Boston — The Houston Astros poured back onto the field after advancing to their first AL Championship Series, posing for pictures with the Green Monster as a backdrop before a few players bellyflopped in the puddles in the infield dirt.
No matter, they were already soaked from celebratory beer and sparkling wine.
“Both teams were throwing their guys, and that’s what you live for,” Houston third baseman Alex Bregman said on Monday after Justin Verlander came out of the bullpen to beat Chris Sale in an aces-turned-relievers role reversal and helped the Astros eliminate the Red Sox in four games with a 5-4 victory.
“When we saw Verlander run to the ‘pen we said, ‘Our horse is on the mound, we need to win this game,’” said Bregman, who homered off Sale to tie it in the eighth before Josh Reddick’s single gave the Astros the lead. “That’s kind of the whole energy that he’s brought since we brought him over here. He’s brought an energy with him that, ‘Hey, when he’s out there, we’re going to win.’”
Verlander, who was acquired for the playoff run after spending his first 13 seasons in Detroit, gave up the go-ahead homer to Andrew Benintendi — the first batter he faced — before shutting Boston down for the next 2 2/3 innings.
The former AL MVP and Cy Young winner earned the victory in his first relief appearance after 424 starts in a major and minor league career.
“All the things that you would like to do as a starter, and I was able to do that,” Verlander said. “Top to bottom, man, these guys grinded against two of the toughest competitors in this game in Sale and (closer Craig) Kimbrel.”
The Astros will open the ALCS on Friday, either at Cleveland or at home against the New York Yankees. The Indians held a 2-1 edge over the Yankees going into Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Monday night.
The Red Sox forced a Game 4 after losing the first two games in Houston, and then took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on Benintendi’s homer. Bregman tied it before Reddick’s single off closer Craig Kimbrel made it 4-3.
Carlos Beltran added to his postseason legacy with an RBI double in the ninth — an insurance run that became the game-winner when Rafael Devers hit an inside-the-park homer off closer Ken Giles over leaping center fielder George Springer and off the Green Monster toward center.
The 20-year-old Red Sox rookie easily circled the bases before the throw to make it 5-4.
Giles retired the next three batters for the six-out save.
“The two big boys, Sale and Verlander, both get into the game. Everybody did well,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “Nobody really wanted to concede the game.”
The Astros last reached the league championship series in 2005 as a National League team, and were swept in the World Series by the White Sox. This year’s team, wearing “Houston Strong” patches to support the city that was flooded in Hurricane Harvey, is hoping to finish the job.
“The city of Houston is still rebuilding,” Hinch said. “It’s easy for us to look in the rearview mirror and think that the hurricane is over (but) the rebuild is not going to stop for a long time. … We want to win for them, we want to win for us, we want to win because we showed up in spring training to try to win a World Series.”
Springer and Yuli Gurriel each had three hits for the AL West champions, and Reddick’s go-ahead single made up for misplaying a fly ball into a home run in Game 3 to force a fourth game. Reddick got a postgame drenching in the clubhouse while wearing a red, white and blue flag Speedo.
Verlander also beat Sale in the playoff opener and is now 7-0 for his new team. Sale, who had never appeared in the postseason before 2017, pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits, striking out six.
“This is what we show up to spring training for. It’s what we work all offseason for. Ups and downs, all around the country,” Sale said. “This is what we live for.”
On a rainy day at Fenway Park — the fourth straight day game — the Red Sox again saw a starter struggle early, with Rick Porcello giving up Houston’s eighth first-inning run of the series. The reigning AL Cy Young winner, who led the AL with 22 wins last year and the majors with 17 losses in 2017, gave up two runs in three innings, walking three and striking out four while allowing five hits.
Xander Bogaerts also homered for the AL East champion Red Sox, and Hanley Ramirez had two hits a day after going 4 for 4 in Boston’s only postseason win since the end of the 2013 World Series.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Wegner in the bottom of the second inning after coming out to argue a called third strike on Dustin Pedroia. The previous batter, Jackie Bradley Jr., had also been called out strikes on a close pitch.
It is the 19th ejection of Farrell’s career and his third this season.
(At) N.Y. Yankees 7, Cleveland 3, Game 4: Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees are headed back to Cleveland for a decisive Game 5 — thanks to plenty of help from the Indians.
Severino rebounded from his playoff debacle, Judge delivered a big hit and the Yankees took advantage of shoddy defense by Cleveland to even their AL Division Series at two games apiece.
“We’ve got a shot now,” said New York manager Joe Girardi, harshly criticized for his Game 2 decisions. “So it’s a totally different feeling than it was the other day, and these guys have picked me up.”
Gary Sanchez homered and a slumping Judge laced an early two-run double for his only hit of the series to go with 12 strikeouts in 15 at-bats.
Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer struggled on three days’ rest and was chased in the second inning. But it was on the wet Yankee Stadium field where the Indians really flopped, committing a season-high four errors that marked a franchise record for a postseason game and led to six unearned runs.
The defending AL champions made only 76 errors all season, the lowest total in the league.
“The whole night, we made it hard on ourselves to win,” manager Terry Francona said.
After preventing a three-game sweep with a 1-0 win Sunday night, the wild-card Yankees will start CC Sabathia against his original team in Game 5 on Wednesday. Indians ace Corey Kluber gets the ball in a rematch from Game 2, when he was hit hard by New York.
“It’s hard to imagine giving it to somebody better,” Francona said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The winner faces Houston in the AL Championship Series after the Astros finished off Boston in four games Monday to win their ALDS.
“We’ve got a young team and they’re hungry,” Severino said.