Red Sox

Astros beat up on Sale, Red Sox in ALDS opener, 8-2

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Astros beat up on Sale, Red Sox in ALDS opener, 8-2

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve had just arrived in the Astros dugout after launching his third home run of the game when George Springer grabbed his right biceps and examined it, as if searching for an explanation for his teammate's extraordinary pop.

"He makes sure he stays on top of his gym routine, whatever it is," Springer said. "The dude is just a joke."

The major league batting champion put on an unprecedented show of power Thursday as Houston roughed up Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox 8-2 in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Buoyed by chants of "MVP" in each trip to the plate, the 5-foot-6 Altuve hit solo homers in the first and fifth innings off Sale. He connected again in the seventh off reliever Austin Maddox to give Houston a quick boost in the best-of-five series.

"As soon as I cross the white line, I feel the same size as everyone else," Altuve said.

It was just the 10th time a player hit three homers in a postseason game, and first since Pablo Sandoval for the Giants in the 2012 World Series opener against Detroit. Babe Ruth did it twice.

"I told him the last time I've seen three home runs in a game was Pablo Sandoval and I gave up two of them, so I'm glad there's somebody new that's done it," winning pitcher Justin Verlander said.

Altuve became the first Astros player to hit three homers in one game since 2007, when Carlos Lee did it in the regular season. He seemed as surprised as anyone else that he was now in a category with the Sultan of Swat, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.

"I hit one and I was like: `Wow,'" he said. "And the second one is like: `Wow, what's going on here?"

And his thoughts after the third?

"I got to wake up," he said, flashing a huge grin.

After he finished talking to Springer following his third shot, Altuve's teammates goaded him into exiting the dugout for a curtain call. And as he tipped his hat to the crowd, one fan near the dugout held a sign that proclaimed in blue block letters: "That Kid Can Hit."

Verlander pitched six effective innings and improved to 6-0 since Houston got him in late trade with Detroit. He is 5-0 with a 2.24 ERA in nine career starts in the division series.

Sale, the major league strikeout leader, was tagged for seven runs in five-plus innings of his postseason debut.

Game 2 is Friday, with Dallas Keuchel starting for the Astros against Drew Pomeranz.

Among the shortest players in the majors, Altuve couldn't be a bigger leader for the Astros. He's one of the few players remaining who languished through a rebuilding process that led to three straight 100-loss seasons from 2011-13, and is perhaps the main reason this team ran away with the AL West title this year.

"First off, how good is Jose Altuve?" Houston manager A.J. Hinch asked. "It's incredible to watch him step up and be every bit the star that we needed today for sure. It's hard to describe in different ways."

Altuve hit .346 this year, his fourth straight 200-hit season. He had 24 home runs this year - this was his third career multihomer game, and the first time he'd hit three all at once.

Quite a comeback from his only previous postseason - in 2015, he batted just .154 (4 for 26) without an extra-base hit.

Alex Bregman and Altuve hit back-to-back homers in the first inning , making Sale look a bit rattled. The Red Sox tied it up by scoring a run each in the second and fourth innings before Marwin Gonzalez lined a two-run double in the fourth for a 4-2 lead.

There were two outs in the fifth inning when Altuve connected again to push the lead to 5-2 and make him the third player in franchise history with a multihomer game in the postseason, joining Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran.

The crowd of 43,402, which included Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, waved bright orange towels as Altuve trotted around the bases.

Sale never got into a rhythm and was chased after walking Josh Reddick with no outs in the sixth. The left-hander was tagged for nine hits and matched a season high for most runs allowed.

"Anytime he mislocated, particularly in the middle of the plate, they made him pay for it ... And then his slider was hit and miss today," manager John Farrell said. "Some were flat, some had good depth, but the inconsistency to the location pitch to pitch is a difference in this one against a team that makes you pay."

After fanning 308 in the regular season, Sale struck out six. But he allowed three homers and three doubles, marking just the second time in his career that he's given up six extra-base hits.

"Never really gave my team a chance to win. Put them in a hole early," Sale said. "They fought back and they fought back hard and I gave it right back to them. It happens (but a) terrible time for it to happen."

Verlander, a playoff veteran who was starting his 17th postseason game, yielded six hits, struck out three and walked two to help the Astros take the early lead in the series.

Sandy Leon had two hits and drove in a run and Rafael Devers added an RBI for the AL East champs.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox designated hitter Eduardo Nunez was carried off the field in the first inning with a right knee injury and did not return. He pulled up running to first base on a groundout in the first inning before falling to the ground. Nunez missed 19 of Boston's last 20 regular-season games with what the team called a sore knee. The Red Sox said he had re-aggravated his knee injury and he was replaced by Hanley Ramirez.

"We have got to go through a protocol here to determine his inactivity before we make a roster move," Farrell said. "But I think it's pretty safe to say, given how he went down today, he would not be available."

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Pomeranz will make his first career postseason start after going 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two relief appearances in the playoffs.

Astros: Keuchel believes that the experience he got pitching - and winning - two games in the 2015 playoffs will help him in his second trip to the postseason. "I'm grateful that we got some experience in 2015 and hopefully that will carry us to the championship series," he said.

Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

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AP Photo

Porcello helps Red Sox salvage series finale against Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Porcello allowed one hit in seven innings, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi homered, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 9-2 Thursday to avoid a series sweep.

Xander Bogaerts had two RBI for the Red Sox, who had a season-high 16 hits, and finished 6-4 on a road trip through Baltimore, Seattle and Minnesota.

After a first-inning single by Logan Morrison, ending a 0-for-30 stretch against Boston, Porcello (9-3) retired 19 of 20 Twins hitters, including the last 16. Throwing 97 pitches, he struck out five and walked one.

Porcello finished seven innings for the first time in 10 starts since April 29. His best previous start of the season was April 12 against the Yankees, when he allowed two hits and struck out six in seven innings.

Kyle Gibson (2-5) allowed seven hits and two earned runs in six innings for Minnesota, striking out five for his ninth quality start this season. He had only 10 in 2017 and eight in 2016.

Betts hit the first pitch of the fifth inning into the front row of seats in right-center for a 2-0 lead. He finished with three hits and has reached base eight times in his last three games.

The Red Sox were 5 for 14 with runners in scoring position, finishing the three-game series 7 for 36.

Bogaerts' two-run double keyed a three-run seventh against Ryan Pressly. Benintendi hit a two-run shot in the eighth.

OUCH

Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar was hit near the right elbow by Porcello in the first. The major league leader with 32 doubles, Escobar immediately dropped to the ground in pain as a trainer rushed out. After a couple of minutes of consultation, Escobar trotted to first base. Diagnosed with a right elbow contusion, he was removed from the game after striking out in the third and is day to day.

Boston's J.D Martinez hit the dirt to avoid a high inside pitch from Gibson in the top of the inning. Sandy Leon was hit by Gibson in the sixth.

TRAINERS ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz, out since June 5 with left biceps tendinitis, is expected to get on a mound this weekend and throw a bullpen session, according to manager Alex Cora.

Twins: OF Eddie Rosario missed the game with a sore throwing shoulder. He is considered day to day. Since May 1, Rosario is hitting .364 with a league-best 68 hits in that span, including 16 doubles and 13 home runs.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Open a six-game homestand Friday with RHP Steven Wright (2-1, 1.23) scheduled to start against Seattle's LHP Wade LeBlanc (3-0, 2.63).

Twins: Welcome Texas on Friday for a three-game weekend series with RHP Fernando Romero (3-2, 4.17) to face the Rangers' LHP Mike Minor (4-4. 5.35).

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Red Sox offense quiet again in 4-1 loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing a run of starting pitching that included two-time Cy Young winner Corey KluberCarlos CarrascoChris Sale and David Price, the Minnesota Twins could have seen their fledgling playoff hopes fade toward another long summer.

Instead, Minnesota's been rejuvenated by beating some of the best pitching in the American League.

Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler homered to back an effective start by Lance Lynn as the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run and Kepler added a two-run shot off Boston starter David Price (8-5). Brian Dozier added a pair of doubles to help Minnesota win for the fourth time in five games.

The Twins beat Kluber and Carrasco in taking two of three games at Cleveland before returning home and winning the first two games against the Red Sox with Sale and Price starting.

"Yeah, after the game when you acknowledge who's on the mound," Kepler said when asked if Minnesota can take something away from beating the recent competition. "I feel like we go into games and we're kind of blind to who's on the mound and we grind together, which is awesome about this team."

Lynn (5-5) again struggled with command, issuing five walks, but he surrendered just one unearned run and three hits in five innings.

Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters, with Fernando Rodney securing his 16th save in 19 chances.

"If you can find a way to battle every at-bat, wait for something to break, try to build pitch-count when you can, and if you're holding them down as our starting pitching has been doing, you know you've got a chance late," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

The Red Sox were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 22 in the first two games of the series. They've stranded 18 baserunners in the two games and lost for the fourth time in five games.

"Pitching-wise, we've been great," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "I'll take that. If we keep throwing the ball the way we've been throwing we're going to win a lot of ballgames. We know the offense, you know how it is."

Lynn has had an uncharacteristic wild season in his first year with the Twins. He walked at least five batters for the fifth time in 14 starts. But the veteran right-hander has limited the damage and allowed less than three runs in five of his last six starts.

"Command was really not there," Lynn said. "But I was able to make pitches with runners in scoring position and not give up a bunch of runs. With this offense we have, you keep them to one run, we're going to win the games more times than not."

Boston's lone run scored in the second as Lynn couldn't catch first baseman Logan Morrison's high throw to first for the final out of the inning, allowing Mitch Moreland to score from second base on an error charged to Morrison.

"We've been through stuff like this in the past, even this year early on," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said of the offense. "The pitching has been doing great. It's up to us now to come through."

PAYING THE PRICE

Price was hurt by the home run but allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk. He had given up just one home run in his previous five starts and seven total in 14 starts this season coming into Wednesday.

"Not so much that he could hit it like he did, but to keep it fair, that's pretty impressive," Price said of Kepler's home run.

SHOWING SIGNS

Dozier had just one extra-base hit in his previous 13 games while hitting .068. His double off the left-field wall in the eighth plated Eddie Rosario.

Kepler hit his first home run in 22 games and the fifth of his eight this season against left-handed pitching. Kepler was hitting .158 over his previous 21 games with just four RBIs.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz is getting closer to having his first throwing session since he went on the 10-day disabled list on June 5 for left biceps tendonitis. Cora said Pomeranz was dealing with soreness in his neck but has recovered.

Twins: Molitor said OF Byron Buxton's first rehab game in Triple-A on Tuesday went well and that his left foot with the broken toe is "in a good place and we haven't said that for about seven weeks or so." There is no timetable for Buxton's return.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will start the series and road trip finale on Thursday afternoon. Porcello pitched six innings and gave up four runs in a no-decision at Seattle in his last start.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (2-4, 3.27) counters for Minnesota. Gibson has allowed five total runs over his last four starts, spanning 26 2/3 innings.

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