LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa homered in back-to-back innings and the Houston Astros rallied to beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 on Friday in Game 1 of their American League Championship Series.
Boston had seized a two-run lead with a three-run third-inning led off by a home run from Enrique Hernandez.
The Red Sox’s 3-1 advantage held up until Altuve crushed a game-tying two-run home run off Red Sox relief pitcher Tanner Houck with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
It was a 20th career post-season homer for Altuve, who atoned for a third-inning fielding error that allowed the Red Sox to put up a run.
“The key is to stay in the game,” Altuve said of shaking off the tough play.
Correa put the Astros ahead for the first time since their one-run lead in the first inning with a solo shot off Boston reliever Hansel Robles in the seventh.
Correa knew the instant the ball left his bat that it was out of the park, pausing to watch for a moment before rounding the bases.
“I knew he was going to try to pound me with the fastball up,” Correa said.
“And he left the changeup right there and I just happened to catch it up front.”
The Astros added an insurance run in the eighth inning when Altuve’s sacrifice fly scored Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-3.
Gurriel was walked to open the inning by Red Sox relief pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura, who then gave up a single to Chas McCormick and hit Martin Maldonado with a pitch to load the bases.
He escaped the inning without further damage, and the Red Sox pulled a run back when Hernandez belted his second home run of the night off Astros closing pitcher Ryan Pressly.
But Pressly regrouped to record the final three outs of the tense duel that lasted four hours and seven minutes and saw the teams combine to use 16 pitchers.
Neither Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale nor Astros starter Framber Valdez completed three innings.
Hernandez did everything he could for the Red Sox. Along with his two homers — the first a towering 448-foot blast off Valdez — he had a single and a double.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the second inning, he came up with a spectacular diving catch to end the frame.
Game 2 is in Houston on Saturday, when the National League Championship Series will also begin in Atlanta with the Braves hosting reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers put away the San Francisco Giants in game five of the division series on Thursday while the Braves have been off since Tuesday, when they completed a four-game win over the Milwaukee Brewers in their division series.
Left-handed pitcher Max Fried will get the ball for the Braves for Game 1.
Fried started game one of the 2020 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
In this post-season he pitched six scoreless innings in Atlanta’s Game 2 win over the Brewers.
The Dodgers’ pitching situation was a bit less clear. Manager Dave Roberts said ace Max Scherzer would be the preferred option to start.
But Scherzer threw 13 pitches in the ninth inning on Thursday to close out the Giants, and Roberts said it was still possible he would not be ready.
“He’s going to go out there, play catch and get treatment, and if he says he’s good enough and feels like he can take down a start, then he’ll be our Game 1 starter,” Roberts said.