USA Today Sports

Red Sox one win from the World Series after wild, heart-stopping victory over Astros

Rob Bradford
October 18, 2018 - 1:22 am

HOUSTON -- Resilience. Swagger. Luck. Whatever. These Red Sox have owned so many labels when it comes to explaining how they've reached the point in October they find themselves.

Wednesday night (and early Thursday morning) Alex Cora's team needed every last quality in Game 4 of the American League Championship. And guess what? Through what might have sometimes seemed like a 4-hour, 33-minute slogfest, the Red Sox summoned every fabric of their makeup to find themselves one win away from the World Series.

This 8-6 win over the Astros wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. And it certainly wasn't how the Sox likely were planning on drawing it up. But because of all of that, it should have been one of the most admirable postseason victories in some time. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Rarely does one final play tell the entire story, but in this case ...

With the bases loaded, Alex Bregman swung at the first pitch he saw from a struggling Craig Kimbrel. The ball exited the right-handed hitter's bat at an exit velocity at 86.3 mph with a hit probability of 79 percent, sinking fast in front of left fielder Andrew Benintendi. But Benintendi found just enough speed and instincts to dive in time to make the final out of what was the Red Sox' latest defining moment.

In short, this was the ultimate mettle-tester.

This was a game their starter, Rick Porcello, had very little in the tank, as was evidenced by leaving with a 5-4 deficit.

It was a night the took the lead twice in the middle innings, the second time in the fifth inning while the Red Sox were having to reluctantly lean on a weathered bullpen.

There was the latest round of discomfort when Craig Kimbrel allowed a run in the eighth before stranding a pair of runners, before having his episode in the ninth. (All the while David Price was warming up in the bullpen.)

Add in a crowd that could sense the desperation of their world champs, pushing the Astros along in the kind of fashion that made every one of the visitors' miscues feel magnified, and this had all the makings of an even series for a lesser team. The Red Sox proved in Game 3 they are not a lesser team.

The resilience? Try piecing together 27 outs with Porcello, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez (1 batter), Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, and Kimbrel. And doing so while having to have little consideration for who actually might replace Chris Sale as the Game 5 starter Thursday night.

The swagger? With the Minute Maid Park crowd in full throat, the Red Sox offense fought out of a pair of deficits against three highly-touted arms -- Josh James, Ryan Pressly and Lance McCullers Jr. -- in the Houston bullpen, totaling five runs against the trio. The biggest blow of the bunch? Easily, Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-run homer on James' last pitch of the night. It was a changeup from the guy who was hitting 102 mph on the gun and gave the Sox a lead they would never relinquish.

The luck? That's easy. When Joe West's ruling that a fan had interfered with Jose Altuve's home run, not allowing Mookie Betts to make what would have been a spectacular catch over the right-field fence. The play went to review and upheld, but that didn't stop the social media debate. (For more on that play, click here.)

The whatever? That would probably be the entire package that led this team to 114 wins. 

The Red Sox are making a team so many classified as the most talented club in the major leagues look flawed and tight. That's to this point.

This thing is far from over. Houston has Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole ready to go in the next two games. Things can turn in a hurry, just ask Milwaukee.

But for now, things haven't changed a bit for these Red Sox.