It took 9 games into the post-season but Alex Cora's reliance on analytics FINALLY bit the Boston Red Sox big time. The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first inning thanks to a Xander Bogaerts home run and Nick Pivetta cruised, holding the Astros to just the one run in 5 innings. Sox manager Alex Cora inexplicably pulled Pivetta after just 65 pitches and three innings later, Jose Altuve made Cora pay with a game tying home run off Garett "The Lock" Whitlock. In the ninth inning Cora insanely put Nathan Eovaldi on 1 day's rest in the game and the Astros pounced on him and later Martin Perez for SEVEN runs. If that wasn't bad enough, the Sox knocked Astros starter Zack Greinke out in the second inning only for the Astros bullpen to throw 7 2/3 scoreless innings while giving up just three hits. It all added up to a maddening, never should have happened 9-2 defeat in Game 4 at Fenway Park.
The Astros set the tone against Pivetta in the top of the first although Jose Altuve popped up to left to start. Michael Brantley swung and missed at a strike three fastball up in his eyes but Alex Bregman hit a home run all the way to Sri Lanka to put the Astros up three batters into the game. Yordan Alvarez popped up to a running Christian Arroyo to end the inning but the Astros drew first blood and led 1-0.
The Sox of the first as Kyle Schwarber popped up to center to start. Kike Hernandez grounded out to short but Rafael Devers walked. Xander Bogaerts then blasted a two run home run completely out of Fenway to put the Sox on top. Alex Verdugo hit a routine grounder to third but Bregman's throw pulled the first basemen off the bag for an error. JD Martinez walked but Renfroe hit a bullet right to Bregman who flipped to second for the out to end the inning with the Sox ahead 2-1.
Pivetta got in trouble in the top of the second although Carlos Correa grounded out to short to start. Kyle Tucker struck out swinging but Devers threw a grounder by Yuli Gurriel away for an error. Chas McCormick walked and a wild pitch moved both runners over but Martin Maldonado flied out to center to end the inning. The Sox blew a rally in the bottom of the second as Christian Vazquez walked to start. Vazquez moved to second on the grounder to first by Christian Arroyo and that was it for Grienke after just 1 1/3 innings. Brooks Raley came in to pitch and walked Schwarber but Hernandez struck out swinging. Devers flied out to right to end the inning, what a waste.
Pivetta cruised in the top of the third as Altuve popped up to third to start. Brantley grounded out to second and Bregman flied out to left to end the inning. Cristian Javier came in to pitch the bottom of the third and Bogaerts grounded out to third to start. Verdugo walked and stole second on the Martinez swinging strikeout but the ice cold Renfroe struck out swinging to end the inning.
Alvarez walked to start the top of the fourth but Correa hit a bullet to Verdugo in left. Tucker popped up to third and Gurriel popped up to second to end the inning. The Sox blew ANOTHER chance in the bottom of the fourth as Vazquez flied out to right to start. Arroyo hit a scintillating triple into the right field corner but Schwarber hit a pathetic grounder to short and Hernandez hit one up the elevator shaft to end the inning.
Pivetta cruised in the top of the fifth as McCormick took strike three to start. Maldonado flied out to right and Altuve grounded out to third to end the inning. Even though he was through five innings at just 65 pitches, Sox manager went with the analytics and pulled Pivetta. It would prove fatal a few innings.
The Sox blew another rally in the bottom of the fifth as Devers flied out to left to start. Bogaerts doubled to right but Verdugo flied out to left. Martinez went down hacking to end the inning.
Josh Taylor came in to pitch the top of the sixth as Brantley grounded out to second to start. Bregman flied out to right but Alvarez singled to right to chase Taylor. Adam Ottavino came in to get Correa looking to end the inning. Renfroe drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the sixth and chase Javier from the game. Phil Maton came in and Vazquez popped up to second. Arroyo struck out swinging and Schwarber flied out to center to end the inning.
Garrett "The Lock" Whitlock came in to pitch the top of the seventh and Tucker flied out to center to start. Gurriel grounded out to short but McCormick singled to right. Jason Castro pinch hit for Maldonado and lined out to first to end the inning. Kendall Graveman came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh and Hernandez grounded out to short to start. Devers flied out to right and Bogaerts struck out swinging to end the inning. The Sox were getting shut completely down by the Astros bullpen they feasted on for two straight days.
The Astros didn't wait around to tie the game in the top of the eighth as Altuve hit a home run to the Klingon Homeworld on the first pitch of the inning to tie the game. Brantley singled to center but Bregman banged into a double play. Alvarez flied out to center to end the inning with the game tied 2-2.
The Sox failed to respond in the bottom of the eighth as Verdugo grounded out to third to start. Martinez struck out swinging but Renfroe walked. Vazquez flied out to left to end the inning. Say what you will about what happened in the 9th, but the fact the Sox were shut out by the Astros bullpen was the key to the game. For some ungodly reason, Cora decided to bring Nathan Eovaldi on 1 day's rest to pitch the top of the ninth and Correa laughed as he smashed a double to right. Tucker struck out swinging and Gurriel was intentionally walked to set up the double play. Aledmys Diaz pinch hit for McCormick struck out swinging to set the stage for Castro. On a 1-2 count, Eovaldi threw a perfect curveball on the outside corner.....called a ball. Castro took advantage by opening the floodgates with with a base hit to center to score Correa to put the Astros ahead. Altuve walked and that was it for Eovaldi. Martin Perez came in and Brantley cleared the bases with a double before Bregman was intentionally walked. Alvarez singled to left to score Brantley and Perez threw a routine grounder by Correa away to score Bregman. Tucker singled home Alvarez as boo's rained down at Fenway. Gurriel flied out to left to end the inning but the Sox inability to make plays cost them seven runs to put the game out of reach 9-2.
Jose Siri came in to play center with Ryan Pressly on the mound for the bottom of the ninth. To add insult to injury, the Sox blew one final rally. Travis Shaw pinch hit for Arroyo and took strike three before Schwarber struck out swinging. Hernandez and Devers stroked back to back singles before both runners moved over on a passed ball. Bogaerts struck out swinging to end the game. The Sox got embarrassed and lost the game 9-2.
Jackass of the Night is Nathan Eovaldi. He shouldn't have been brought in but he was one strike away from getting out of the inning and instead gave up the winning run.
Xander Bogaerts was 2 for 5 with a home run.
Hunter Renfroe waked twice in four plate appearances.
Christian Arroyo was 1 for 3.
Nick Pivetta tossed 5 innings of 1 run ball.
Josh Taylor got the first two outs of the sixth inning.
Adam Ottavino got the final out of the sixth inning.
Travis Shaw struck out as a pinch hitter.
Martin Perez allowed 3 inherited runners to score and 3 of his own.
Kyle Schwarber was 0 for 4 with a strikeout but walked.
Kike Hernandez was just 1 for 5 with a strikeout.
Rafael Devers was just 1 for 4 with a walk but scored a run.
Alex Verdugo was 0 for 3 but walked.
JD Martinez was 0 for 3 with a hat trick of 3 strikeouts but walked.
Christian Vazquez was 0 for 3 but walked.
Garrett Whitlock allowed a run in 2 innings of work.
This game was an unmitigated disaster and I called it all the way back in April. Cora was pulling starters all year long in the middle of no-hitters, perfect games and after just 60-70 pitches and it FINALLY bit him in the ass. Pivetta could have easily gone seven innings and then you could mix and match in the eighth inning. Still, it shouldn't have come to trying to hang on to a one run lead if the bats didn't hibernate after Greinke left the game. The Astros bullpen pitched a 7 2/3 inning shutout and that was was after the Sox scored 21 runs the previous two games combined. I don't want to hear that Eovaldi got robbed, one more pitch and he was out of the inning anyway. Still, he should have never been brought in to begin with. If Cora didn't burn the A-Team out from April to July, a healthy functioning Matt Barnes would have slammed the door. Its been proven for decades you don't trust a rookie in the playoffs and that's twice now Altuve has taken Whitlock deep in the eighth inning. All in all the downside of Cora reared its ugly head and it was bound to happen. The Sox aren't playing the Tampa Bay Rays anymore, the Astros know what it takes to get to the World Series. You're not going to beat them by putting Martin Perez in to clean up a mess or putting an exhausted starter in the ninth inning of a tied game. The only silver lining is the Astros have had to go to the bullpen early in three straight games, the Sox need to strike tomorrow early and build a lead. As for this game, this could be the momentum shifter for Houston. The Sox look to bounce back tomorrow afternoon in pivotal Game 5 when Chris Sale takes the mound against Framber Valdez. The game begins at 5:05 PM at Fenway Park.