ALDS Recap: Pair of Walk-Offs Propel Red Sox Over Raysby Andersen Pickard October 12, 2021 1 comment
Postseason baseball is pretty cool. Divisional postseason baseball is superior.
But divisional postseason baseball with two consecutive walk-offs? Oh, baby.
The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays wrapped up a four-game ALDS on Monday night as the former capped off a series comeback while punching a ticket to the ALCS in front of the home crowd. The quartet of games was truly thrilling, setting the tone for what is sure to be another three weeks of epic MLB action.
Game 1: Tampa Bay 5, Boston 0
Boston floundered on Thursday. Southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez kicked things off by allowing two runs over the first 1.2 innings of work. Nick Pivetta went the distance in relief, lasting a total of 4.2 innings, but he also allowed three runs (including two homers) in the process. The score held and Tampa Bay won, 5-0.
The Sox did manage nine hits in the effort, including seven from the Nos. 2 through 6 hitters. However, they struck out five times, did not draw any walks, and stranding a whopping 20 runners on base. This last stat was key: the team could not capitalize on opportunities. They also went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Tampa Bay also got the majority of its production from the top of the lineup. Wander Franco headlined the effort, going 2-for-4 with a single and double. Nelson Cruz homered once while Randy Arozarena homered and scored three times. On the mound, rookie Shane McClanahan threw five shutout innings.
Game 2: Red Sox 14, Rays 6
These two clubs went back-and-forth, combining for 20 runs. Fascinatingly, this might have been the third-most-exciting game of the series. Boston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with singles from Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo off days starter Shane Baz. However, Tampa Bay struck for five runs in the bottom of the frame, chasing Chris Sale out of the contest. Boston would score six runs over the next four innings while reliever Tanner Houck looked brilliant, allowing one run over five innings. Tampa Bay got one run back in the bottom of the sixth, but the Red Sox pulled away in the final three frames.
Houck’s brilliance on the mound headlined this game, but the Boston bats were certainly alive, too. The team received homers from five different individuals: Bogaerts, Verdugo, Kiké Hernández, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers. Similarly, second baseman Christian Arroyo was the only Sox starter who failed to reach base. Meanwhile, 12 of Boston’s 14 RBI came from the Nos. 2 through 6 batters.
Tampa Bay’s highlight of the day came from Jordan Luplow, who launched a grand slam off Sale in the first inning. Ji-Man Choi also homered in the effort. Pitching-wise, Collin McHugh was charged with the loss after allowing three runs (including two homers) over 1.2 frames. Michael Wacha was shaky in relief, too, surrendering six runs.
Game 3: Red Sox 6, Rays 4 (F/13)
This Sunday afternoon game that lasted into the late evening had it all. Austin Meadows kicked things off with a two-run homer off Nate Eovaldi in the first inning. However, Boston quickly jumped on top with a Kyle Schwarber homer, Hernández single, and Devers single. Hernández homered in the fifth to take a two-run lead, but a Wander Franco homer and Arozarena double tied things up in the eighth. From this point on, both bullpens were stellar, holding each other scoreless for the next four innings.
Then, in the top of the 13th, Kevin Kiermaier hit a two-run homer to right field. Except, he didn’t. The umpires correctly ruled that the ball ricocheted off the right-field wall, then off outfielder Hunter Renfroe, and over the fence. As such, Kiermaier and the runner, Yandy Diaz, were put back on second and third base. Nick Pivetta got Mike Zunino swinging to escape unscathed. In the bottom of the inning, a one-out walk by Renfroe was followed by a two-run homer off the bat of clutch catcher Christian Vazquez.
The Red Sox’ offensive resilience was admirable, but once again, the highlight of the day came on the mound. Nick Pivetta, who was supposed to start Game 4, relieved Garrett Whitlock in the 10th inning and went on to throw four innings of seven-strikeout, zero-run baseball. Eovaldi looked good too, striking out eight batters. However, his two earned runs in the first inning put Boston in a tough position early on. Offensively, Vazquez saved the day with his homer, but Schwarber and Hernández contributed to the cause by also homering. Both of them (along with Arroyo) logged three hits in the effort.
For the Rays, a rollercoaster of emotions resulted in a painful loss that gave Boston the 2-1 series lead. Franco and Meadows led the way as each logged two hits, including one homer. Meanwhile, Randy Arozarena stole a base. On the mound, Tampa Bay used nine pitchers, none of whom lasted more than two innings. Drew Rasmussen got the start and allowed three runs. Meanwhile, Luis Patiño, who was supposed to pitch Game 4 for the Rays, lasted 1.1 innings and allowed the walk-off homer.
Game 4: Red Sox 6, Rays 5
Entering this game, the Red Sox knew they could count on the home crowd to propel them to an ALCS berth. Rafael Devers got things going in the third inning, hitting a three-run homer off McClanahan (who relieved opener Collin McHugh). Moments later, Boston extended its lead with a Verdugo double and Martinez single. However, the Rays scored five unanswered over the next five innings, tying the game at five apiece heading into the bottom of the eighth. A Meadows groundout, Franco homer, Kiermaier double, and Arozarena single accounted for the Rays’ scoring. However, Boston set up runners on first and third in the ninth inning following a Vazquez single, Arroyo bunt, and pinch-hit Travis Shaw single. Hernández called game with a sac fly to left.
Rodriguez got the start in this one and looked better than he did in Game 1. The southpaw lasted five innings, allowing just two runs on three hits. He cracked up six strikeouts and the no-decision along the way. Ryan Brasier sparked some concern by allowing two runs to tie the game in the eighth, but Garrett Whitlock subsequently entered and threw two beautiful, perfect innings. Offensively, Devers had the lone homer while Verdugo and Renfroe doubled. Devers led the way with three RBI and three hits. Martinez and Vazquez, the Game 3 hero, each had two base knocks.
The Rays’ outfield (Kiermaier, Arozarena, and Meadows) combined for four of the team’s five RBI on Monday. Kiermaier and Arozarena both had multi-hit showings while Franco homered. Tampa Bay went deep into its bullpen once again, using eight pitchers. None of them lasted more than two innings. Four of them pitched less than one frame. In the end, J.P. Feyereisen, who had a 2.73 ERA in 2021, was charged with the loss.
Martinez, who was battling a lingering ankle injury, showed no signs of weakness as he led both the Red Sox and Rays with a .467 batting average in the series. Hernández was a close second, hitting .450. His nine hits lead eight Division Series teams thus far. Hernández and Devers (as well as Tampa Bay’s Franco) went yard twice in the four-game set. Despite the Rays’ series loss, Randy Arozarena’s brilliance cannot be ignored. He currently leads the entire MLB Division Series circuit with four walks and two stolen bases.
Pitching-wise, veteran right-hander David Robertson was the only qualified pitcher in this series who posted a 0.00 ERA. Tanner Houck led this series in OBA (.143), but teammate Nathan Eovaldi was not far behind (.158). Houck, Pivetta, and McHugh all allowed two homers each before all was said and done. Interestingly, both teams limited walks. For Boston, Pivetta issued three free passes but also leads the entire MLB Division Series circuit with 11 strikeouts. Rodriguez and Matt Barnes were responsible for two walks. Meanwhile, the Rays boasted great control; none of Tampa Bay’s hurlers allowed more than one walk in the series.
For the Rays, it’s time to disperse and maybe pursue some golf. The team’s biggest front office decisions come in the form of free agents Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino, both of whom offer a strong veteran presence in the lineup.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, advance to the ALCS. They’ll take on the winner of the Astros-White Sox series. Houston currently leads that one, 2-1, and there’s a chance that a winner could be crowned as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
Series: American League Championship Series
Teams: Boston Red Sox vs. HOU/CWS
Date: Begins on Oct. 15; time TBD
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