The best offense in baseball struggled to put up runs against the league’s best pitching staff. Boston managed a measly three hits in Game 1 and were 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
The Red Sox scored only two runs, one of which came on a bases loaded walk and the other on a wild pitch. They had Justin Verlander on the ropes in the fifth inning and let him off the hook.
Verlander was starting to unravel, walking three consecutive batters to load the bases for Mookie Betts. This was a moment where Betts had an opportunity to show the world why he’s the front-runner for the AL MVP. Instead, he grounded out on the first pitch. Betts is an aggressive hitter, a mentality preached by manager Alex Cora all season. Still, why are you swinging at the first pitch against a pitcher struggling to throw strikes?
Andrew Benintendi‘s chance to cash in on Boston’s best opportunity to break the game open ended with a called third strike. The 97 mph heater from Verlander tailed away toward the outer edge of the zone. Benny thought it was ball four and was furious to find he had been rung up. Cora voiced his appeal from the dugout and was ejected for arguing.
It was a borderline call that may have caught the corner of the zone. As Dennis Eckersley would say, as a pitcher, you “gotta have it!” The problem is that the Astros were getting that same outside pitch called for a ball when Sale was on the mound. The lack of consistency was infuriating. Even if pitch trackers show it was technically a strike, you can understand why Benintendi and Cora were so upset. That pitch hadn’t been a strike all night.
Boston wouldn’t put a runner in scoring position the rest of the game. There weren’t many opportunities for timely hitting but when they were presented with those chances the Red Sox couldn’t come through.