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Red Sox' good times come to crashing halt in Game 1

Rob Bradford
October 14, 2018 - 12:13 am

The Red Sox got beat twice Saturday night, once by the Astros and once by themselves.

The last time we saw Alex Cora and his club prior to Game 1 of the American League Championship Series all was right with their world. Chris Sale looked sharp while serving as eighth-inning savior. Eduardo Nunez had just made a game-saving play to end the Yankees' season. And Alex Cora could do no wrong.

Then came the Astros.

Houston is perceived as the most talented team left in the postseason field, so there really is no need to give it any extra help. But that's what the Red Sox did in dropping a 7-2 decision to the Astros. And, along the way, the magic that had carried them to this round exited as fast as it arrived. (For a complete recap, click here.)

For starters, Sale looked oddly mortal. His pitching line was, to be kind, bizarre. He did give up just two runs over his four innings while allowing just one hit. But there were those four walks and the plunking of Houston's No. 8 hitter, Martin Maldonado. And, of course, all those balls. The lefty threw 86 pitches, 36 of which were balls. After his 58th pitch he had thrown fewer than 50 percent strikes. His velocity? While he managed to max out 96 mph, his average fastball sat at 92 mph.

And throughout all his issues, Sale still could have escaped without giving up a single run if Eduardo Nunez makes what appeared very makeable play on George Springer's bases-loaded, two-out grounder. It was a far cry from the defense flashed by the third baseman in Yankee Stadium.

Yet even with Houston starter Justin Verlander dealing through the first four innings, and Sale giving way to Joe Kelly for the fifth inning, the Red Sox were still in it. And then when Verlander inexplicably started with his own bout of wildness -- forcing in a run on a walk to pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland before giving up a run-scoring groundout off the bat of Mookie Betts -- things were all tied up heading into the sixth.

But Nunez's defensive nightmares weren't over.

After Kelly led off the frame by hitting Alex Bregman with a pitch, the Red Sox third baseman botched what might have been a 5-4-3 double play on a grounder from Yuli Gurriel, dropping the ball on the transfer out of his glove. What he paved the way for was the eventual game-winning RBI, coming on Carlos Correa's two-out single into left-center field.


While Houston's bullpen was doing what they have been doing, this time courtesy Ryan Pressly, Lance McCullers Jr. and Collin McHugh, Brandon Workman came in for the eighth and allowed four runs on two homers to officially put even more pressure on Game 2 starter David Price.

Oh, don't think Cora escaped unscathed.

While every lineup decision he made in New York seemed to be spot-on, the choice to go with Nunez at third and Brock Holt at second base did not bode well. Besides Nunez's miscues, Holt went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. And, after Andrew Benintendi ended the Red Sox' rally in the fifth by watching a called third strike with the bases loaded and a full count, Cora got tossed by home plate umpire James Hoye.