The Houston Astros scored three unanswered runs to come from behind for a 5-4 victory in Boston in Game 4 of the American League Division on Monday and advance to their first AL Championship Series.
In a battle of aces battling out of the bullpen, Houston’s Justin Verlander picked up the victory in his first career relief appearance. Meanwhile, Alex Bregman hit his second home run of the series off Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale, who was pitching his fifth inning of relief, to tie the game 3-3 in the eighth inning.
Josh Reddick’s single off closer Craig Kimbrel later in the inning gave the Astros the lead.
“When we saw Verlander run to the ‘pen we said, ‘Our horse is on the mound, we need to win this game,” said Bregman. “That’s kind of the whole energy that he’s brought since we brought him over here.”
Verlander, who was acquired just before the trade deadline on Aug. 31, picked up his second victory of the series after beating Sale (0-2) in Game 1.
Houston will open the ALCS on Friday, either at Cleveland or home against the New York Yankees.
Verlander’s first career relief appearance did not start well, as he gave up a go-ahead home run to Andrew Benintendi, the first batter he faced. However, he shut the Red Sox down for 2 2/3 innings from there.
After Reddick gave the Astros the lead, Carlos Beltran added an RBI double to stretch the lead to 5-3. That proved to be critical after Boston’s Rafael Devers hit an inside-the-park home run off Houston closer Ken Giles in the bottom of the ninth.
“The two big boys, Sale and Verlander, both get into the game. Everybody did well,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “Nobody really wanted to concede the game.”
The Astros have reached the Championship Series once before, but it came as a member of the National League in 2005. Houston was eventually swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
“The city of Houston is still rebuilding,” Hinch said. “It’s easy for us to look in the rearview mirror and think that the hurricane is over (but) the rebuild is not going to stop for a long time. … We want to win for them, we want to win for us, we want to win because we showed up in spring training to try to win a World Series.”
Sale pitched 4 2/3 innings in relief of Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who gave up two runs in three innings.
“This is what we show up to spring training for. It’s what we work all offseason for. Ups and downs, all around the country,” Sale said. “This is what we live for.”
NOTES: Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Wegner in the bottom of the second inning after Dustin Pedroia was called out on strikes with the bases loaded and one out. … Verlander improved to 7-0 since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers. … Giles recorded his first career postseason save by retiring three consecutive batters after Devers’ homer.