The Red Sox couldn’t hold a multi-run lead in Game 1 of the ALCS
A two-run lead wasn’t enough to put the Houston Astros away in Game 1 of the ALCS. While that fairly slim margin might not seem like much, it’s been a long time since the Boston Red Sox failed to hold on to a multi-run lead in the postseason.
Houston jumped on the board during a shaky first inning from Chris Sale. The lefty is still struggling to regain his control as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. He walked Jose Altuve to begin the inning and a wild pitch put the Astros second baseman into position to score on a sac fly from Yordan Alvarez.
Enrique Hernandez evened the score with a solo home run to lead off the third inning, extending his string of outstanding postseason performances. That was Kike’s 12th hit in his last four games, the most by any player in a four-game span in MLB postseason history.
The Red Sox opened up a 3-1 lead in that third inning, which recent history tells us should have been enough. Entering the game, the Red Sox had won 23 consecutive playoff games when leading by 2+ runs. That’s tied for the third-longest such winning streak in postseason history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
It wasn’t enough this time. Altuve made amends for his costly error with a two-run homer against Tanner Houck to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth. The 20th postseason home run of his career tied Derek Jeter for the third-most in MLB history.
One inning later, Carlos Correa blasted a solo homer to left field to give the Astros the lead.
Houston tacked on an insurance run with another sac fly in the eighth inning which proved pivotal. Kike tried to ignite a rally by leading off the ninth with his second home run of the game but the Red Sox would ultimately fall short in a 5-4 loss.
Recent history shows the Red Sox hold these multi-run leads
Prior to this Game 1 loss, the Red Sox were 15-0 under manager Alex Cora when holding a multi-run lead in the playoffs. Their only other loss in this postseason was in Game 1 of the ALDS when they were shutout by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Red Sox only lost three playoff games during their championship run in 2018, which was Cora’s first year as the manager. They lost one game in the ALDS to the Yankees and one to the Astros in the ALCS that year but never led in either game.
Boston held a one-run lead in Game 3 of the World Series against the Dodgers. They waited until the 13th inning to take their first lead of the game and immediately gave it back in the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers went on to win an 18-inning marathon but the Red Sox would bounce back to take the series in five games.
We need to go all the way back to Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS against the Rays to find a game where the Red Sox blew a multi-run lead. Boston led 3-0 until Evan Longoria’s three-run blast tied it in the fifth. Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off home run in the ninth to give the Rays their only win of the series. The Red Sox clinched the series the following night and went on to win the World Series.
Starting the ALCS by losing a game they were leading midway through is hardly ideal but there are some positives to take away for the Red Sox. They proved they could hang with this heavily favored Astros team, losing by only one run on the road. That should give them some confidence that they have a realistic chance in Game 2 when Nathan Eovaldi takes the mound. The Red Sox should be thrilled if they can split the two games in Houston before the series shifts back to Fenway.
Coughing up a two-run lead is disheartening but recent history tells us that this outcome is a rarity for the Red Sox. If they can get another multi-run lead in this series, we should trust that they can hold it next time.