Astros rally to oust Sox; Verlander tries relief
Justin Verlander came out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, beating Chris Sale in an aces-turned-relievers role reversal on Monday and the Houston Astros advanced to their first AL Championship Series by rallying past the Red Sox 5-4 and eliminating Boston in four games.
“When we saw Verlander run to the ‘pen we said, ‘Our horse is on the mound, we need to win this game,”’ said Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, who homered off Sale to tie it in the eighth before Josh Reddick’s single gave the Astros the lead.
“That’s kind of the whole energy that he’s brought since we brought him over here,” Bregman said of Verlander, the former AL MVP and Cy Young winner who was acquired from Detroit for the playoff run.
“He’s brought an energy with him that, ‘Hey, when he’s out there, we’re going to win.’”
Houston will open the ALCS on Friday, either at Cleveland or at home against the New York Yankees.
With both Game 1 starters coming out of the bullpen, Verlander gave up a go-ahead homer to Andrew Benintendi — the first batter he faced — before shutting down the Red Sox for 22/3 innings. It was his first pro relief appearance after 424 starts in the majors and minors.
Bregman tied it before Reddick’s single off closer Craig Kimbrel made it 4-3. Carlos Beltran added to his postseason legacy with an RBI double — an insurance run that became the game-winner when Rafael Devers hit an inside-the-park homer off closer Ken Giles to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
“The two big boys, Sale and Verlander, both get into the game. Everybody did well,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “Nobody really wanted to concede the game.”
The Astros last reached the league championship series in 2005 as a National League team, and were swept in the World Series by the White Sox.
This year’s team, wearing “Houston Strong” patches to support the city that was flooded in Hurricane Harvey, is hoping to finish the job.
“The city of Houston is still rebuilding,” Hinch said. “It’s easy for us to look in the rearview mirror and think that the hurricane is over [but] the rebuild is not going to stop for a long time.”