 is special.

"It means a lot, you know, because everything that I went through last year and I have the opportunity to throw the first inning in the ALDS, it feels really good," Rodriguez said. "It's just special. I feel like it's really special for me to have the opportunity to start a game like that."

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Rays manager Cash reflects on time as teammate with Cora

Before Alex Cora and Kevin Cash became rival managers with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively, the pair were teammates with the Red Sox and helped the club win 2007 World Series.

Prior to the start of their big showdown in this week's American League Divisional Series, Cash was asked by reporters about his relationship with Cora dating back to their playing days and how it has evolved over the years.

"He is a great teammate. It was special to be a part of that group," Cash said. "Obviously there was a superstar caliber team in '07 and '08. Came up a little short here against the Rays. Wouldn't mind seeing that happen again at this point.

"But as far as Alex is concerned, you know, just very informed, very intelligent, baseball intelligent, people-smart. There was a group of us with Alex, Mike Lowell, Sean Casey, and I tried to just be a sponge and learn as much as possible from umpteen years of knowledge, and we can all appreciate how their careers have taken on. Some are doing media, and some are managing. Alex has done a really good job."

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Eduardo Rodriguez will start Game 1

When the Boston Red Sox open the American League Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Game 1.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed Rodriguez would start the series opener shortly after the team arrived in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. He also indicated Chris Sale will most likely start Game 2, and Nick Pivetta will start the series in the bullpen.

"He has been throwing the ball well. We think it's a good matchup," Cora said of Rodriguez. "Obviously with them you have to mix and match. They're going to look for an advantage and all that. We'll have Nick in the bullpen tomorrow, and we'll do what we do."

Rodriguez finished the regular season with a 13-8 record and a 4.74 ERA, but he's been much steadier in the second half, posting a 3.71 ERA after the All-Star Break. Most recently he threw five shutout innings to beat the Washington Nationals last Friday and then pitched a scoreless eighth in Sunday's regular season finale.

Against Tampa Bay, Rodriguez went 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA in four starts. The best of those was a six-inning gem in which he shut the Rays out at the height of the team's COVID-19 outbreak on Sept. 2. The worst came in his very next start, when the Rays tagged him for six runs in 3.2 innings the following week at Fenway Park.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash announced that two rookies will start the opening games against the Red Sox. Shane McClanahan will take the hill for Game 1 and Shane Baz, who was only just called up to the major leagues about two weeks ago, will get the ball for Game 2.

McClanahan finished his first year in the big leagues with a 10-6 record, a 3.43 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 123.1 innings. He actually made his MLB debut during the playoffs last year, making four appearances out of the bullpen during Tampa Bay's World Series run.

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No word on J.D. Martinez

The two teams have not yet finalized their full ALDS rosters, which are due to the league by Thursday morning. The big question for the Red Sox is whether or not J.D. Martinez (ankle) will be available.

Cora indicated Martinez is feeling a little better, but it is still too soon to tell if he will be able to play in the series.

"He is doing okay. He is moving around. We'll see what he can do today," Cora said. "The goal is for him to do a few things today physically and, you know, we'll make a decision obviously tomorrow morning."

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