The Boston Red Sox are in trouble after another letdown performance in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
The Houston Astros cruised to a 9-1 victory Wednesday night to take a 3-2 series lead. Boston got what it needed out of its ace Chris Sale, but not much else went right in what may have been the last game of the year at Fenway Park.
Here are three instant takeaways from Game 5 as the Red Sox head back to Houston one loss away from elimination.
Sox offense spoils Chris Sale's start
For the second straight night, the Red Sox offense looked lost. Astros starter Framber Valdez limited Boston to one run on three hits in eight brilliant innings of work. The lone Red Sox run came on a Rafael Devers solo homer in the seventh when Houston already had seven runs on the board. Up until then, they were held scoreless for 14 consecutive innings.
Chris Sale's effort made the lack of run support that much more disappointing. The Red Sox ace hadn't looked like himself in recent starts, but he stepped up when his team needed him most Wednesday night. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and struck out seven Astros hitters in 5 1/3 innings.
Both the Red Sox offense and defense let Sale down in this one. Two of the four runs allowed by Sale were unearned. A bad error by first baseman Kyle Schwarber opened the floodgates for the Astros in the sixth inning as they piled on five of their seven runs.
Boston finished with only three hits on the night and two errors in the field.
Why pitch to Yordan Alavarez?
The biggest head-scratcher of the night was the decision to pitch to Yordan Alvarez in that dreaded sixth inning. At the time, Houston had only two hits and both came off Alvarez's bat. The 6-foot-5 slugger took Sale deep in the first inning and added a single in the fourth.
With runners on second and third and one out, it made sense to intentionally walk Alvarez and set up the double play. Sure, the next batter in Houston's stacked lineup was Carlos Correa, but it doesn't matter. Pitching to Alvarez, the only Astros hitter to do any damage through five innings, was foolish.
Sure enough, Alvarez came through with his third hit of the night, a two-run double.
Correa finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
That's a decision that will be questioned for quite a while if Boston can't turn this series around.
What's up with Hunter Renfroe?
Given the Red Sox' inability to get anything going offensively the last two games, it feels unfair to single out one player's performance. That said, it's impossible to ignore Hunter Renfroe's ongoing struggles.
Renfroe killed any sort of momentum Boston had in Game 5 by grounding into two double plays. It's become a theme for the Red Sox right fielder as he has now hit into six double plays in the postseason.
As The Boston Globe's Alex Speier pointed out, the only other player ever to have multiple GIDPs in a single postseason is Irv Noren of the 1955 New York Yankees.
Renfroe is 1-for-15 in the ALCS and has accounted for 15 outs in his 14 at-bats in the series. He has contributed 28 outs in his 31 playoff at-bats.
It won't be a surprise to see Renfroe benched in the do-or-die Game 6, which is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET Friday night at Minute Maid Park.