5 takeaways as Red Sox fall in Game 1 of the ALCS despite Kiké Hernández’s heroics – Boston.com

5 takeaways as Red Sox fall in Game 1 of the ALCS despite Kiké Hernández’s heroics  Boston.com


Red Sox

The Red Sox will look to avoid a 2-0 hole with Nathan Eovaldi starting on Saturday.

Boston Red Sox’s Xander Bogaerts reacts after striking out against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Here are the takeaways as the Red Sox couldn’t capitalize on one of the best games of Kiké Hernández’s career, falling 5-4 in Game 1 of the ALCS to the Astros.

The Big Picture

Chris Sale — whose start in Game 1 was somewhat surprising — wasn’t sharp, but he gave up just one run in his 2 2/3 innings of work. Before Sale left the mound, Red Sox manager Alex Cora pounded him on the chest and appeared to deliver an inspiring speech as Sale nodded along.

The Red Sox couldn’t get themselves on the board despite consistent traffic on the basepaths until the third inning, when Kiké Hernández launched a lead-off homer that evened the score. The Red Sox plated another run on José Altuve’s fielding error and a third on Hunter Renfroe’s RBI double.

Advertisement:

Both offenses went cold, leaving plenty of runners on base, and the Red Sox held their advantage until the sixth inning. But in the bottom of the frame, Chas McCormick singled with one out. José Altuve then took advantage of a pitching mistake by Tanner Houck and ripped a 382-foot homer that evened the score.

The next inning, the Astros struck again — the time on a solo homer by Carlos Correa to left.

The Red Sox narrowly missed taking the lead back in the eighth with two outs when Travis Shaw hit a deep drive to the warning track, but the Astros added an insurance run when Altuve hit a sacrifice fly to center.

That insurance run proved crucial — Kiké Hernández blasted his second homer of the game to lead off the ninth inning, which trimmed the deficit to one. But the 2-3-4 hitters in the Red Sox’s lineup — Kyle Schwarber, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers — grounded out one after the other to end the game.

Stars of the Game

José Altuve — 1-for-3, three RBIs, two runs, HR, walk.

The Astros’ offense struggled enormously to push runners all the way around the base paths until Altuve’s homer. The second baseman also lofted the fly ball to center that gave the Astros their insurance run.

Advertisement:

Kiké Hernández — 4-for-5, two RBIs, two runs, two HRs, double

Ordinarily, we don’t do losing players here, but how can you not include Hernández? Not only was his stat line ridiculous (he missed hitting for the cycle with his homer in the ninth), he made several crucial plays in the outfield that prevented the Astros from pulling away further. Hernandez’s two homers combined to travel nearly 875 feet.

What It Means

The Red Sox missed a golden opportunity to steal a game after Sale struggling on the mound early. A win would have given them a lead in the series with Nathan Eovaldi starting in Game 2 and Sale available for any future outings.

The Red Sox still have Eovaldi and Sale, but now they will try to avoid a nerve-wracking 2-0 series deficit Saturday afternoon.

Takeaways

1. Even though he only pitched 2.2 innings in Game 1, Sale told reporters he felt better than he did during his last two outings.

However Sale felt, he still struggled — allowing five hits and a walk while hitting a batter. He would have given up more runs — maybe quite a few more — if it weren’t for Hernández’s diving snag in the second inning.

Advertisement:

Still, Cora agreed with Sale’s assessment, adding that Sale found another gear at a crucial moment with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second.

“He wants to go deeper into the game,” Cora said. “Where we were with bullpen and with the matchups that we had, we felt like that was the right time to take him out. I do believe he threw the ball a lot better, so he’ll be ready for his next one. This guy, we count on him, and I think he made some good strides today.”

2. At a quick glance at Friday’s box score, it might be difficult to tell which group of names is the batting order and which is the pitching rotation. Both the Red Sox and Astros used eight pitchers total. Both starters went 2 2/3 innings, and besides Astros reliever Cristian Javier (2 IP), no pitcher went more than a full inning.

Per the FOX broadcast, Friday’s four-plus hour game set a record for the most pitchers used in a single playoff game as part of a seven-game series.

“It’s hard, but we’ve done it before,” Cora said after the game. “Of course, we want our starters to go deeper in the game, but we feel like today we were very close to pulling this off.”

3. The Red Sox’ hitting numbers don’t look particularly bad (10 hits in 35 official at-bats), but if you subtract Hernández’s 4-for-5 outing, the stats are less friendly. Winning games when Schwarber, Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez are a combined 3-for-16 (.188) at the plate won’t be easy, especially against the Astros.

Advertisement:

Hernández can only make up (roughly) 1/9th of the Red Sox’ at-bats. He kept them within striking distance on Friday, but they can’t expect him to go 4-for-5 with two homers again. Hernández is on fire but he could use some help.

4. Further evidence of the Red Sox’s struggles at the plate: They left nine runners stranded. The bases were loaded when Hunter Renfroe flew out to center in the first inning, and Christian Arroyo’s strikeout in the third stranded runners on second and third.

The Astros left nine runners stranded as well, so the issues abounded across the board. Still, the Red Sox missed some crucial opportunities that might be painful to relive knowing that they lost Game 1 by a single run.

5. Cora raised some eyebrows in the eighth by bringing in Danny Santana to bat for Hunter Renfroe (Santana put together a good at-bat but eventually struck out), and then again by bringing in little-used reliever Hirokazu Sawamura (Sawamura loaded the bases but gave up just one run).

Questioning Cora’s decision-making in the postseason given his absurd 15-5 record is foolish, of course, but neither decision in the eighth inning paid any real dividends.

6. After longtime teammates Altuve and Correa drove in all of the Astros’ runs, manager Dusty Baker drew a comparison that might not sit well with Red Sox fans.

Like the Patriots in their recent meeting with Brady, the Red Sox had plenty of chances including an opportunity late, but ultimately lost by one.

Advertisement:

Unlike the Patriots, however, the Red Sox get a Game 2.