Boston looks to bounce back in must-win Game 6 after Astros’ big win at Fenway

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox were pushed to the brink of elimination on Wednesday night as they lost big to the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Leading 1-0 entering the sixth inning, Houston exploded for five runs, breaking the game open en route to a 9-1 win.

The loss means the Red Sox will head to Houston trailing in the series, three games to two. They’ll have to win Friday’s Game 6 to stay alive in the postseason and set up a winner-take-all Game 7 on Saturday.

Chris Sale was one batter away from a great outing on Wednesday, striking out seven across 5.1 innings of work and yielding one run on just two hits. But then came Yordan Alvarez with one out and two on in the sixth.

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The designated hitter batting cleanup, Alvarez had already done damage off of Sale in the second inning when he crushed a solo homer into the monster seats. He also had the only other hit allowed by Sale up to that point: a single to left field. Despite the previous at-bats against the hulking DH, Cora stuck with Sale. And despite having a base open, the intentional walk was not used. Both proved the Red Sox’ downfall.

On the first pitch of the at-bat – a 95 mph four-seam fastball – Alvarez roped a two-run double into left field, scoring both runners and pushing the Houston lead to 3-0. Sale came out, Ryan Brasier came in, but the bleeding did not stop for Boston. Two batters later, Yurri Gurriel doubled in a pair of runs. The next man up, Jose Siri, also plated two runs on a bleeding single to right.

When all was said and done in the sixth, Houston lead 6-0. An inning later they led 7-0 on an RBI single by Michael Brantley. In the ninth, they’d keep the theme rolling by taking a 9-1 lead on a two-run single by Gurriel.

The lone Boston run of the night came on a towering Rafael Devers homer to right field in the eighth inning. It was the third and final hit of the game for the Red Sox, whose offense has disappeared since back-to-back outbursts against Houston pitching in Games 2 and 3.

The hometown team was no-hit – in fact, they didn’t even reach base – through the first four innings. When they did get runners on base, the Red Sox found ways to not bring them home.

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With two on and no one out in the fifth, Hunter Renfroe hit into a double play before Alex Verdugo rolled one over to first to end the threat. Renfroe would hit into another inning-killing double play in the bottom of the seventh too. In the sixth inning, after Christian Vazquez hit a one-out double, Boston followed up with a pair of flyouts.

For Houston, starter Framber Valdez turned in a gem: eight full innings, one earned run, five strikeouts and just three hits allowed.

Now the series returns to Houston, where Boston returned from this past weekend with their hopes high following a two-game split. This time around they’ll have to sweep both games against the ‘Stros if they’re to return to the World Series. If not, this magical run will strike midnight.

But the players and manager Alex Cora said they’ve been here before, and they’re treating it like the Wild Card Game.

“You take it one day at a time, of course, clinch-wise,” Cora said. “We got to win the next game - and it’s not the first time we’ve been in this situation - that is a must-win. We did it in 162, and we did it in the Wild Card Game. Instead of seeing that there are two games, let’s take care of game one. We’ve done it before. You take care of that one, and then you move forward to the next one. We’ll be ready for the next one. We’ll be ready. We’ll make adjustments and play better.”

Boston’s bats have gone cold since Game 2 and Game 3, where they batted in a total of 21 runs, including three grand slams. Now it seems the roles have been reversed, and Houston’s bats are heating up.

The Astros scored 15 unanswered runs before Devers’ lonely home run in the eighth Wednesday. But the team is staying focused, putting Nathan Eovaldi on the mound to start Game 6 Friday night. The players also noted that in the 2018 ALCS, they won three games in Houston.

“I feel like this is a team, that this is our story,” said Sox slugger J. D. Martinez. “We’ve been written off all year. Nobody, I don’t think anyone in here either, thought we were going to be here. To that, we know what we’re capable of, and I think no one is not believing in themselves or not believing in our team that we can go out there and go off, you know? We split. We won two in a row. They won two in a row. Do you know? So, it’s possible.

The team will be at Fenway Thursday morning to pack up and then leave at 1 p.m. Boston 25′s Butch Stearns is reporting that, once they land in Houston, they will not be working out.

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Live Updates:

8:45 p.m.: Red Sox fall to Houston, 9-1, at Fenway. They’ll face a do-or-die Game 6 in Houston on Friday.

8:30 p.m.: Gurriel collects two more RBIs, knocking a 2-run single into center in the ninth. 9-1 Astros.

7:35 p.m.: Devers makes it 7-1 Houston after hitting a long homer to right field.

7:20 p.m.: Michael Brantley brings home Jose Altuve on an RBI double to center. 7-0 Astros.

7:00 p.m.: A two-run double by Yurri Gurriel pushed the lead to 4-0 before a bloop single to right by Jose Siri brought home two more runs to give the Astros a 6-0 lead.

6:48 p.m.: Alvarez drops a two-run double down the left-field line to push the Houston lead to 3-0. And that’s the last batter for Sale, as he is lifted with one out in the sixth.

6:40 p.m.: After a double play puts the tying run at third, a groundout to first by Alex Verdugo keeps the Sox off the board headed to the sixth.

6:35 p.m.: Rafael Devers breaks up Framber Valdez’ perfect game to open the bottom of the fifth, roping a single into RF.

6:15 p.m.: Chris Sale strikes out the side in the fourth inning, stranding runners on the corners as he screams following the final out of the inning. 1-0 Houston still as we head to the home half of the frame.

5:40 p.m.: One Sox fan made a tremendous catch in the crowd after Rafael Devers’ bat shattered and flew into the Fenway seats.

5:27 p.m.: Yordan Alvarez takes Chris Sale deep in the second inning to give Houston an early 1-0 lead.

5:08 p.m.: Jose Altuve flies out to left on the first pitch of the evening and Game 5 has begun in Boston!

1 p.m.: The pitching matchup for Game 5 will be a rematch of Game 1 with Chris Sale slated to toe the rubber for Boston and Framber Valdez to do so for the Astros.

Valdez surrendered three runs - two of them earned - in 2.2 innings in Game 1 while Sale also went 2.2 innings, giving up just one earned run on five hits while striking out two.

For Sale, it will be the lanky lefty’s first start at Fenway Park since September 22, where he earned a win against the Mets.

12:45 p.m.: The lineups are set ahead of a pivotal Game 5 in the ALCS. Here’s who the Red Sox will roll out:

  1. Kiké Hernandez, 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

And here’s how Houston will set their lineup for Game 5:

  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. Martín Maldonado, C

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