Houston wins battle of the bullpens in Game 1

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Red Sox-Astros takeaways: Houston wins battle of the bullpens originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Red Sox dropped Game 1 of the American League Championship Series to the Houston Astros, 5-4.

Other than a three-run third inning off Astros starter Framber Valdez and a last-ditch effort by Kiké Hernandez, Boston’s bats were silenced. Houston, on the other hand, was able to capitalize after forcing Red Sox ace Chris Sale out of the game early.

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Jose Altuve crushed a game-tying two-run home run in the sixth, then Carlos Correa gave the Astros the lead with a no-doubt homer off Sox reliever Hansel Robles in the seventh. Hernandez brought Boston within one with his second homer of the game in the ninth, but it was too little, too late.

Here are three quick takeaways from Boston’s Game 1 defeat.

No answer for Astros bullpen

When the Red Sox chased Astros starter Framber Valdez from the game with a three-run third inning, it looked like another big day for the offense after a strong finish to the ALDS.

The Astros bullpen said “not so fast.”

After Valdez’s early departure, six Houston relievers combined to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings and allow only three hits. Yimi Garcia finished off the third inning, then second-year right-hander Cristian Javier set the tone with two nearly-perfect innings in which he struck out four Red Sox hitters. It was all Astros after that.

Boston’s bullpen simply was outclassed by Houston’s in Game 1. Adam Ottavino, Josh Taylor and Ryan Brasier did their part to keep the Red Sox in it after Sale was removed in the third inning, but it was mostly downhill from there.

Tanner Houck scuffles again

Since his gem of a relief performance in Game 2 of the ALDS, Houck hasn’t looked all that comfortable on the mound. With Altuve’s game-tying home run Friday night, the right-hander has now allowed three home runs over his last three innings innings pitched.

That proved to be the turning point. Houston had all of the momentum as the Minute Maid Park crowd exploded after being quiet for the first half of the game.

This ALCS is likely going to come down to the battle of the bullpens, so the Red Sox will need Houck to be at his best going forward. Otherwise, this could be a quick series.

Nathan Eovaldi will look to preserve the bullpen in Game 2.

Kiké Hernandez stays red-hot

Kiké Hernandez literally did all he could to put the Red Sox in a position to win Game 1. The Red Sox utility man led off the game with a single, belted a game-tying home run in his second at-bat, and doubled in his third. He added another homer in the ninth inning to bring Boston within one run.

Hernandez’s effort made him the first player in MLB history to record 12 hits in a four-game span in the postseason. He also made a major impact with his glove as he made an incredibly clutch diving catch in the second inning.

As great as Hernandez has been, the Red Sox can’t expect him to stay this hot throughout the best-of-seven series. The Xander Bogaerts’, Kyle Schwarbers, and J.D. Martinez’s of the world are going to have to step up. That trio went a combined 1-for-11 in the Game 1 loss.

They’ll look to turn their look around Saturday in Game 2. First pitch is set for 4:20 p.m. ET in Houston.

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