BOSTON – When Jose Altuve came to bat in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday night, the boos from the Fenway Park crowd scarcely registered, a stark contrast to the full-throated cries of dissent that greeted the Houston Astros second baseman during his previous plate appearances here.
As he dug into the batter’s box, a pair of fans directed a profane chant toward Altuve, a refrain that gained significant traction in Games 3 and 4 of this American League Championship Series.
Altuve ended the game with a single line drive.
It’s quite likely these Astros will never snuff out the boos, quiet the complaints and regain their good name among a vast majority of baseball fans. The Astros won the American League Championship Series by winning two games. This was a remarkable display of baseball and put them in the lead for a third World Series in five years.
In Game 5 of the Boston Red Sox series, Altuve and Yordan Alvarez were the victorious. The diminutive second baseman ignited a five-run rally, with an aggressive run in baserunning. Alvarez put on a magnificent hitting show, driving three bases the other way, over, off, and below the Green Monster.
With left-hander Framber Valdez retiring the first 12 Red Sox hitters and galvanizing Houston’s emaciated pitching staff with eight innings of three-hit artistry, the Astros got out of town with a crisp 9-1 victory in front of 37,599, quite possibly the final gathering at Fenway this year.
Astros return to friendlier terrain with a 3-2 ALCS lead and two chance to win the pennant. The Astros begin their journey Friday at Minute Maid Park.
They earned that advantage with a 10-inning blitz that began in Game 4, when Altuve’s eighth-inning home run tied the score just six outs before Boston would claim a 3-1 ALCS advantage. The series tied 9-2 with a seven-run, two-out rally in the ninth.
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ALCS ‘Fenway Baby’ steals the show during Game 4
Wednesday’s rout completed the 24-hour barrage in this series of split personalities: Boston outscored the Astros 21-8 in Games 2 and 3, only for the Astros to respond with an 18-3 aggregate in winning Games 4 and 5.
“This was in this hands of Framber, and really in the hands of Alvarez,” says manager Dusty Baker. Then everyone contributed their time and helped.”
George Foreman, a Houston native and ex-heavyweight champion might find it particularly interesting to fight in an eight-batter-long sixth-inning bout.
Altuve opened the game with a leadoff slug against Chris Sale. Chris Sale was batting.298 and had only allowed two hits. Altuve struck out seven.
He would be overthrown by the Astros.
Altuve hit for second base with Michael Brantley at the plate. Brantley then went to Rafael Devers third baseman, and Brantley grounded a pitch. Devers charged and took the throw across. Altuve failed in his stride with Boston and zoomed to the third baseman.
The daring dash possibly caught the eye of Boston’s Kyle Schwarber, who’s developed into a serviceable first baseman but still had just 11 career starts there entering the postseason.
Schwarber also dropped the ball.
Alex Cora, Red Sox manager said Schwarber “looked at him” and that was probably the reason he dropped it. Altuve kept moving and most likely looked up when the throw happened.
A batter later, Alvarez – who homered off Sale in the second inning – pounced. Alvarez steered a fastball from Sale at 95 mph to left field. It landed in the corner, bringing a 2-run run and a 3-0 lead.
Alvarez basically destroyed Sale’s season. Sale was otherwise a great player. Alvarez’s lefty swinger is a key component of last season’s Astros loss. Alvarez had knee problems and the Astros fell short of the AL pennant.
Astros’ first baseman Yuli Guriel speaks through an interpreter. “The only thing I am surprised by about Yordan” he said. It is amazing how talented it was to hit the ball like this against the Sale lefty.
“I can’t remember seeing anybody do it with that kind of strength.”
Alvarez’s double stretched the lead to 3-0 and finished Sale after 5 ⅓ innings, but the Astros only proceeded to prove how hard they are to eradicate.
The ninth-inning Game 4 rally was won with two outs. So, too would the Game 5 pile on. It proved what you can do when the ball is in play. A Kyle Tucker single, Gurriel opposite field dunker for RBI double, and a rookie Jose Siri two-run home run double.
It was 6-1, and by night’s end, Houston would increase its two-out postseason run total to 41, already ranking sixth in playoff history.
Baker states, “If your contact is not made you won’t be able to get those two out hits.” Put the ball in play to make it possible for anything.
Valdez didn’t need most of the support.
This postseason saw the curveball wizard finally show up, and he became the first to go eight innings in the 2021 playoffs. He struck out five Red Sox, induced double plays in the fifth and seven innings and restored dignity to Houston’s starters. Valdez began this series with a slog of an outing – 2 2/3 innings in Game 1. Luis Garcia’s next outing was a single-inning effort. Jose Urquidy (five innings) and Zack Greinke (4 innings, respectively), were the games 3 and 4.
He effectively reset the Astros’ overworked bullpen, making for an undeniably happy flight back to Houston – where history is ready to be made, haters be damned.
“We came back to Boston exactly where we wanted to be: We were 1-1,” said Sale. “Not in a good spot going back to Houston. There’s no denying that, but this team has won two games in the playoffs back-to-back before, and we think we can do it again.”
Baker and the Astros are however in much better shape.
“Now, we are playing for a Split and hopefully the Split comes in Game 6.”
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