Sox ousted: 'It didn't end the way we wanted'
Eovaldi turns in stellar start, but offense held to just two hits in Game 6 loss
HOUSTON -- The same bats that rocketed the Red Sox through most of their postseason run went stone cold at the most inopportune time, and that is the main reason why manager Alex Cora's team was stopped two wins short of the World Series.
In Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, the Astros stifled Boston's dangerous bats for the third straight game, earning them the AL pennant with a 5-0 victory.
For the Red Sox, it was hard to imagine their ride through October could end so abruptly after they bashed Houston in Game 2 and again in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
When Xander Bogaerts hammered a two-run homer to center field in the bottom of the first inning of Game 4, Fenway Park erupted with joy and it felt like the Red Sox were going to mash their way to their second Fall Classic in four seasons.
Could anyone have imagined that after Bogaerts touched home, the Red Sox would score just one run over the final 26 innings of the ALCS?
"No," said Bogaerts. "We were rolling. One through nine, guys were just on fire. We had guys who were having historic stretches. It just felt like one through nine everyone was kind of locked in, but it just went south from there."
Momentum shifts can be sudden this time of year, and an exciting season by the Red Sox in which they exceeded pretty much every preseason prognostication is now over.
"I told them how proud I am. It's an amazing group," said Cora. "It's a group that we will always remember. Not too many teams can say that they're in the League Championship Series. We did an amazing job throughout the season. We just got beat at the end."
In a roller-coaster ride of a 2021 season, the success of the Red Sox usually depended on the productivity of the lineup. Including the postseason, Boston went 87-19 when scoring four runs or more and 10-56 when scoring fewer than four runs.
When the club was at its best, the starting nine was relentless and controlled the strike zone. The struggles came when hitters went out of the zone and at times tried to do too much.
Boston's bats smoldered from Game 2 of the AL Division Series vs. the Rays through Game 3 of the ALCS at a historic postseason rate, scoring 51 runs and belting 79 hits over a six-game span.
When Kyle Schwarber roped a second-inning grand slam in Game 3 of the ALCS, it seemed like the fun wasn't going to end any time soon for the Red Sox. They hit two slams in Game 2 and outscored the Astros 21-8 over those two victories. No team had hit three grand slams in a postseason series before, let alone in a span of two games.
"I have been in a lot of postseason games. I have never seen 10 runs scored in a couple of games in a row, right?" said Schwarber. "It's frustrating, obviously, for us because we came out so well, and we came out really well throughout the whole postseason."
Over the last three games -- what proved to be the final three games -- the drop-off was precipitous.
Cora credited the Astros -- particularly pitching coach Brent Strom and catcher Martín Maldonado -- for in-series adjustments that led to the stifling of Boston's offense.
Despite the sudden lack of offense, the Red Sox were right in Game 6 until the eighth, when Kyle Tucker essentially put away the series with a three-run homer against Adam Ottavino.
For Boston, the best chance to climb back into the game was in the top of the seventh, when they had runners at the corners with one out. With the count full on pinch-hitter Travis Shaw, Cora sent Alex Verdugo from first on the pitch. Shaw swung through the pitch from Kendall Graveman and Verdugo was tagged out on a crushing double play that left the Red Sox six outs from elimination.
"I just bet on my players," said Cora. "It was a 3-2 count. If we put the ball in play against a sinker-baller, we score one. Their catcher just came out shooting and he made a perfect throw."
Kiké Hernández, who had an amazing postseason, created some excitement for the Red Sox when he belted a triple high off the wall in left-center with two outs in the sixth. If he had just pulled it a little more, it would have been a game-tying homer.
"It was just unfortunate. Game of inches, bro, game of inches," Hernández.
Though the inches didn't go their way, the Red Sox appreciated their journey and look forward to building off it in '22.
"It didn't end the way we wanted, but it was great," said Bogaerts.