Live Sox Playoff Updates: Astros come from behind to win Game 1

Oct. 16—They just kept coming, and in the end the Red Sox couldn't hold them off.

On a day where the Red Sox offense couldn't sustain the momentum that carried it past the Tampa Bay Rays, the bullpen had to hold the high-powered Houston Astros down for nearly the entire game. That proved too tall an order as the Astros rallied in the late innings to earn a 5-4 win in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

After Jose Altuve tied the game with a two-run homer in the sixth, and Carlos Correa gave the Astros the lead with a solo shot in the seventh, Houston added another insurance run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

That last run turned out to be pivotal, as Kiké Hernández greeted Astros closer Ryan Pressly with a sizzling liner for a solo home run in the top of the ninth. Hernández finished 4 for 5 with two home runs, a double, a single and two RBI, but the Red Sox collectively only went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.

After the Hernández home run, Pressly finished things off with relatively little drama. He got Kyle Schwarber, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers to ground out to wrap up the Game 1 victory.

Game 2 will be Saturday at 4:20 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park.


Bottom 7th: Correa goes deep, puts Astros ahead 4-3

Carlos Correa knew it was gone the moment the ball left the bat.

The Astros shortstop got all of a changeup from Red Sox righty Hansel Robles, pointing at his wrist and gesturing "it's time" to his dugout as his go-ahead home run left the yard.

The solo home run gave the Astros a 4-3 lead, and now Houston has delivered back-breaking home runs in consecutive innings against the Red Sox bullpen.

Robles would escape the inning without further damage, but now the Red Sox have only six outs to tie the game or take the lead.


Bottom 6th: Altuve homers to tie game at 3-3

You knew the Astros weren't going to stay down forever.

Jose Altuve tied the game with a two-run home run off Tanner Houck in the bottom of the sixth to knot the score at 3-3. The homer came shortly after Chas McCormick got on base with a single, and Altuve ambushed a hanging slider to crush the ball 382 feet into the Crawford Boxes in left field.

Houck struck out Michael Brantley to end the inning, and now the Red Sox will look to get the bats going again heading into the top of the seventh.


Bottom 5th: Red Sox escape jams in third, fifth to hold lead

The Red Sox aren't making it easy on themselves, but so far they've managed to hold on to their 3-1 lead.

In both the bottom of the third and fifth Houston got two men on with a chance to either tie or take the lead, and both times Boston has escaped without allowing a run.

In the third Adam Ottavino came on for Chris Sale with two outs and two on and got Yuli Gurriel to ground out to second, and then proceeded to get a clean fourth inning. Josh Taylor came on to pitch the fifth, went single, flyout to center and strikeout against his pocket of lefties, and Ryan Brasier then came on and allowed a single to Carlos Correa before getting Kyle Tucker to fly out to deep center on a play that almost twisted up Kiké Hernández.

Meanwhile, Hernández doubled in the top of the fourth, putting him at 3 for 3 and a triple short of the cycle, but the Red Sox couldn't drive him in. Boston went 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth.


Top 3rd: Hernández makes incredible catch, homers to lead Sox rally

Kiké Hernández is at it again.

In a play reminiscent of Andrew Benintendi's ALCS-clinching catch three years ago, Kiké Hernández made one of the defensive plays of the season for the Red Sox, a diving grab in centerfield with two outs and the bases loaded to stop a Houston rally.

Then, to lead off the top of the third, Hernández tied the game with a towering solo home run to the left field train tracks. Boston would follow that up with two more runs, with Xander Bogaerts walking, Rafael Devers singling and J.D. Martinez scoring Bogaerts after Jose Altuve booted what should have been an inning ending double play. Hunter Renfroe tacked on an RBI double to make it 3-1.

Hernández is coming off one of the most prolific offensive playoff series in team history in the ALDS, and now he's already 2 for 2 in Game 1 while likely saving at least two runs on defense.

Astros starter Framber Valdez, meanwhile, is finished after just 2.2 innings. He allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Yimi Garcia came on in relief and struck out Christian Arroyo with two men on to end the inning.


Bot 1st: Astros 1, Red Sox 0

Chris Sale still doesn't look anywhere close to his normal self.

The Red Sox starter labored through a tough first inning, allowing a run on a sacrifice fly while throwing 29 pitches. Sale allowed a leadoff walk, a single and then had both runners move into scoring position after a wild pitch. Yordan Álvarez scored Jose Altuve on a sacrifice fly and Sale was able to get out of the inning without further incident.

Two concerning things to watch with Sale, he's still throwing almost exclusively fastball and sliders. Sale has spoken recently about not having his curveball back since Tommy John surgery, and in the first inning he only threw one. The other problem, he's having difficulty locating his pitches, and his slider in particular.

Boston's offense was more promising in the top of the first, getting two hits and two walks, but the Red Sox didn't score thanks to a double play and a flyout with the bases loaded. Houston leads 1-0 going into the second.


Verdugo to start over Dalbec against lefty

Alex Verdugo will get the start in Game 1 over Bobby Dalbec despite a lefty being on the mound for the Astros, the team announced this afternoon.

For most of the second half Dalbec has started against lefties given his monster splits, while Verdugo has comparatively struggled with lefties on the mound and often found himself the odd man out with Kyle Schwarber playing left field. Recently, however, Verdugo has been one of Boston's most productive all-around players while Dalbec is now 2 for his last 31 dating back to Sept. 22, so Verdugo will start in left and Schwarber will play first base with Houston starter Framber

Valdez pitching.

In addition, Kiké Hernández will bump back into his usual leadoff spot, Schwarber will bat second and J.D. Martinez will shift back down to fifth after spending much of the ALDS in the sixth spot.

During his pre-game remarks, Red Sox manager Alex Cora also explained the rationale for adding Hirokazu Sawamura and Darwinzon Hernandez to the ALCS roster over Matt Barnes and Austin Davis. He said they felt those pitchers matched up against the Astros better, and also that "stuff plays" as far as having more power out of the pen, which would certainly explain the decision to keep Hernandez over Davis as the third lefty.

As for Game 1 starter Chris Sale, Cora said Sale is "full go" and that the bullpen is rested and ready to go as well.

Full lineups for Game 1 are as follows:

Red Sox:

1. Kiké Hernández CF

2. Kyle Schwarber 1B

3. Xander Bogaerts SS

4. Rafael Devers 3B

5. J.D. Martinez DH

6. Hunter Renfroe RF

7. Alex Verdugo LF

8. Christian Arroyo 2B

9. Christian Vázquez C

10. Chris Sale


1. Jose Altuve 2B

2. Michael Brantley DH

3. Alex Bregman 3B

4. Yordan Álvarez LF

5. Carlos Correa SS

6. Kyle Tucker RF

7. Yuli Gurriel 1B

8. Chas McCormick CF

9. Martin Maldonado C

10. Framber Valdez P


McCullers officially ruled out for ALCS

Lance McCullers Jr. will not pitch in the ALCS, the Houston Astros announced Friday morning.

The Astros ace suffered forearm tightness in his last start in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox, and with him sidelined Houston will be without its best starter.

The Red Sox also announced their roster, which is similar to the ALDS roster only with two changes in the bullpen. Righty Hirokazu Sawamura and lefty Darwinzon Hernandez are in, taking the place of former closer Matt Barnes and trade deadline acquisition Austin Davis.

The full Red Sox and Astros ALCS rosters are as follows:

Red Sox

Pitcher (13): Ryan Brasier, Nathan Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Hansel Robles, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Garrett Whitlock

Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vázquez

Infielders (5): Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw

Infielders/Outfielders (2): Kiké Hernández, Danny Santana


Pitchers (13): Luis Garcia, Yimi Garcia, Kendall Graveman, Zack Greinke, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Jake Odorizzi, Ryan Pressly, Brooks Raley, Ryne Stanek, Blake Taylor, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez

Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Martin Maldonado

Infielders (5): Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, Yuli Gurriel

Outfielders (6): Yordan Álvarez, Michael Brantley, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Jose Siri, Kyle Tucker


Red Sox announce Sale will start Game 1

Alex Cora announced Thursday afternoon that Chris Sale will start Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday, and that Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Game 2 on Saturday.

Sale (5-1, 3.16 ERA) will face Astros lefty Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14) in Game 1, and Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75) will take on righty Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30) in Game 2.

Sale has not yet faced the Astros this season, and Eovaldi faced Houston once in the regular season, taking a loss on June 9 after allowing five runs on 11 hits over 5.2 innings of work. Valdez went 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox and Garcia went seven innings with one run allowed in his lone start against Boston this season.

The decision to start Sale in Game 1 was a surprise considering that Sale has struggled recently and is coming off a tough outing in Game 2 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay. Cora said they are confident in Sale's ability to get the job done, that he won't be an "opener" and that he will have no limitations.

Cora also said he expects the Red Sox will be aggressive with the bullpen and that Eduardo Rodriguez will be available to pitch in relief if needed.

In addition, Major League Baseball also announced the start times and TV channels for the first three games of the series. Game 1 will be Friday at 8:07 p.m. ET on Fox, Game 2 will be Saturday at 4:20 p.m. on Fox and FS1 and Game 3 will be Monday at 8:07 p.m. on FS1.


Report: McCullers' availability for ALCS in doubt

The Houston Astros may be without their top starting pitcher for the American League Championship Series.

Lance McCullers Jr. left Game 4 of Houston's 10-1 win over the Chicago White Sox with arm discomfort, and according to a report by MLB Network's Jon Heyman, his status for the ALCS is in serious doubt.

"Heard Lance McCullers had an MRI and word is that he should be fine in the long run. No official word on the next few weeks however."

"There is great concern for McCullers in the short term, and he's most likely out for the ALCS."

Speaking to Houston beat writers, Astros general manager James Click said McCullers is still being examined and did not elaborate on his status for the ALCS. The team will have to make a decision on whether or not to include him on the ALCS roster by Friday morning.

If McCullers is indeed unavailable to pitch, it would be a huge blow to the Astros. McCullers was the team's top starting pitcher this season, going 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 162.1 innings, and he threw 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Houston's Game 1 victory over the White Sox last week.

Framber Valdez will start Game 1 for the Astros and Luis Garcia will start Game 2. The Red Sox are expected to announce their starters for Games 1-2 by Thursday afternoon.


Eovaldi: Astros "aren't high on my list"

Nathan Eovaldi doesn't have a high opinion of the Houston Astros.

That's not unusual these days. The Astros' reputation was tarnished in early 2020 after details of their sign stealing operation came to light, and even two years later Houston continues to face persistent hostility from opposing teams and crowds.

But the Red Sox starter has more reason than most to dislike the team, and he acknowledged that he's not a fan when asked during an appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Wednesday.

"Yeah, they have a tendency of rubbing guys the wrong way," Eovaldi said. "I don't necessarily hate any team, but they're not high up on my list."

Why might that be? Besides the sign stealing scheme, Eovaldi was also the victim of a social media troll job by Houston third baseman Alex Bregman during the 2018 ALCS. Bregman posted a video of Eovaldi giving up three straight home runs to the Astros earlier that season as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.

"It happened. I gave up three homers back-to-back-to-back," Eovaldi said. "But we were able to come out on top in that series and hopefully we're going do be able to do it again this time."

During his appearance Eovaldi was also asked how the clubhouse felt about the team's perceived inactivity at the trade deadline. He admitted that the players were "a little frustrated that we didn't make more moves," but that the three players the team acquired, and Kyle Schwarber especially, have played a huge part in getting the team as far as it has.

He also praised Red Sox Nation for its support, saying the crowd energy at Fenway Park through the playoffs has been the best he's ever seen since joining the club.

Eovaldi is currently the favorite to start Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday. Manager Alex Cora has not yet announced starters for any of this weekend's games, but Eovaldi would be in line to start on full rest should he get the ball.


What the Astros are saying about facing Red Sox

Since the Red Sox clinched their trip to the American League Championship Series on Monday night, several members of the Houston Astros have commented on the matchup, both as a hypothetical and then once the ALCS was confirmed following their own series clinching win over the White Sox on Tuesday. Here is what a few members of the Astros had to say when asked about playing Boston.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, Tuesday before Game 4, on former Astros bench coach Alex Cora advancing with Red Sox again: "I think it was a great game both sides. Very happy for Cora. Obviously, he was here with us, and it's a guy that I love very much, so I was very happy. I text him after the game. Obviously, nobody had them win that series. Nobody had them getting to the playoffs. Especially after the way they played last year, and he came in and put the team back on the map and, you know, they've accomplished so much more than people thought they would accomplish this year, so, obviously, I'm proud of him. Very happy.

But if we get this win today, obviously, he will be the enemy, so that love will be gone for a couple of days, but I'm very happy that he is able to accomplish that after everything he went through, not only him, but also his family, so it's — it was a beautiful moment for him, his daughter, his family, and, you know, I'm very proud of him."

Manager Dusty Baker, Tuesday before Game 4, asked if he'd watched the Red Sox clincher the prior night and if he had any thoughts on possibly facing Boston in the next round: "You wish you were in that position yourself, but you have action on getting into that position. I wasn't really locked on it. I was following the score and, you know, it was 5-1 and 5-3. Actually my wife was more locked on it than me because she's better on her phone than I am, you know, picking up scores.

I kind of felt that Boston might win it. I've been in both sides where sometimes when you play, play, play and keep on playing with no off days, you tend to be sharper. And so, again, I wasn't locked on it. I was really locked on my stone crabs from Joe's Stone Crabs really. You know what I mean? That's what I was really locked on. Sure was good."

Second baseman Jose Altuve, Tuesday after Game 4, on facing the Red Sox: "I think they're a really good team obviously. They just beat the Tampa Bay Rays, which they won 100 games, so we're playing another good team. I feel like, you know, every single team in the playoffs have something that can make them a potential winner. So we got to go out there with the same mentality. We got to prepare ourselves and win as many games as we can."


ALCS tickets on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

The Red Sox announced this week that tickets for the team's American League Championship Series games at Fenway Park will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

The team will play at least two and possibly three home games at Fenway between Oct. 18-20. Game 3 will be Monday, Oct. 18, Game 4 on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and if necessary Game 5 on Wednesday, Oct. 20. All start times are still to be determined.

Tickets will be available online at, and all tickets will be delivered through the MLB Ballpark App. Tickets won't be sold at the Fenway Park ticket office.

The Red Sox are set to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS for the second time in four years. Boston previously beat Houston in 2018 en route to the team's most recent World Series championship.


Red Sox to face Astros in ALCS

For the third time in five years, the Boston Red Sox will face the Houston Astros in the playoffs.

Houston wrapped up its American League Divisional Series with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, winning Game 4 by a score of 10-1 to clinch the series 3-1. The Red Sox and Astros will now square off in the American League Championship Series, with Game 1 scheduled for Friday at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

Boston and Houston previously faced off in the 2017 ALDS, which the Astros won 3-1, and then again in the 2018 ALCS, which the Red Sox won 4-1. Both teams went on to win the World Series after their respective victories, and this is now Houston's fifth straight trip to the ALCS overall.

One storyline you can expect to hear a lot of over the next week is Red Sox manager Alex Cora's return to Houston for the first time in the playoffs since his involvement in the Astros' sign stealing scandal came to light. Cora previously served as bench coach of the Astros in 2017 and was suspended by MLB — and fired by the Red Sox — when details of the scandal were first published in early 2020. He was rehired by the Red Sox after the following season and has now led the team back to the ALCS in his first year back.

The Astros also incurred substantial penalties as a result of the scandal and remain an object of scorn among large segments of the baseball community, even though only five members of the 2017 team remain on the roster. Led by new manager Dusty Baker the Astros are looking to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2019, when they lost to the Washington Nationals.

The ALCS schedule is as follows:

2021 American League Championship Series

Game 1: Fri., Oct. 15, 8:07 p.m. ET, Fox

Game 2: Sat., Oct. 16, TBD, Fox or FS1

Game 3: Mon., Oct. 18, TBD, FS1

Game 4: Tues., Oct. 19, TBD, FS1

Game 5*: Wed., Oct. 20, TBD, FS1

Game 6*: Fri., Oct. 22, TBD, FS1

Game 7*: Sat., Oct. 23, TBD, Fox or FS1

* If necessary


Red Sox win Game 4 on walk-off sac fly by Hernández

The Red Sox are going to the American League Championship Series!

With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth and runners at the corners, Kiké Hernández capped off his epic series with a walk-off sacrifice fly to score Danny Santana. The Red Sox win Game 4 6-5 and will now play the winner of the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox series starting on Friday.

Hernández's winner came after Christian Vazquez led off the inning with a single, and he moved into scoring position on a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt by Christian Arroyo. Travis Shaw pinch hit and reached on a single that probably should have been an error, putting runners at the corners and setting the stage for Hernández to send the Red Sox through to the ALCS.


Top 8th: Rays tie game on three straight doubles

We have ourselves a tie ballgame.

Trailing 5-3 in the top of the eighth, the Rays tagged Ryan Brasier for three straight doubles to knot the score at five. Mike Zunino, Kevin Kiermaier and Randy Arozarena all hit liners into the right centerfield gap.

With the go-ahead run at second base and no outs, Garrett Whitlock came on and escaped the inning without further damage. He also made perhaps the defensive play of the game by backing up an errant throw to third to prevent Arozarena from advancing.

In the bottom of the eighth, Alex Verdugo reached on a throwing error by Wander Franco, putting him at second with no outs. The Red Sox couldn't capitalize, as J.D. Martinez flew out to right, Hunter Renfroe flew out to center and then Verdugo was thrown out by Kevin Kiermaier trying to advance to third.

Whitlock will be back out to pitch the top of the ninth.


Bottom 7th: Red Sox six outs away

The Red Sox are six outs away from the ALCS.

Lefty Josh Taylor came on in relief for the top of the seventh and sent the Rays down 1-2-3 in the inning. Boston still leads 5-3 and will see Tampa Bay's 8-9-1 hitters in the eighth.

The Red Sox had a chance to add to their lead, with Kiké Hernández and Rafael Devers each singling to bring up runners at the corners with one out, but Xander Bogaerts grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Ryan Brasier is now on to pitch the top of the eighth. Bobby Dalbec is in as a defensive replacement for Kyle Schwarber at first base.


Top 6th: Franco homers, cuts Sox lead to 5-3

The Rays have something special in Wander Franco.

The 20-year-old phenom hit a two-run home run off Tanner Houck in the top of the sixth to cut the Red Sox lead to 5-3. His blast came shortly after Kevin Kiermaier hit a bloop fall into shallow left for a double.

Houck also gave up a long fly ball for an out in center to Randy Arozarena but escaped the inning without further damage.

The Red Sox now come to the plate in the bottom of the sixth to face Luis Patino, who allowed the walk-off home run to Christian Vazquez on Sunday night.


Bot 5th: Rodriguez departs after excellent start

Before the game Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Eduardo Rodriguez would be the team's "bulk guy" and would be counted on to carry the load in Game 4.

Rodriguez delivered in a big way.

The Red Sox starter's day is done after pitching five-plus innings of brilliant baseball. He allowed three hits and at the time of his departure only one run with a man at second base in the top of the sixth. Tanner Houck is now on in relief.

The Rays, meanwhile, turned to closer Andrew Kittredge to keep the game from getting out of hand.

Kittredge has pitched two perfect innings to slow down a Red Sox offense that was looking like a runaway train in the third. The Red Sox lead is now 5-1 after the Rays scored a run on an Austin Meadows groundout in the top of the fifth.


Bottom 3rd: Devers three-run homer highlights rally

The Red Sox are sensing blood, and now they have the Rays on the ropes.

Rafael Devers' three-run home run highlighted a five-run rally in the bottom of the third, with the Red Sox sending 10 men to the plate in the team's best offensive inning of the playoffs.

Christian Vazquez singled to start it off, Kyle Schwarber walked and then Devers blasted a shot to straightaway centerfield with two outs to give the Red Sox the lead.

Then Xander Bogaerts singled and came around to score on an RBI double by Alex Verdugo, who came around to score himself the following at bat on a single by J.D. Martinez.

The rally primarily came against Shane McClanahan, the Rays' Game 1 starter who came on in relief of Collin McHugh. McHugh had pitched two scoreless innings out of the gate but McClahanan was chased after allowing five runs on 0.2 innings. J.T. Chargois came on in relief and struck out Vazquez to finally end the inning.


Top 3rd: Rodriguez wins 17-pitch at bat against Meadows

After an at bat that seemed to go on forever, Eduardo Rodriguez finally came out on top.

Rodriguez struck out Rays outfielder Austin Meadows after a 17-pitch at bat, with Meadows fouling off pitch after pitch before the Red Sox starter finally caught him chasing on a slider.

Rodriguez didn't have to work as hard to send down Mike Zunino or Kevin Kiermaier and remains perfect through three innings.

The Rays, meanwhile, have pulled opener Collin McHugh after two scoreless innings. Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan is on for the bottom of the third.


Bottom 2nd: E-Rod dealing early

Eduardo Rodriguez didn't even last two innings in Game 1. He's got that beat and then some so far tonight.

The Red Sox starter brought his A-game out of the gate in Game 4, recording six straight outs for two scoreless innings early. Heading into the top of the third he has four strikeouts with no baserunners allowed.

Rodriguez has had a little bit of help too. On the first at bat of the game, Randy Arozarena charged a liner into the right field gap but Hunter Renfroe made an incredible running catch. Then Rodriguez struck out Wander Franco looking the next at bat on a pitch that was far outside the strike zone.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have so far managed only a single against Rays starter Collin McHugh through two. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier has already gotten a lot of work, recording all three outs in the bottom of the second, including one on a great diving play.


No yellow uniforms for Marathon Monday

It may be Marathon Monday, but the Red Sox won't be wearing their special colors for Game 4 tonight.

Alex Cora confirmed that both the team's yellow marathon-inspired City Connect uniforms and the "Boston Strong" home white alternates aren't available, so the team will wear either their traditional white or red alternate uniforms instead.

The special uniforms have mostly been donated to charity, so there aren't enough around for the whole team, Cora said.

Regardless of their colors, the Red Sox have an opportunity to clinch the American League Divisional Series tonight. Eduardo Rodriguez is officially the team's Game 4 starter, and Cora said he will be entrusted to carry the bulk of the innings.

Beyond Rodriguez, Cora said Tanner Houck will also be available out of the bullpen. Hansel Robles, who wasn't feeling well after Game 3, is feeling better and isn't dealing with anything COVID-19 related.

Even Nathan Eovaldi, yesterday's starter, came to Cora's office after the game and made himself available for an inning if needed. Cora said Eovaldi will be in the bullpen as well.

The Red Sox lineup is similar to Game 3, with Vazquez subbing in for Kevin Plawecki at catcher. Here are the full lineups for each team:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Christian Vázquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Eduardo Rodriguez


1. Randy Arozarena RF

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Brandon Lowe 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Jordan Luplow 1B

6. Yandy Diaz 3B

7. Austin Meadows LF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Kevin Kiermaier CF

10. Collin McHugh P


Umpires explain rule on Kiermaier's ground-rule double

In order to avoid any confusion regarding the rules surrounding Kevin Kiermaier's ground rule double in the top of the 13th, crew chief Sam Holbrook and umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford spoke to reporters to explain why the play was ruled as it was.

"If you don't mind, what I'd like to do, this is our umpire manual, and what I'd like to do is just quote from the manual," Holbrook said. "It's item 20 in the manual, which is balls deflected out of play, which is in reference to official baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(H). It says, if a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch.

"So in this play right here, the ball was no longer in flight because it hit the front part of the wall. So you cannot catch the ball off the wall. The wall is basically an extension of the playing field, the front part of the wall is. So once that ball hit the wall, it was no longer in flight. Now the ball bounces off the wall and is deflected out of play off of a fielder, that's just a ground-rule double.

"There's no, he would have done this, would have done that, it's just flat out in the rule book. It's a ground rule double."

Holbrook also explained that they reviewed the play at the request of Rays manager Kevin Cash, but all of the umpires were on the same page and the replay confirmed everyone's initial interpretation of the play.

"They confirmed that it was just a ball off the wall, hit the fielder, and deflected out of play. Very simple. From an umpire's standpoint, very simple textbook in the rule."


FINAL: Red Sox win 6-4 on Vazquez walk-off homer in 13th

It's over!

Christian Vazquez hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 13th to give the Red Sox a thrilling 6-4 win over the Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Vazquez finished it off after Hunter Renfroe drew a walk, and the big finale came minutes after a wild and improbable sequence in the top of the 13th that kept the game tied.

The Red Sox now have a 2-1 series lead and will look to clinch Monday in Game 4.


Top 13th: Game still tied after improbable ground-rule double

Thanks to one of the most bizarre and improbable bounces you'll ever see, the Red Sox and Rays are still tied at 4-4 heading into the bottom of the 13th.

With a man at first, Kevin Kiermaier hit a deep fly ball to centerfield that bounced off the base of the wall. Under almost any other circumstances the hit would have scored the lead runner Yandy Diaz, but the ball bounced off right fielder Hunter Renfroe and over the bullpen fence.

Upon further review and after much discussion, the umpires ultimately ruled the ball a ground rule double and ordered Diaz stopped at third. Nick Pivetta then struck out Mike Zunino to get out of the inning and the Rays came away empty handed.


Extra innings: Red Sox 4, Rays 4

We are in extra innings here at Fenway Park.

After the Rays tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the eighth, the Red Sox failed to score in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings. Garrett Whitlock shut the door in the top of the ninth and now Nick Pivetta is likely on to pitch for as long as it takes.

The Rays and Red Sox both went down scoreless in the 10th. Rays outfielder Manuel Margot was caught stealing for the third out of the inning, and in the bottom of the frame Alex Verdugo reached on a single and J.D. Martinez nearly hit a towering fly ball to deep center that didn't quite have enough.

In the 11th, Randy Arozarena reached on a leadoff walk and stole second on a bizarre play after Kevin Kiermaier struck out, nearly advancing to third and then getting caught in a pickle before he got back to second safely. Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino and Jordan Luplow to end the inning.

Then, in the bottom of the frame, Christian Arroyo doubled down the line for his third hit of the game, but Bobby Dalbec and Kiké Hernández couldn't get him in.

Both the Rays and Red Sox went 1-2-3 in the 12th without any drama.


Top 8th: Franco, Arozarena lead Rays rally, tie game

The Rays aren't going quietly in Game 3.

Trailing by two entering the top of the eighth inning, Tampa Bay rallied against Red Sox reliever Hansel Robles to tie the game at 4-4.

Wander Franco hit a solo home run to lead off the inning, and Austin Meadows followed that up with a double to deep centerfield. Robles recovered by forcing Nelson Cruz to ground out and then striking out Yandy Diaz, but he subsequently allowed an RBI double by Randy Arozarena to tie it up.

Prior to Sunday, Robles had not allowed a run since Aug. 29.

The Red Sox summoned closer Garrett Whitlock from the pen, and after intentionally walking Kevin Kiermaier, Whitlock struck out Mike Zunino to end the inning and strand the go-ahead run at second.

Boston couldn't get anything going in the bottom of the eighth. Whitlock will be back out to pitch the top of the ninth.


Bottom 5th: Kiké Hernández on historic postseason tear

No hitter in postseason history has ever gotten as hot as Kiké Hernández is right now.

With his solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hernández is now 3 for 3 on the day and 8 for 9 dating back to the start of Game 2. According to ESPN, his eight hits are the most by any player over a two-game span within a single postseason in baseball history.

Beyond that, Hernández has also now recorded a hit in seven straight at bats, which is the longest streak in Red Sox postseason history and one off the MLB record.

Hernández's hits haven't been cheapies, either. Over this two-game stretch he's hit three doubles, two home runs, and one of his singles on Sunday was a rope of a line drive off the Green Monster.

The Red Sox lead 4-2 heading into the top of the sixth.


Bottom 3rd: Devers caps off rally to give Red Sox lead

The Red Sox have the lead!

Boston's bats got going in the bottom of the third as the team recorded four straight hits to open the inning. Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber started things off before Kiké Hernández tied the game with an RBI single, chasing Rays starter Drew Rasmussen from the game.

Rafael Devers then delivered the go-ahead RBI single off Josh Fleming to make it 3-2 before the Rays eventually summoned closer Andrew Kittredge to face J.D. Martinez a couple of batters later with men on second and third.

Kittredge got the job done and escaped the jam without further damage, but Rasmussen finished the day with three runs allowed over two-plus innings, allowing six hits on just 33 pitches.


Top 3rd: Eovaldi up to seven strikeouts

Nathan Eovaldi is bringing his A-game today.

Outside of a single and a two-run home run in the top of the first, Nathan Eovaldi has looked great for the Red Sox today. He currently has seven strikeouts through three innings, and since the home run the only baserunners he's allowed came on a walk and an error by Kyle Schwarber at first.

Eovaldi's biggest punch out came against Mike Zunino in the second, finally getting him after an 11-pitch battle.

The Rays still lead 2-1 head into the bottom of the third.


Bottom 1st: Rays 2, Red Sox 1

The Rays struck first in Game 3, but Kyle Schwarber didn't waste any time delivering a response.

Tampa Bay scored two runs in the top of the first, with Austin Meadows hitting a two-run home run immediately after Wander Franco singled. Outside of those two blemishes, Nathan Eovaldi looked sharp out of the gate, striking out three to end the inning.

Then, when the Red Sox came up, Schwarber smashed the second pitch he saw from Drew Rasmussen into the Green Monster seats. Kiké Hernández followed that up with a liner off the wall for a single but the Red Sox couldn't keep the rally going.

The Rays lead 2-1 heading into the top of the second.


Sale available out of bullpen after all

During his travel day remarks on Saturday, Alex Cora said Chris Sale would not be used out of the bullpen during the playoffs "for health reasons."

A day later, the team has evidently had a change of heart.

Sale will be in the bullpen for Game 3 today, as will Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta. Cora said they decided to change course after giving it more thought and determining that health-wise and team-wise it would be the best decision for the club.

"We changed our mind," Cora said. "He feels ok and he's willing to do it. So we'll go with it."

Cora declined to elaborate further on what Sale's usage might be, including whether or not he might start another game in the ALDS. He then quipped that he was being very Bill Belichick-like, and noted that the New England Patriots coach had actually reached out to him for the first time.

"Bill texted me the other day, so I'm in the club," Cora said. "I texted him today, I was like beat the Texans. He wished me luck before the Wild Card game and congratulated us after."

In addition to the news about Sale, Cora also said the team hasn't made a decision on what uniforms they might wear for Game 4, which coincides with the pandemic-postponed Boston Marathon. He said the yellow City Connect uniforms the team has worn this year might not be available because a lot have been donated to charity and given away by players, but they will look into it and make a decision tomorrow.

The Red Sox also announced their lineup for Game 3, which is as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Kevin Plawecki C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Nathan Eovaldi P


1. Brandon Lowe 2B

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Austin Meadows LF

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Ji-Man Choi 1B

6. Randy Arozarena RF

7. Kevin Kiermaier CF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Joey Wendle 3B

10. Drew Rasmussen P


Cora: Pivetta likely to start Game 4

While a final decision has not yet been reached, Red Sox manager Alex Cora indicated that Nick Pivetta will most likely start Game 4 of the ALDS for the Red Sox on Monday.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Cora explained that whether or not Pivetta starts will depend on how Game 3 plays out, and Cora noted that Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale could both be available too. Rodriguez and Sale were Boston's Game 1 and 2 starters but neither pitched beyond the second inning and have low pitch counts as a result.

Cora also confirmed that Sale will not be used out of the bullpen "for health reasons." Sale is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and the team has been careful to manage his workload.

Despite throwing five innings of relief in Game 2, Tanner Houck will be available in the bullpen on Sunday for Game 3. Cora did not indicate whether he will be considered for a possible start in Game 5.

One thing that is set in stone is Nathan Eovaldi will start Game 3. Eovaldi, who was an all-star and has been Boston's best and most consistent starter all season, got the win in Tuesday's AL Wild Card Game over the New York Yankees and is now in position to give Boston a commanding 2-1 lead over the Rays in the ALDS.

"Game 3's huge. If we win tomorrow, then we need one more and we're going to be at home," Eovaldi said. "So having split the series over there in Tampa 1-1 and then having the opportunity to take it here again in Boston, it's huge for us.

"You saw the atmosphere we had when the Yankees were in town, the electricity in the stadium, and the fan support, it was awesome," he continued. "Having them to push us along the way, it's going to be great."


FINAL: Red Sox 14, Rays 6

Take a bow Kiké Hernández.

The Red Sox centerfielder had one of the most prolific offensive performances in postseason history Friday, going 5 for 6 with four extra-base hits to lead Boston to a decisive 14-6 win over Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS.

Hernández had three doubles, a solo home run and a two-run single in the top of the ninth to lead Boston's 20-hit performance. In doing so he became one of 10 players to record five hits in a postseason game while also tying the record for most extra-base hits in a playoff game (4).

He had plenty of company filling up the scoresheet. J.D. Martinez also had a four-hit day, and Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez all had three hits as well. Collectively the No. 2 through 6 hitters went 16 for 25 with 12 RBI, four doubles, five home runs, two walks and only two strikeouts.


Top 8th: Devers homers, Red Sox lead big

Rafael Devers may very well have just delivered the dagger.

The Red Sox third baseman, despite dealing with an apparent arm injury, powered a huge two-run home run to straightaway center to put Boston up 11-6 in the top of the eighth.

The homer came immediately after Kiké Hernández tallied his third double of the day. He's now 4 for 5 with four extra-base hits, becoming the first player in Red Sox history to accomplish that feat in a postseason game.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox bullpen has been outstanding since Houck came out of the game. Ryan Brasier and Hansel Robles have kept the Rays off the board in the seventh and eighth innings, leaving Tampa Bay with only three outs to work with in the bottom of the ninth.


Top 7th: Rally falters, but Vazquez comes through

The Red Sox couldn't come up with a big rally, but they didn't come up completely empty-handed in the top of the seventh either.

After Boston got two men on with a pair of leadoff singles, Hunter Renfroe grounded into his second double play of the night to leave only Alex Verdugo at third base. But Christian Vazquez singled down the right field line to drive Verdugo in, pushing the Red Sox back ahead three by a score of 9-6.

Ryan Brasier will enter the game for the Red Sox in the bottom of the seventh.


Bottom 6th: Choi homers, Verdugo makes incredible catch

Ji-Man Choi hit a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to 8-6, but outside of that Tanner Houck completed an outstanding effort out of the bullpen to give the Red Sox a chance to win.

Prior to Choi's homer, Houck also benefitted from an outstanding catch in left field by Alex Verdugo, who leaned over the short wall to make the grab in foul territory near the left field pole. The home run itself was briefly reviewed after a fan reached over the fence to make the catch, but the umpires ruled the ball would have been gone anyway.

If Houck's day is indeed done, he will have gone five innings with only one run on two hits, no walks and five strikeouts.


Top 5th: Martinez homers, Red Sox lead 8-5

J.D. Martinez's status has been up in the air all week. Since spraining his ankle on Sunday, the big question every day has been "can he play?"

Today, the answer was yes, and boy did he just deliver.

With the game tied 5-5 in the top of the fifth, Martinez smashed a three-run home run to dead centerfield, giving the Red Sox a 8-5 lead to complete a remarkable comeback.

Martinez's homer came after Kiké Hernández tied the game with a solo shot of his own to lead off the inning, and then Rafael Devers walked and Xander Bogaerts singled to set the table for the Red Sox slugger.

Overall, the Red Sox have now scored six unanswered runs since falling behind 5-2 in the bottom of the first. Red Sox pitchers have also retired 11 straight Rays hitters since Jordan Luplow's grand slam.


Bottom 4th: Houck throws ninth consecutive perfect inning

Tanner Houck has achieved perfection! Kind of.

Dating back to his start against the Washington Nationals last weekend, the Red Sox rookie has now pitched nine consecutive perfect innings.

Houck was perfect through five on Saturday, threw a perfect seventh in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday and has now pitched three perfect innings in relief since coming on for Chris Sale in the second inning of tonight's Game 2.

It won't go down as a perfect game, obviously, but it's still quite impressive.

Overall Houck has tallied five strikeouts and stabilized things for the Red Sox after the Rays landed a huge blow early.


Top 3rd: Bogaerts, Verdugo homer to cut deficit to 5-4

The Red Sox aren't going down without a fight.

After allowing five runs to fall behind by three in the bottom of the first, the Red Sox have punched back with back-to-back solo home runs in the top of the third.

Xander Bogaerts went deep to left field first, and then Alex Verdugo followed that up with a shot to right to cut the deficit to 5-4.

Rafael Devers also nearly homered in the inning, but his line drive to deep centerfield was caught by gold glove outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who made a leaping grab before crashing into the wall.

Rays rookie Shane Baz allowed Bogaerts' shot and was removed from the game after giving up three runs over 2.1 innings. Collin McHugh came on in relief and received a rude welcome from Verdugo.


Bottom 1st: Rays 5, Red Sox 2

Chris Sale had a very bad day.

The Red Sox ace, who acknowledged Thursday that he's been struggling to rediscover his changeup, was effectively a two-pitch pitcher when he took the mound for Game 2. That made it far too easy for the Tampa Bay Rays, who teed off against him to surge in front for a 5-2 first inning lead.

Four of the Rays first five batters reached base, setting the table for Jordan Luplow to unload on a high 0-2 fastball for a grand slam. Yandy Diaz had an RBI single just before as well, and after Sale eventually got out of the inning his day was done.

Sale finished with one inning, five runs, four hits, a walk and two strikeouts. He threw 30 pitches and was subsequently replaced by Tanner Houck for the start of the second.


Top 1st: Red Sox 2, Rays 0

After getting shut out in Game 1, the Red Sox offense wasted no time getting after the Rays early in Game 2, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

Five of the Red Sox first six batters reached base, with Kyle Schwarber walking on four pitches to start the rally before Kiké Hernández doubled to bring up runners at second and third.

Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo delivered back-to-back RBI singles off of Rays rookie Shane Baz, and J.D. Martinez singled to load the bases with one out.

But Baz escaped the jam without further incident, forcing Hunter Renfroe to ground into an inning-ending double play.


Injury update: Richards out, Barnes in

Red Sox relief pitcher Garrett Richards has suffered a left hamstring strain and won't be available to pitch for the remainder of the American League Divisional Series, the Red Sox announced on Friday.

Richards, who came on in relief and recorded one out to finish the second inning of Thursday's Game 1 loss, has been removed from the roster. Matt Barnes, the all-star closer who was initially left off the ALDS roster, has been added to take his place.

Major League Baseball approved the roster substitution, and by rule Richards won't be eligible to participate in the remainder of the ALDS or in the American League Championship Series if the Red Sox advance. He would be eligible to return for the World Series.

Richards finished the regular season with a 4.87 ERA but was much sharper after moving from the starting rotation to the bullpen. Following the switch Richards had a 3.42 ERA in 18 appearances out of the pen.

Barnes, meanwhile, was outstanding in the first half before falling off significantly over the final two months. From Aug. 7 onwards Barnes had an ERA of 10.13 in 16 appearances and struggled to get back to form after spending several weeks on the COVID-19 injured list.


Game 2 Lineups: Martinez will start at DH

J.D. Martinez is back in the Red Sox lineup.

The Red Sox confirmed the designated hitter will be back in action for Game 2 of the ALDS about an hour prior to first pitch. Red Sox manager Alex Cora previously said Martinez would go through his pre-game routine before deciding whether or not he could go. He will bat sixth tonight.

Martinez had missed Boston's last two games since spraining his ankle in Sunday's regular season finale against Washington. The 34-year-old has been one of the club's most prolific power hitters, posting a .286 batting average with 28 home runs and 99 RBI.

Other changes to the lineup include Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff and Kiké Hernández batting second, flipping back to the AL Wild Card lineup from Tuesday night, and Alex Verdugo hitting fifth between Xander Bogaerts and Martinez.

The Red Sox and Rays full lineups are as follows:

Red Sox

1. Kyle Schwarber 1B

2. Kiké Hernández CF

3. Rafael Devers 3B

4. Xander Bogaerts SS

5. Alex Verdugo LF

6. J.D. Martinez DH

7. Hunter Renfroe RF

8. Christian Vazquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

10. Chris Sale P


1. Randy Arozarena LF

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Brandon Lowe 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Yandy Diaz 3B

6. Jordan Luplow 1B

7. Manuel Margot RF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Kevin Kiermaier CF

10. Shane Baz P


Verdugo says he could have got ball if not for catwalk

One of the biggest plays of Game 1 came when Rays slugger Nelson Cruz hit a fly ball off Tropicana Field's C-Ring catwalk, which by rule is a home run.

Settling underneath the ball at the time was Red Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo, and he said on Friday that if not for the catwalk he thinks he would have had a play on the ball.

"From my point of view it looked like the ball was going to get caught right up against the fence because I felt like I had a pretty good beat on it," Verdugo said. "I was drifting back just a little bit, but when it hit the catwalk, it was coming down, pretty significant drop.

"It wasn't really at that angle," Verdugo continued, making a sloping angle gesture to suggest a trajectory into the left field stands. "It was a steep drop, so I didn't think it was a home run like that, but obviously the rule is the rule. If it hits that catwalk, it's considered a homer. So nothing we can do about it."

Verdugo said he'd never seen a ball hit the catwalk at Tropicana Field before, or anywhere for that matter.

"It's just one of those things. It's a weird stadium," Verdugo said. "And, hey, he hit it, and give it to him."


The next two-way player?

During his pregame remarks, Alex Verdugo also floated an interesting ambition he harbors: evidently he wants to become a two-way player.

"100%, yeah," Verdugo said. "I don't know if I'll pitch next year, but definitely by 2023 I want to try to just be a two-way. You know, not an Ohtani where he is starting and all that. I just want to be a reliever. Come in, help the boys out, something like that."

What would possibly compel Verdugo to think he could pull something like that off? He hasn't pitched since high school, but back then Verdugo was legitimately an excellent pitcher whose fastball topped out at 97 mph. In those days he was considered a genuine top pitching prospect, and many teams were reportedly torn on whether he should pitch or hit as a pro.

This isn't the first time Verdugo has expressed interest in pitching either. He did shortly after joining the Red Sox during a March 2020 interview with The Athletic just before the pandemic postponed spring training.

Then, as now, he insists he's serious.

"I know I got a ways to go, and my thing was give me a year or so to build up my arm strength, long toss and all that, make sure the arm can handle the hard throws and, hey, a couple of blowout games," Verdugo said on Friday. "If my stuff is good, if I'm getting swing and miss, why not run with it? If it's flat, average, and I'm not getting the job done, then hey, at least I said I tried it."

What does Verdugo's manager think of all this?

"We're like, no, you're not doing that," Alex Cora said when asked about the possibility.


Cora offers praise for Rays rookie Baz

A day after getting shut down by one Rays rookie, the Red Sox are going to try and make sure it doesn't happen against a second.

Shane Baz, who was only recently called up to the big leagues in late September, will make his playoff debut on Friday when he starts Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series.

Though Baz has only had a handful of starts, Red Sox manager Alex Cora says he's been impressed by the 22-year-old.

"Very simple mechanics, very clean delivery, good fastball, good breaking ball, great athlete on the mound," Cora said. "He's one of those guys where you look and you're like wow, he plays the part as a pitcher. He's throwing the ball well for them."

Baz is the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Rays system and one of the top prospects in baseball. Since making his debut on Sept. 20 Baz has gone 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13.1 innings over three starts.


No decision made on J.D. Martinez for Game 2

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday afternoon that J.D. Martinez (ankle) is feeling better and could potentially be in the lineup for Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cora said they are going to give Martinez more time to undergo treatment and go through his pre-game routine to see how he feels. If he's good to go, Martinez will start at designated hitter and Kyle Schwarber will be at first base. If not, Cora said Bobby Dalbec will be at first instead.

"He's going to let me know if he's good," Cora said. "We'll trust the player, obviously he's not going to lie to us, if he feels he can go at this level we'll go with him."

In addition to the update on Martinez, Cora also confirmed that Nathan Eovaldi will start Game 3 for the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday, and that Nick Pivetta will be a candidate to start Game 4 should the series go that far.

Cora did not provide any more details on Rafael Devers' arm, repeating his statement from Thursday night that no players are going to be 100% after 162 games.

Game 2 will begin at 7:02 p.m. and can be watched on FS1.


Cora downplays concerns about Devers' arm

When Rafael Devers struck out on a 100 mph fastball from Rays rookie Shane McClanahan to end the first inning, something looked off.

Devers seemed to be uncomfortable afterwards, and observers speculated that he might have hurt his arm or wrist.

Was that so? Alex Cora downplayed any such concerns after the game.

"A few days ago everybody said he was showing up the pitcher whenever he drops the bat. Today because he didn't get a hit, he is hurt," Cora said. "It's a grind of 162, right? Things happen and you get treatment, and you grind, you know? Not everyone is 100% right now."

Even so, it does appear that Devers is dealing with something. According to a report by the Boston Globe, Devers has been dealing with discomfort in his forearm since the team's season-ending road trip, and the issue is a bigger problem on swings and misses than when Devers makes contact.

Devers was not made available to comment following the game.


Tough luck for Red Sox offense

Despite getting shut out, the Red Sox actually hit the ball better than the numbers would suggest. They compiled nine hits over the course of the evening and saw numerous other hard hit balls turn into outs.

Bobby Dalbec probably had the worst luck of all, going 0 for 4 despite making hard contact three times. His first at bat he lined into a double play, the second was a frozen rope directly into the third baseman's glove, and the third was a deep fly ball to the warning track but playable for the right fielder.

Overall the Red Sox went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. The team also did not record a walk or an extra base hit, which went a long way towards the team's inability to scratch a run across the plate.


Red Sox not bothered by goofy Tropicana ground rules

With it's pale grey roof and low-hanging catwalks, Tropicana Field is one of the most unique venues in Major League Baseball, and both teams got the full Tropicana Field experience in Game 1.

On three separate occasions players on both teams had difficulty locating fly balls against the dome's roof, and in the third inning Nelson Cruz hit a ball off the stadium's C-ring catwalk, which according to the stadium's ground rules is a home run.

Christian Arroyo, who previously played with the Rays, said he was surprised the ball hit the catwalk and that he thought Alex Verdugo would have a play on it, but once it did he and the others knew the deal.

"Obviously, that's always like a topic of discussion whenever you're coming to play here, but that's the ground rules," Arroyo said. "That's what they've set. It's part of it. It's the same thing when you get three strikes and you take a third strike, you're out. "


FINAL: Rays 5, Red Sox 0

Randy Arozarena is really something else.

After scoring from first on a double and smashing a towering home run, Arozarena has topped himself yet again with a straight steal of home plate.

Standing at third after another Wander Franco double in the seventh, Arozarena took off against Red Sox lefty Josh Taylor and was two thirds of the way to the plate before Taylor had any idea what was happening. He was safe by a mile, putting the Rays up 5-0.

According to Rays PR, Arozarena is the first player with a straight steal of home since Javy Baez did it for the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS.


Fifth inning: Arozarena homers, Rays lead 4-0

Randy Arozarena is at it again.

The breakout star of the 2020 postseason, who hit 10 home runs in Tampa Bay's World Series run, homered again in the fifth inning to extend the Rays' lead to 4-0.

Where Cruz's hit the catwalk, Arozarena's was a no-doubter. Statcast had the ball at 106.7 mph off the bat with a projected distance of 397 feet.


Third inning: Cruz homers off Tropicana catwalk

Tropicana Field strikes again!

The indoor stadium's unique ground rules were in the spotlight when Rays slugger Nelson Cruz banged a towering fly ball off one of the dome's catwalks. Specifically, Cruz hit the C-ring catwalk, and any balls in fair territory hit off that are home runs.

The solo home run made it 3-0 for the Rays. The Red Sox have so far managed only two hits heading into the top of the fourth.


Second inning: E-Rod pulled early

Eduardo Rodriguez's day is done.

The Red Sox starter lasted only 1.2 innings, allowing two runs and generally struggling against the aggressive Tampa Bay lineup.

He was pulled after recording five outs through nine batters, and he finished with two runs allowed on two hits and two walks with one strikeout. He threw just 41 pitches, 24 for strikes.

Garrett Richards recorded the final out of the inning. The Rays still lead 2-0 entering the third inning.


First inning: Rays take 2-0 lead

Tampa Bay has drawn first blood.

The Rays took an early 2-0 lead over the Red Sox in the bottom of the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Wander Franco and an infield single by Yandy Diaz.

Randy Arozarena led off the inning with a walk and came all the way around to score from first on Franco's double. The Rays also benefitted from a miscue in center by Kiké Hernández, who bobbled the ball and took just long enough to collect it that Arozarena was able to score. Diaz then drove Franco in two batters later after legging out a slow roller to third, diving into the first base bag to beat Rafael Devers' throw.

Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan, meanwhile, was dominant in the top of the first. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced, including Devers to end the inning with a 100 mph heater.


Iglesias, Barnes among nine-man "taxi squad"

During the playoffs every team is allowed to keep a "taxi squad" of nine players who are not on the active 26-man roster but who are available if the need arises.

Prior to Thursday's game, Red Sox general manager Brian O'Halloran confirmed the nine players who made the trip to St. Petersburg. They are:

* Jonathan Araúz, INF

* Matt Barnes, RHP

* Eduard Bazardo, RHP

* Jarren Duran, OF

* Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP

* Jose Iglesias, INF

* Charlie Madden, C

* Hirokazu Sawamura, RHP

* Connor Wong, C

The players who make the trip can be called upon in the event of injury or other unforeseen circumstances, but sometimes they are kept around the club for other reasons. For instance, Jose Iglesias is ineligible for the postseason because he joined the organization after Aug. 31 and can't play in any playoff game, but he is still around for his clubhouse presence after playing a major role in leading the team to the playoffs in September.

Madden, meanwhile, is a minor league catcher who has spent a significant time with the big league club as a bullpen catcher.


MLB announces ALDS schedules

Major League Baseball has announced the full schedule for all four Divisional Series, including the previously unannounced start times for Games 4 and 5 if those games are necessary.

Should the series extend that far, Game 4 would be played Monday at 7:07 p.m. in Boston, and Game 5 would be played Wednesday at 5:07 p.m. in Tampa Bay. If it is the only game on the schedule, Game 5 could also be shifted to primetime and would start at 8:07 p.m.

A potential Game 4 would also take place on the same day as the 2021 Boston Marathon, which was postponed from its usual April date to this fall due to the pandemic. Traditionally the Red Sox play at 11 a.m. on Marathon Monday, but that will not be happening this year.

2021 American League Divisional Series — Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Game 1: at Tampa Bay, Thurs., Oct. 7, 8:07 p.m., FS1

Game 2: at Tampa Bay, Fri., Oct. 8, 7:02 p.m., FS1

Game 3: at Boston, Sun., 4:07 p.m., MLB Network

Game 4*: at Boston, Mon., 7:07 p.m., FS1

Game 5*: at Tampa Bay, Wed., 5:07 p.m., FS1

* If necessary


J.D. Martinez not in lineup, available off bench

J.D. Martinez is not in the starting lineup for Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, but he is available off the bench and could be ready to start by series' end.

"He is available tonight. He is. Obviously four at-bats it's going to be hard probably, but he will keep getting treatment," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "If we need it in a big spot and in a situation that we feel is the right one, not only because of his bat, but where he's at physically, we'll use him."

Martinez is out of the lineup for the second straight game since spraining his ankle on Sunday. Cora said he is feeling much better, and depending on how he progresses he could also be back in the lineup as soon as Game 2.

Kyle Schwarber will start at designated hitter in his place and the Red Sox will use their traditional outfield alignment with Alex Verdugo in left, Kiké Hernández in center and Hunter Renfroe in right.

Christian Vazquez will get the start at catcher over Kevin Plawecki, with the Red Sox opting to keep Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez together despite the unfavorable righty/lefty matchup.

Hernández is back in the leadoff spot after batting second on Tuesday, and Kyle Schwarber has bumped down to the No. 2 spot after his leadoff cameo against the Yankees.

The full lineups for both teams are as follows:

Red Sox Lineup

1. Kiké Hernández CF

2. Kyle Schwarber DH

3. Xander Bogaerts SS

4. Rafael Devers 3B

5. Hunter Renfroe RF

6. Alex Verdugo LF

7. Bobby Dalbec 1B

8. Christian Vazquez C

9. Christian Arroyo 2B

Rays Lineup

1. Randy Arozarena LF

2. Wander Franco SS

3. Brandon Lowe 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Yandy Diaz 3B

6. Jordan Luplow 1B

7. Manuel Margot RF

8. Mike Zunino C

9. Kevin Kiermaier CF


Red Sox announce 26-man rosters for ALDS

The Red Sox have announced their 26-man roster for the American League Divisional Series, and ailing designated hitter J.D. Martinez (sprained ankle) will be included.

In addition to Martinez, the Red Sox also included infielder Danny Santana, who was recently activated from the COVID-19 injured list. Chris Sale, who was not on the Wild Card roster due to having started the regular season finale two days earlier, is also back in the fold, and so is lefty relief pitcher Martin Perez.

There were also a handful of notable omissions.

Matt Barnes, who earned an all-star nod after a brilliant first half as Boston's closer, was left off the ALDS roster. So were fellow relievers Hirokazu Sawamura and Darwinzon Hernandez, neither of whom was on the Wild Card roster either.

Rookies Jarren Duran, Jonathan Araúz and Connor Wong, all of whom were on the Wild Card roster, were left off for the ALDS.

Here are the Red Sox and Rays complete 26-man ALDS rosters:

Red Sox

* Pitchers (13): Ryan Brasier, Austin Davis, Nathan Eovaldi, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards, Hansel Robles, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Josh Taylor, Garrett Whitlock

* Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vazquez

* Infielders (5): Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw

* Outfielders (4): J.D. Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo

* Infielder/Outfielders (2): Kiké Hernández, Danny Santana


* Pitchers (13): Shane Baz, JT Chargois, Pete Fairbanks, J.P. Feyereisen, Josh Fleming, Andrew Kittredge, Shane McClanahan, Collin McHugh, Luis Patino, Drew Rasmussen, David Robertson, Michael Wacha, Matt Wisler

* Catchers (2): Francisco Mejia, Mike Zunino

* Infielders (5): Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Joey Wendle

* Outfielders (5): Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier, Jordan Luplow, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows

* Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz


E-Rod, McClanahan coming in hot

When Eduardo Rodriguez and Shane McClanahan take the mound in Game 1 of the ALDS tonight, both will come in riding a considerable hot streak dating back nearly a month.

Over his last five appearances (four starts) Rodriguez has put together some of his best performances of the season. He's gone 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA while posting 26 strikeouts against eight walks over 21.1 innings, and on Sunday he came out of the bullpen to pitch a perfect eighth inning, helping the Red Sox punch their ticket to the playoffs.

McClanahan, meanwhile, is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA over his last four starts, striking out 16 batters against four walks over 18 innings.

The two starters also have an interesting postseason history to draw from.

Rodriguez has pitched in eight postseason games in his career, but he's only started one. That was Game 4 of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he allowed four runs over 5.2 innings while striking out six. The Red Sox would go on to win the game 9-6 and clinched the title the following night.

McClanahan actually made his major league debut in the playoffs last year, making four appearances out of the bullpen during the Rays run to the World Series.

Given how he missed all of 2020 due to COVID-19 related complications, Rodriguez said having the opportunity to start Game 1 is special.

"It means a lot, you know, because everything that I went through last year and I have the opportunity to throw the first inning in the ALDS, it feels really good," Rodriguez said. "It's just special. I feel like it's really special for me to have the opportunity to start a game like that."


Rays manager Cash reflects on time as teammate with Cora

Before Alex Cora and Kevin Cash became rival managers with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively, the pair were teammates with the Red Sox and helped the club win 2007 World Series.

Prior to the start of their big showdown in this week's American League Divisional Series, Cash was asked by reporters about his relationship with Cora dating back to their playing days and how it has evolved over the years.

"He is a great teammate. It was special to be a part of that group," Cash said. "Obviously there was a superstar caliber team in '07 and '08. Came up a little short here against the Rays. Wouldn't mind seeing that happen again at this point.

"But as far as Alex is concerned, you know, just very informed, very intelligent, baseball intelligent, people-smart. There was a group of us with Alex, Mike Lowell, Sean Casey, and I tried to just be a sponge and learn as much as possible from umpteen years of knowledge, and we can all appreciate how their careers have taken on. Some are doing media, and some are managing. Alex has done a really good job."


Eduardo Rodriguez will start Game 1

When the Boston Red Sox open the American League Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Game 1.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed Rodriguez would start the series opener shortly after the team arrived in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. He also indicated Chris Sale will most likely start Game 2, and Nick Pivetta will start the series in the bullpen.

"He has been throwing the ball well. We think it's a good matchup," Cora said of Rodriguez. "Obviously with them you have to mix and match. They're going to look for an advantage and all that. We'll have Nick in the bullpen tomorrow, and we'll do what we do."

Rodriguez finished the regular season with a 13-8 record and a 4.74 ERA, but he's been much steadier in the second half, posting a 3.71 ERA after the All-Star Break. Most recently he threw five shutout innings to beat the Washington Nationals last Friday and then pitched a scoreless eighth in Sunday's regular season finale.

Against Tampa Bay, Rodriguez went 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA in four starts. The best of those was a six-inning gem in which he shut the Rays out at the height of the team's COVID-19 outbreak on Sept. 2. The worst came in his very next start, when the Rays tagged him for six runs in 3.2 innings the following week at Fenway Park.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash announced that two rookies will start the opening games against the Red Sox. Shane McClanahan will take the hill for Game 1 and Shane Baz, who was only just called up to the major leagues about two weeks ago, will get the ball for Game 2.

McClanahan finished his first year in the big leagues with a 10-6 record, a 3.43 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 123.1 innings. He actually made his MLB debut during the playoffs last year, making four appearances out of the bullpen during Tampa Bay's World Series run.


No word on J.D. Martinez

The two teams have not yet finalized their full ALDS rosters, which are due to the league by Thursday morning. The big question for the Red Sox is whether or not J.D. Martinez (ankle) will be available.

Cora indicated Martinez is feeling a little better, but it is still too soon to tell if he will be able to play in the series.

"He is doing okay. He is moving around. We'll see what he can do today," Cora said. "The goal is for him to do a few things today physically and, you know, we'll make a decision obviously tomorrow morning."