Somehow, some way, even with a tropical storm bearing down on the Northeast, the Red Sox and Astros played nine innings of baseball on Monday afternoon in Boston. The Astros won, 5-4, advancing to the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World to play the winner of the Indians-Yankees series. But that wasn't the whole story. With rain gathering on the field, the Red Sox facing elimination, Fenway Park in a frenzy and Houston eager to get to the ALCS -- elements of weirdness crept into the game.
5. Farewell, Farrell
The game got off to a wild start: The Astros made it 1-0 after the top of the first, the Red Sox tied things up in the bottom half and then Houston took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second. Trailing, 2-1, in the bottom of the second, the Red Sox loaded the bases with nobody out. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedroia struck out on some close pitches. Manager John Farrell thought they were a bit ouside and expressed his frustration to home-plate umpire Mark Wegner. That didn't go over so well.
4. Chris Sale, reliever?
After Rick Porcello gave up two runs in three innings, the Sox turned to their bullpen. And by bullpen, we mean Cy Young-candidate starter Chris Sale.
Chris Sale warming for Red Sox.- Richard Justice (@richardjustice) October 9, 2017
Although he gave up two runs in 4 2/3 innings, he struck out six -- unleashing the fastest pitch he's thrown all year.
3. Justin Verlander, reliever?
The Astros saw Boston's putting-our-ace-in-the-game-as-a-reliever and matched it by replacing Charlie Morton with Justin Verlander in the fifth inning. It was his first relief appearance in 385 career games. Game 4 was now seemingly Game 5:
We get Justin Verlander vs. Chris Sale after all.- Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 9, 2017
Verlander's start wasn't as strong as Sale's, as the Astros' two-run lead was immediately erased on the first batter he faced:
But ultimately, the 'Stros took back the lead and Verlander got the win -- giving up just one earned run in 2 2/3 innings.
2. The ballgirl was the real Red Sox MVP ... for a minute or two
With the game tied up at 3-3 in the later innings, Evan Gattis stepped up to the plate and ripped a ground ball down the third-base line. Nobody could stop it -- not Rafael Devers, not Andrew Benintendi. But there was one last line of defense: The Red Sox ballgirl.
Gattis got to second on the play, but it was ruled a single since she interfered. I guess not all interferences are bad? Unfortunately for Boston fans, the Astros ended up taking a two-run lead that inning anyway. Alex Bregman, who had homered earlier to tie the game, was quite pleased.
1. Rafael Devers' inside-the-park home run that gave Boston hope
With the Red Sox down two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ken Giles looked to close things out for the Astros. The 20-year-old Rafael Devers went down 0-2 in the count but then, somehow, crushed a line drive into the left-center field gap. George Springer jumped for it, but the ball hit the wall and kicked away from the center fielder -- resulting in the team's first postseason inside-the-park homer in more than 100 years.
All the outfielders could do was lie there and watch.
Giles eventually got out of the inning and held onto the one-run lead. Let's hope for some more weird baseball in the coming weeks.
The Astros advance to their first ALCS, with Game 1 set for Friday against the winner of the Indians-Yankees. Game 1 would be in Houston if the Yankees win the series, or in Cleveland if the Indians win.