HOUSTON — Jackie Bradley Jr. struck the decisive blow for a third consecutive game, and the Boston Red Sox inched one win closer to claiming the American League pennant with an 8-6 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series on Wednesday.
Bradley belted a first-pitch changeup from Astros right-hander Josh James (0-1) into the right field seats with two outs in the sixth inning, the two-run homer giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.
Boston held on to claim a 3-1 series lead with Game 5 set for Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
James had limited the Red Sox to one run after entering in relief of right-hander Charlie Morton with one out in the third inning. However, after recording two quick outs in the sixth, James surrendered a double to Christian Vazquez before Bradley pounced on James’ off-speed offering. The flame-throwing James averaged 99.4 mph over 23 fastballs.
The home run was Bradley’s second in as many games and his third game-altering extra-base hit in the series. Boston tacked on insurance runs in the seventh and eighth to set the stage for a series clincher against Astros ace Justin Verlander.
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead against Morton in the first inning when Rafael Devers produced a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to center that scored Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. The Astros appeared to match that two-run rally in the bottom of the first against right-hander Rick Porcello before a controversial call temporarily preserved the lead for Boston.
With George Springer on first base and one out, Astros designated hitter Jose Altuve clubbed a fly ball deep to right field that Betts made a play on with a leaping attempt at the wall. Almost simultaneously, the ball clipped Betts’ glove and a collection of hands from eager fans, with right field umpire Joe West ruling Altuve out via fan interference. That call was upheld following a replay review despite the appearance that Betts reached into the stands to make his attempt.
Ultimately, the Astros clawed back via solo home runs from Springer and Tony Kemp off Porcello, and a pair of RBI singles from Carlos Correa. The shortstop’s second run-scoring hit came against Joe Kelly in the fifth, driving home Yuli Gurriel and lifting the Astros to a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Houston’s Alex Bregman, who went 0-for-5 while batting leadoff for the first time this series, stepped in with the bases loaded and two outs against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. His sinking line drive to left was snagged by a diving Andrew Benintendi, a play that pushed the defending World Series champions to the brink of elimination.
Kimbrel, who allowed one run on two hits in two innings, recorded his second save of the series. Kelly (1-1) got the win despite yielding a run on two hits in his lone inning.