LEADING OFF: Red Sox seek to clean things up vs Astros

Red Sox catcher plunks umpire Joe West with errant throw to second

Astros top Red Sox 7-2 in Game 1 of ALCS

The pitch being called for a third strike instead of a walk ended the inning instead of loading the bases in a 2-2 game. Sale gave up two runs, one hit, four walks and a hit batter, and his average fastball velocity of 92 miles per hour was down 3 miles per hour from the Division Series. Later in the ninth, first baseman Yuli Gurriel belted a three-run shot and the rout was on.

In the ALCS for the first time since 2013, the Red Sox got four innings from Sale, who struggled early and allowed two runs on one hit while working around four walks. Now the pitcher with a career 5.28 ERA in the playoffs is tasked with out-dueling Gerrit Cole, the Astros' co-ace who struck out 12 across seven innings against Cleveland in his lone ALDS start. Chris Sale basically said he had nothing. That and holding the Red Sox to just three hits on the night. A brief staredown ensued between Bregman and Kelly, though whether the hit by pitch was intentional was clouded by the appearance of the Red Sox' trainer immediately after.

The Red Sox went down in order in the second, third and fourth innings before awakening the shivering, sold-out Fenway crowd in the fifth with Steve Pearce's single - just their second hit in the game - and two walks.

Verlander was charged with two runs and four walks while striking out six. Game 1 can't have an ejection. The hit-by-pitches, actually Joe (Kelly), the 1-2 to (Alex) Bregman was a close pitch and we have to get him off the plate. "So for him to tell me before we even took our jerseys off to put on our postseason shirts that we get when we win, that was special". "I can pitch anybody at any time", said manager A.J. Hinch.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Pik Botha dies
He then joined Mandela's cabinet after the end of white-minority rule and the country's first non-racial election in 1994. His son, Piet Botha confirmed to South African media that his father died in his sleep during the night.

"That inning I just lost my feel for a little bit", Verlander said. These are the World Champion Astros, after all. Unable to locate his slider and with his fastball averaging just 92 miles per hour, it's a miracle the lanky lefty got through a potent Astros lineup twice and allowed just the two runs on one hit. It was the first extra-base hit of the game and extended the Astros post-season homer streak to 13 games in a row, matching an American League record.

Looking ahead to Sunday night, there will be plenty of angst surrounding the Red Sox, the winningest team in baseball this year. They can be beaten but the Sox need to hit, pitch and defend with stark consistency throughout the series to have a chance at knocking off the champs.

And the historic old ball park may have even more nervous energy in Game 2 with David Price not only in search of his first playoff win as a starter. And based on their form from September bleeding into October, they look capable of shortening this series in a hurry.

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