Red Sox fall to Astros in ALCS opener

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Benintendi's strikeout ended a sustained Red Sox rally.

In his 23rd postseason start, Verlander struck out six and matched a postseason career high with four walks. Three of them and one of his two wild pitches came in a fifth inning that nearly chased him from the game. Sale's third inning was scoreless, and he struck out two in a flawless fourth, seemingly regaining the feel on his slider.

Verlander cruised through the first four innings, throwing just 48 pitches and retiring 10 straight at one point while holding a 2-0 lead.

Game 1 ended up hinging on two freakish and slow half-frames-the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth-in which Boston tied things up against Verlander, only to give the lead right back to Houston. "But once that happens, then you've got to reset and not relinquish the lead".

Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel added insurance in the ninth with home runs off Brandon Workman. Boston will send David Price to the hill Sunday night while the Astros will counter with right-hander Gerrit Cole. Cora has expressed confidence in Price, a Cy Young Award victor who is 0-9 in 10 postseason starts, and the 108-win Red Sox will need him to be better than Sale was in the opener.

Many in Boston's vociferous media chattering class called for Price to be pulled from the rotation and wondered why a guy with such a bummer of a playoff history was given the start in the first place. What he did bring to the table was bushels of moxie and guile as he somehow, someway, survived four innings and allowed only two runs on one hit.

When the Astros opened the scoring in the second with a pair of runs off Sale, the rally started with two outs and went like this: Walk, walk, hit by pitch, walk, single.

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Our promised Chris Sale-Justin Verlander duel fizzled out right from the start.

"I don't have to look, I can feel it in my glove, I know that", said Leon. "I was trying to limit the damage and get out there as quick as we can".

In the ALCS for the first time since 2013, the Red Sox got four innings from Sale, who struggled early and allowed two runs on one hit while working around four walks. Verlander walked a third batter in a row, forcing in a run. Kelly, working his second inning in relief of Sale, had time called on him late by leadoff hitter Alex Bregman, then plunked him on the next pitch.

Verlander recovered from there, punching out Andrew Benintendi on a borderline strike to end the inning.

Before Correa's hit, Verlander labored through the fifth but did not allow the Red Sox to go ahead. They can be beaten but the Sox need to hit, pitch and defend with stark consistency throughout the series to have a chance at knocking off the champs. I thought home plate ump James Hoye handled the helmet slam from Benintendi well.

Cora continued the argument and was ejected; he handed over his lineup card to bench coach Ron Roenicke and headed down the tunnel.

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