The 2018 ALCS has officially been wrapped up, with the Boston Red Sox knocking off the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros in only 5 games. Boston's fire power was on full display Thursday night; lead by starting pitcher David Price.
Despite a strong outing in Game 2, Price was still searching for his first career postseason victory, with a career record of 0-9 in 11 postseason starts. Taking on Justin Verlander, it looked as though Price and the Red Sox would be in for a tough fought battle; especially considering they only managed 2 runs on 3 hits against Verlander in Game 1.
Not much occurred offensively through the first 2 innings, as both Price and Verlander looked dialed in and destined for a strong outing. However, the bats didn't stay quiet for too long, as JD Martinez hit a deep homerun off JV in the top of the 3rd, to give the Bo Sox a 1-0 lead.
By the time the 6th inning rolled around, the Astros still hadn't been able to string together multiple hits in the same inning off of Price. Verlander had certainly settled down after the long ball by Martinez, but back to back hits to lead off the 6th by Mitch Moreland and Ian Kinsler brought Rafael Devers to the dish, and he turned on a first pitch fastball from Verlander, hitting a 3 run bomb to increase the lead to 4-0.
Price was taken out before the start of the 7th, but had absolutely carved the Astros star-studded lineup through 6 scoreless innings, punching out 9 and only allowing 3 hits. The lefty exited the game with a solid lead in tact; due largely in part to his ability to change speeds with his fastball and changeup. In Game 2, Price utilized his four-seam fastball 31% of the time, his two-seamer 35%, cutter 23%, and changeup 11%. While he has some nice movement on his fastballs, the fact that 89% of his pitches thrown were around the same speed and on the same plane, likely made it easier for the Astros to read. Thursday night however, his pitches were used 27%, 19%, 15%, and 37% respectively. The increase from 11% to 37% is drastic, especially considering it is his only off-speed pitch, and was a huge driver behind his 9 K's on the night. (stats from Mike Petriello)
From the other dugout, Verlander also ended up going 6 innings, but his stat line was less than ideal, allowing 7 hits and 4 runs, including 2 homeruns, while only striking out 4. Not exactly the numbers you would hope for from your ace in a do-or-die game.
Matt Barnes, who came out of the Red Sox pen to start the 7th, recorded 2 outs before giving up a solo shot to Marwin Gonzalez, and was then taken out for Nathan Eovaldi. The Gonzalez homerun seemed to spark the Houston bench, however Eovaldi recorded the next 4 outs without giving up a baserunner, to send the game to the 9th.
Roberto Osuna, coming off a couple rough appearances, minimized the Red Sox damage, as he got the Astros through the 7th, 8th, and 9th unscathed. Osuna recorded 3 K's while only giving up 1 hit.
Craig Kimbrel was given the task of recording the save for the Red Sox in the 9th, and made quick work of the Astros by striking out Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez, and getting Tony Kemp to fly out, all on only 14 pitches; despite walking Yuli Gurriel in the same inning.
Final score of Game 5 was 4-1 Red Sox, giving them the 4-1 series win, and advancing them to the World Series for the first time since 2013. Jackie Bradley Jr. was awarded ALCS MVP, despite only going 3-15 at the dish, he posted a ludacris 9 RBI, and cashed the winning run in both Game 2 and Game 4.
The Astros bats just never showed up to the extent that they are capable of. George Springer had a fairly strong series, however the lack of collective hits from Altuve, Bregman, Correa, Gonzalez, Gurriel, etc ultimately was part of the demise of the Astros' World Series aspirations. Their pitching wasn't great aside from Game 1 from Verlander, and they certainly would've hoped for fewer runs against while Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Roberto Osuna were on the bump.
I touched on David Price earlier, but he must feel so much better after finally recording a postseason victory. It was the knock on him in Tampa, and Detroit, and Toronto, and Boston... until last night at least. Moving forward, if he mixes his speeds like he did on Thursday, the Red Sox will get much better outings from Price.
Alex Cora, the first year manager of the Red Sox, got to celebrate the ALCS win on his birthday yesterday. He makes some interesting decisions when it comes to his lineup and bullpen usage, however I loved the move to use Eovaldi out of the pen tonight. He didn't feel confident in the arms of Joe Kelly, Matt Brasier, or Eduardo Rodriguez; maybe because of matchups or maybe because of the large magnitude of usage already this postseason. Regardless of what the reasoning was, he called on Eovaldi, who despite throwing over 90 pitches Tuesday night, came out of the pen still throwing over 101mph and recorded 4 outs for the Sox. Why not bring out your best hard throwing righty when the game is still close... love the move.
Overall, it was an entertaining series, but I would have loved to see the Astros put up a better fight, and they've all been quick to admit that they did not play nearly as well as they could have. Regardless, the Red Sox will be representing the American League in the World Series against either the Dodgers or the Brewers, when it all gets started at Fenway Park on Tuesday October the 23rd.