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The Red Sox season is over following their 5-0 loss in Game 6 of the ALCS to the Astros.
There can be several fingers pointed as to why the Red Sox season ended after they went up 2-1 in the series, but the one fact is this: they scored just three runs in the final three games of the series.
More specifically, they scored just one run over the final 26 innings of the series as Xander Bogaerts’s two-run home run came in the first inning of Game 4, which were their only runs in that game.
During that game is where Red Sox manager Alex Cora believes the series changed. After Astros starter Zack Greinke pitched just 1 1/3 innings in Game 4, right-handed reliever Cristian Javier threw three scoreless innings starting in the third.
As a matter of fact, the Astros threw four righties out of the bullpen for the final seven innings of Game 4 to hold the Red Sox scoreless. Cora credits Astros catcher Martin Maldonado for the game he called behind the plate with a righty on the mound for why the series changed so quickly.
“They made adjustments,” Cora said. “Their catcher is really good. He’s really good. He did it last year. He’s done it in previous years. He gets out of his script and that’s something that’s very impressive. Obviously, teams pitch to the blue and the red and whatever — they pitch to the blue. He gets out of the script when he feels he has to do it.
“It was halfway through Game 4 I felt that they were changing. They used their fastballs in different spots — their righties especially, their righties. We just were unable to catch up with the fastball. They expanded obviously, with the sliders, they always do that. I do believe, halfway through that game, we were unable to catch up with the fastball and that’s why we didn’t score runs.”
The Red Sox’ issues against Astros righties continued in Game 5. Boston was no-hit by Houston starter Luis Garcia for the first 5 2/3 innings on Friday, with its only runners coming on a first-inning strikeout with a wild pitch by Kyle Schwarber and a second-inning walk by Alex Verdugo.
A big reason for why the Red Sox’ bats might have been cold was due to the fact that Garcia’s fastball was the fastest it’s ever been as he recorded the five fastest pitches of his career in Game 6. His fastball’s average speed on Friday was 96 mph, nearly three mph faster than his season average (93.3 mph).
“Offensively, we didn’t do enough. Their guy was really good,” Cora said of Garcia. “Velocity was up again. The breaking ball was outstanding. They worked ahead tonight again. We never had a chance offensively. It seemed like he was on top of us and we didn’t put on good swings.”
Kiké Hernández’s triple in the sixth ended Garcia’s no-hitter and start. With the Astros leading just 1-0 at the time, righty Phil Maton came on and got Rafael Devers to pop out on the first pitch, extending the Red Sox’ hitless streak with runners in scoring position to 0-for-15, dating back to Game 4.
Boston’s best chance to score came an inning later. After Houston added a run to its lead in the sixth, Boston was able to get men on the corners with one out in the seventh following a J.D. Martinez walk and a Verdugo single.
Cora decided to pinch-hit Travis Shaw for Christian Arroyo. Shaw went ahead in the count 3-1 against righty Kendall Graveman, but Graveman battled back to get Shaw to strikeout out on the full count.
With the count loaded, Verdugo took off for second, but Maldonado’s throw was right on the money. The ball landed right in Carlos Correa’s glove, which hovered over Verdugo’s slide to get the strike ’em out, throw ’em out to end the inning.
Cora explained that he thought if Shaw was able to get the hit, the Red Sox could’ve added to the score because of the steal.
“I just bet on my players,” Cora said. “3-2 count, we put the ball in play against a sinker-baller, we score one. He threw like a 1-4 to second — whatever he did — and we didn’t make contact and he got thrown out. But that’s one of those that it’s a 3-2 count with a sinker-baller — we were trying to score one. We felt that we had the right guy at first. The times were 1-6, 1-6.5. It was just a matter that their catcher came out shooting and made a perfect throw.”
The Astros went with righties Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly for the final two innings. Both retired the Red Sox in order to clinch the American League pennant.
While lefty Framber Valdez pitched eight innings and gave up just one run in Game 5 against the Red Sox, Cora re-iterated that it was the adjustments made by the Astros’ righties that won them the series.
“The lefty was different. The biggest change was the righties,” Cora said. “They changed their script. We knew it. Today, they started off a little bit different but then they went to what was working.
“We talk about it sometimes, it’s not a lack of effort. We were trying to catch up to the fastball and there were some counts that were good for us, but we just didn’t do it. They went to certain spots and they were very tough. It was one of those and you’ve just got to tip your cap to them.”
Kyle Schwarber was one of the many Red Sox hitters that got worse as the series went along. Following his grand slam in Game 3, Schwarber went 0-for-14 with just one walk and went just 3-for-25 at the plate in the six-game series.
Like his manager, Schwarber said you “just tip your cap” to Valdez for his Game 5 start, adding ” The guy ticked up in velocity there. When that guy is on, he’s got a really high groundball rate.”
But Schwarber and the Red Sox thought they had a good plan against Garcia for Game 6, especially after Garcia pitched just an inning-plus in his Game 2 start, allowing five runs on three walks and two hits.
The Red Sox’ hitters didn’t face the same Garcia on Friday.
“Going into today, we had our gameplan and you come out and the guy is ticked up in velocity and a little more sharp than in the first game that we saw him,” Schwarber said. “Even though the results weren’t there, the resiliency was there. You aren’t going to score 10 runs in every postseason game. That’s a dream, that’s what you want to do. I’ve been in a lot of postseason games and I’ve never seen 10 runs scored in a couple of games in a row. You’ve got to be able to be realistic and you’ve got to be able to tip your cap sometimes.
“Guys are good. They’re paid the same way as we are. It’s frustrating obviously for us because we came out so well and we came out so well throughout the postseason. You’ve just got to tip your cap.”
Bogaerts was another Red Sox hitter who had a bad series. He went 5-for-26 over the six-game series. Like Cora, he recognized the shift in the series during Javier’s outing during Game 4. However, he wishes he knew how the Red Sox finished with just 10 hits over the last three games of the series.
“I wish I had answers for those,” Bogaerts said. “I felt today we expanded the zone a little bit more. Back at home, I don’t feel that was the case. Valdez threw a great game, we just hit a lot of balls in the ground. But coming in here, we chased some pitches — me included.
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