2017 American League Division Series 2
|2017 American League Division Series|
101 - 61 in the AL
|3 - 1
|Boston Red Sox|
93 - 69 in the AL
The second Division Series in the American League marked the first-ever postseason meeting between the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox. The Astros were coming in as heavy favorites after an outstanding season, especially as they finally had a healthy starting rotation with an uncontested ace, the only ingredient that had been missing during the regular season. The Red Sox were returning to the postseason after having won the AL East title in 2016 as well, but they had been swept in three games by the Cleveland Indians on that occasion and had a number of question marks coming into the series, with regard to their lack of home run power and absence of an obvious third (or fourth) starter to follow after their two clear aces.
In the end, the Red Sox managed to win one game and made the Astros work hard to come back and win Game 4, but Houston was just too strong and won the series, as anticipated, three games to one.
The Houston Astros got off to an excellent start and won over 100 games for only the second time in team history, but were still beaten by the Cleveland Indians for the best record in the American League due to the latter's historic late-season winning streak. The Astros had already indicated they were one of the better young teams in baseball when they had reached the postseason in 2015, and after an off-year in 2016, they built on that base to post the best offensive numbers in the majors in 2017.
The Astros were led by diminutive 2B José Altuve, author of an MVP-type season with .346 average, 204 hits, 39 doubles, 24 homers, 112 runs and 81 RBIs. But everyone around him in the line-up was dangerous, from OF George Springer (112 runs, 29 doubles and 34 homers) to SS Carlos Correa (.315, 24, 84 while missing a month), OF Josh Reddick (.314, 13, 82), 1B Yuli Gurriel (.299, 43 doubles, 18 homers) or utility players Marwin Gonzalez (.303 with 23 homers) and Evan Gattis (.263, 12, 55). That's not even mentioning other dangerous hitters like Alex Bregman, Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran. More than any other team, the Astros could strike from any spot in the line-up, giving opposite pitchers absolutely no rest.
Had the starting pitching matched their hitting, the Astros might have set a record for wins. However, they had to make do with a patched-together rotation for most of the season, due to injuries to pitchers like Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90), Collin McHugh (5-2, 3.55) and Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62), all of whom had missed chunks of the season. As a result, the team leader for innings had been Mike Fiers with just 153 1/3, but his 5.22 ERA meant that he was unlikely to be used in any postseason games, except perhaps as a long reliever. Other unheralded pitchers like Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00) and Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77) had stepped in and helped out the regulars, but knowing this was a weakness, the Astros had pulled a major deal just a minute before the last moment when a newly acquired player could be eligible for the postseason, getting ace Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers. He had been even better than advertised in his month with Houston, going 5-0, 1.06, and with the other top starters finally all healthy, the Astros had the makings of a very solid postseason rotation. The bullpen was not a cause for concern in contrast, as Ken Giles (2.30, 34 SV), Chris Devenski (8-5, 2.68) and Will Harris (2.98) had all been excellent. Joining them was converted started Lance McCullers (7-4, 4.25), who had made the All-Star team as a starter after an excellent first half, but had lost his job because of an injury. Given his outstanding stuff, he was a potential ace in the hole for manager A.J. Hinch.
The Red Sox were pushed all season by the New York Yankees, but had managed to hold on to first place for their second straight division title, even though the Yankees had had a better Pythagorean record. In contrast to Houston, they were not an overpowering team, hitting relatively few homers (just 168, fewest in the AL) but compensating with an ability to force opposing pitchers to make lots of pitches and an outstanding defence, especially in the outfield. They had been unable to truly replace departed offensive leader David Ortiz, who had retired following the 2016 season. OF Mookie Betts was now their most dangerous hitter, with 46 doubles, 24 homers, 101 runs and 102 RBIs. OF Andrew Benintendi had had a fine rookie season, hitting .270 with 20 homers and 90 RBIs and SS Xander Bogaerts had scored 94 runs and hit .273. One emerging star was 20-year-old 3B Rafael Devers, who had hit .284 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs in just 58 games. But others, like DH Hanley Ramirez, 1B Mitch Moreland and OF Jackie Bradley had hit below expectations.
The difference maker for the Red Sox had been on the mound, their biggest off-season acquisition, P Chris Sale. He was the only pitcher in the majors to top 300 strikeouts and had finished at 17-8, 2.90, although his last few starts had been weak, indicating that he may have run out of gas prematurely. Drew Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32) had been a very pleasant surprise, but on the other hand, 2016's Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello, was unlikely to see any use in key situations after going 11-17, 4.65. So, manager John Farrell would have to chose among some flawed options to find his third starter, as David Price had been injured most of the year and done his best work out of the bullpen, and Eduardo Rodriguez and Doug Fister had been more down than up during the season. At least, he could count on a solid bullpen, with an outstanding closer in Craig Kimbrel (5-0, 1.43, 35 saves) and a top-notch set-up man in Joe Kelly (4-1, 2.79).
|1||Boston Red Sox 2 Houston Astros 8||October 5||Chris Sale (0-1) Justin Verlander (1-0)||4:00 pm|
|2||Boston Red Sox 2 Houston Astros 8||October 6||Drew Pomeranz (0-1) Dallas Keuchel (1-0)||2:00 pm|
|3||Houston Astros 3 Boston Red Sox 10||October 8||Brad Peacock (0-0) Doug Fister (0-0)||2:30 pm|
|4||Houston Astros 5 Boston Red Sox 4||October 9||Charlie Morton (0-0) Rick Porcello (0-0)||1:00 pm|
Game 1 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Justin Verlander (1-0); LP: Chris Sale (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Alex Bregman (1), Jose Altuve 3 (3)|
- Attendance: 43,102
Game 1 turned out to be dominated by two Houston players: starting pitcher Justin Verlander and 2B José Altuve. Verlander continued in the wake of his excellent month of September after having been traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Astros, limiting the Red Sox to 2 runs in 6 innings. Altuve then provided the offence by becoming just the 9th player to have a three-homer game in the postseason, outscoring Boston by himself. The last player to do so had been Pablo Sandoval, in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, and Verlander had been the victim for the first two of those. He was not the only Astros batter to do well, though, as the team scored in 5 of the first 7 innings, negating a pair of Boston runs.
Verlander started things off with a 1-2-3 inning, but Boston starter Chris Sale, in contrast, was not sharp, echoing the problems he had had in his last couple of months, as he had given up 4 or more runs in three starts in August and another two in September, in addition to a September game in which he had given up 3 runs in 4 innings. But he had also been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde, as in his three other starts from August 29th on, he had kept the opponent scoreless. Sale's postseason debut was definitely a Mr. Hyde game though. The second batter for Houston, Alex Bregman, took him deep, and Altuve immediately followed suit, putting Boston in an early 2-0 hole. They fought back, however. In the 2nd, Mitch Moreland and Dustin Pedroia drew one-out walks, and after a second out, Sandy Leon singled to right. RF Josh Reddick threw a bullet to 3B Bregman who tagged out a sliding Pedroia. The umpires initially ruled that the out had occurred before Moreland had crossed the plate, thus negating his run, but the call was overtuned after manager John Farrell asked for a video review that confirmed Moreland had touched the plate just before Bregman's tag on Pedroia. In the 4th, the Red Sox managed to tie the game when Mookie Betts opened the frame with a double, Moreland singled and Rafael Devers hit a sacrifice fly. They would not score another run after that though.
In the bottom of the 4th, the Astros opened up a lead that would stand for the rest of the game. Evan Gattis his a one-out double, then Reddick singled to center; the umpires initially ruled that Jackie Bradley had caught the ball, but the video review confirmed he had only trapped it on a short bounce. After two outs, Marwin Gonzalez doubled, scoring both runners, for a 4-2 lead. While Verlander was settling down, Sale continued to court trouble (in addition to the two innings in which Houston had scored already, he had escaped more damage when Altuve had hit into an inning-ending double play in the 3rd). In the 5th, Altuve hit his second long ball of the game with two outs, increasing the lead to 5-2, then in the 6th, Gattis once again led off with a double and Reddick walked. That was it for Sale, who gave way to set-up man Joe Kelly. He promptly gave up a single to Yuli Gurriel to load the bases, but he struck out Gonzalez for the first out. Up next was Brian McCann, but he lined a pitch into right field to score two more runs, and it was clear that Boston's goose was just about cooked, even if Kelly got the final two outs with no further damage.
With a comfortable 7-2 lead, Houston manager A.J. Hinch removed Verlander in favor of Chris Devenski in the 7th, and he retired the side in order. In contrast, not wanting to use one of his better relievers, Farrell gave the ball to rookie Austin Maddox, but he was jumped by Altuve, who completed his dream day by driving a pitch almost to the train tracks in deep right field at Minute Maid Park for a lead-off homer. That was the final run of the game. Houston used three more pitchers, each for short stints, to finish the game, while Farrell gave the ball to disgraced starter Rick Porcello in the 8th, who ironically became the first Boston pitcher to throw a 1-2-3 inning in the game. One other concern for Boston was the health of Eduardo Nunez; after fighting injuries for most of September, he had started the game at DH in place of Hanley Ramirez, but had aggravated his injury in running out a ground ball in the 1st, had to be carried off the field, and was likely done for the postseason. After the game, he was replaced on the roster by Chris Young.
Game 2 @ Minute Maid Park
|WP: Dallas Keuchel (1-0); LP: Drew Pomeranz (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Carlos Correa (1), George Springer (1)|
- Attendance: 43,410
Game 2 was another one-sided affair, and it again finished with an 8-2 score in favor of Houston. The Astros were very confident, as they had their long-time ace on the mound, Dallas Keuchel, and he had been dominant when healthy all season, which was the case today. He was at his best, giving only one run in 5 2/3 innings. He was a bit shaky in the 1st inning, though, but the Red Sox failed to take advantage: Dustin Pedroia drew a one-out walk, then was forced out by Andrew Benintendi; Mookie Betts followed with a double, but Benintendi stopped at third, and both runners were stranded when Hanley Ramirez hit a soft grounder to third. The Astros did not waste any time making Boston regret its lack of opportunism. Facing 17-game winner Drew Pomeranz, Jose Altuve singled with two outs, and Carlos Correa, who had been hitless in Game 1, followed with a homer to left for a quick 2-0 lead.
Boston tried to make a game of it in the 2nd, as they cut Houston's lead in half. Chris Young, added to roster in place of the injured Eduardo Nunez before the game, led off with a double. Christian Vazquez walked, but Keuchel then struck out Deven Marrero. But Jackie Bradley singled in a run, and there were still two on. However, Keuchel ended the inning with no further damage by striking out Xander Bogaerts and Pedroia. Pomeranz got through the 2nd unscathed, but in the 3rd, George Springer tagged him with a lead-off homer, then Alex Bregman followed with a double and Altuve with a single, driving in a 4th run and ending Pomeranz's day. Carson Smith came in to pitch, but he just poured some oil on the budding fire. One of his pitches to Carlos Correa escaped Vazquez's grasp for a passed ball, then Correa walked, as did Evan Gattis. The bases were loaded with none out, and Houston was on the verge of dealing Boston the killing blow. However, Josh Reddick lined out to third, then David Price came in to pitch in relief and he got Yuli Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez to both pop up. With a score of 4-1, the Red Sox were still alive... for now.
The Red Sox had to get some runs on the scoreboard, however, but they went down in order in the 4th, as they had done in the 3rd, and again in the 5th. Price managed to strand two more runners on base in the bottom of the 4th, then got the Red Sox in order in the 5th. The 6th inning was the decisive one, however. Ramirez drew a two-out walk, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to replace Keuchel with Chris Devenski. John Farrell sent in Mitch Moreland to pinch-hit for Young, but he popped up to short to end the inning. It was now Eduardo Rodriguez's turn to pitch for Boston, but he could not match Price's strong performance. He got into immediate trouble by giving a single to Gonzalez and hitting Brian McCann with a pitch. He was immediately replaced by Addison Reed, who got Springer to ground into a force out. Bregman hit a fly ball to shallow center on which CF Betts made a nice catch, but he dropped the ball transferring it to his throwing hand, and the error allowed Gonzalez to score and Springer to take second. Farrell decided to issue an intentional walk to the red-hot Altuve, but Correa made him pay with a two-run double, then Gattis followed with a single, making the score 8-1. The rest of the game was academic. The Red Sox scored a meaningless run in the 9th against closer Ken Giles, but the game had been lost long before that.
Game 3 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Joe Kelly (1-0); LP: Francisco Liriano (0-1)|
|Home Runs: HOU - Carlos Correa (2); BOS - Rafael Devers (1), Jackie Bradley (1)|
- Attendance: 38,010
To say the Boston Red Sox were not brimming with confidence heading into Game 3 would be an understatement, given they had been beaten thoroughly in the first two contests, and were starting Doug Fister, who had become a journeyman by this stage of his career and had had more downs than ups during the season. On the Astros side, A.J. Hinch had designated Brad Peacock, who had been outstanding since being moved into the starting rotation in June due to injuries, posting the best winning percentage in the American League.
Houston started off the game like they had played the first two, jumping all over Fister in the 1st inning. George Springer opened the game with a single, took second on a wild pitch, then scored on a single by Josh Reddick. Reddick took second on the throw home and moved to third on a ground out by Jose Altuve, coming to score when Carlos Correa hit a 1st-inning two-run homer for the second straight game. It was 3-0 before the Red Sox had had a chance to bat. Then Fister opened the 2nd by issuing a walk to Carlos Beltran, followed by a single by Yuli Gurriel. He retired Brian McCann on a line-out, but before he gave the Astros' batting order a second chance to tee off on his pitches, John Farrell yanked him out. His choice of relievers was interesting, as it was set-up man Joe Kelly who came in, normal roles being thrown out the window given the dire circumstances. Kelly then unloaded a wild pitch to move both runners another 90 feet, but with the infield playing in, Beltran did not attempt to score on Springer's grounder to short, and when Reddick flew out to right, the Red Sox were out of the inning without having allowed another run. It could have been a lot different though, as Reddick's fly ball was destined for the stands, but RF Mookie Betts denied him a potential three-run homer that would likely have been a knock-out blow by reaching into the first row of fans to make the catch. Boston then added to this feeling of accomplishment when the first three batters in the bottom of the inning reached base, on a pair of singles and a a walk. It was now Peacock's turn to sweat. He gave up a single to Sandy Leon which scored a first run, but Jackie Bradley struck out, Xander Bogaerts hit a grounder that forced Hanley Ramirez at home and Dustin Pedroia lined out. Boston had wasted a golden opportunity to tie the score, but it was back in the game... if the bullpen could hold.
Kelly allowed a pair of singles in the 3rd, but he escaped without giving up a run thanks to a double play, and in the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox finally took the lead for the first time of the series. After two outs, Mitch Moreland hit a double, then Ramirez singled to drive him in. A.J. Hinch decided he had seen enough of Peacock and called on lefty Francisco Liriano, coming off what could kindly be called a godawful year, to pitch. He immediately surrendered a two-run homer to young Rafael Devers, and suddenly Boston was ahead, 4-3. A number of tense but scoreless innings followed, with Boston holding on to its slender lead as David Price once again did some great work on the mound, giving his team four innings of solid work. For Houston, another habitual starter took a turn in long relief, in the person of Lance McCullers. There were hits and stranded baserunners on both sides, but coming into the bottom of the 7th, the score was still the same, and Price and McCullers were still on the mound for their respective teams.
McCullers began the bottom of the 7th by giving up a single to Betts, and Hinch called upon one of his best relievers, Chris Devenski, to take over. He was not in one of his best days, though. He faced three batters, the results being a single, a double and another single, and a 7-3 Boston lead with still nobody out when Joe Musgrove replaced him. Musgrove got Leon to fly out, but Bradley followed with a three-run homer on a ball that deflected into the stands off RF Reddick's glove, and at 10-3, it was basically game over. Addison Reed pitched the 8th and Carson Smith the 9th, neither gave up a run, and Boston's win was confirmed, forcing a Game 4.
Game 4 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Justin Verlander (2-0); LP: Chris Sale (0-2); SV: Ken Giles (1)|
|Home Runs: BOS - Xander Bogaerts (1), Andrew Benintendi (1), Rafael Devers (2); HOU - Alex Bregman (2)|
- Attendance: 37,305
In Game 4, both teams went with their fourth starter, although there was a big difference: for Houston, Charlie Morton was coming off the best season of his career, while for Boston, Rick Porcello had just had one of his worst, leading the American League in losses, a feat achieved on merit. Neither lasted very long though, and when things came to a crunch, it was the to Game 1 starters, Justin Verlander and Chris Sale who were on the mound.
Once again, the Astros managed to score in the 1st, although this time the run did not come on a homer. Instead, George Springer led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Josh Reddick drew a walk, and Springer scored when Jose Altuve grounded into a double play. Porcello then put two more runners on, via another walk and a hit batsman, but he struck out Alex Bregman to get out of the inning. The Red Sox got the run right back, though, as Xander Bogaerts homered with one out. But the Astros went right back at it. Yuli Gurriel led off the 2nd with a triple, then after a pair of strikeouts, Springer singled to make it 2-1. Reddick followed with another strikeout, but John Farrell decided not to yank Porcello immediately, although he would have been plenty justified to do so. Porcello walked Altuve to load the bases, then struck out Carlos Correa. In spite of allowing 8 baserunners in the first 2 innings, Porcello had just allowed two runs.
The game remained 2-1 until the 5th, although there were plenty of other changes. Farrell was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Wegner for arguing a called third strike on Dustin Pedroia with two on in the bottom of the 2nd. This turned out to be Farrell's final appearance in a Red Sox uniform, as one day later, the team announced he would not be back in 2018. Porcello left another runner in scoring position in the 3rd, while Morton allowed three hits but escaped without giving up a run thanks to a line out double play started by 3B Bregman against Mookie Betts. In the 4th, Gary DiSarcina, who had taken over as manager of the Red Sox, decided not to risk any more high-wire act with Porcello, bringing Game 1 starter Sale to pitch in relief. He retired the side in order, and then Morton did one better, striking out the side. In the bottom of the 5th, however, after Sale had pitched another perfect inning, Morton gave up a one-out walk to Bogaerts, and A.J. Hinch also decided to use his Game 1 starter in relief, calling on Verlander, in what was the first appearance of his career out of the bullpen. He immediately gave up a two-run homer to Andrew Benintendi, and suddenly Boston had a 3-2 lead.
Verlander settled down after the homer, and Sale continued to pitch well, so that the two were still in the game in the top of the 8th, with Sale nursing that 3-2 lead. However, Bregman led off that frame with his second homer of the series, hit over the Green Monster, and the game was tied again. After one out, Evan Gattis was granted a single on fan interference and was immediately replaced by pinch-runner Cameron Maybin. Brian McCann lined out for the second out and Craig Kimbrel, normally the closer, was brought in to face Springer. He uncorked a wild pitch to move Maybin to second, then walked Springer. Reddick followed with a single, and the speedy Maybin scored from second, giving Houston a 4-3 lead. Hinch then also brought in his closer early, asking Ken Giles to record a two-inning save. He had no problem in the 8th, retiring the Red Sox in order. In the top of the 9th, he was given an additional run to work with, a run that would prove very precious, when Marwin Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a double by Carlos Beltran, pinch-hitting for Maybin. Kimbrel had completely failed in his biggest outing of the year, and Giles almost did so as well, as he allowed an inside-the-park homer to Rafael Devers to lead off the bottom of the 9th, after his hit to center-left took a wild carom off the wall and eluded everyone. But Giles recovered by getting Christian Vazquez to ground out, striking out Jackie Bradley and getting Pedroia on another ground ball. Houston had won the game, 5-4, and was moving to the League Championship Series for the first time since joining the American League.
- Ted Berg: "Why the Red Sox will beat the Astros in the AL Division Series", USA Today Sports, October 4, 2017. 
- Mike Petriello: "Red Sox-Astros: ALDS position-by-position: Houston took four of seven meetings, including three last weekend", mlb.com, October 4, 2017. 
|Major League Baseball American League Division Series