The Boston Red Sox struggled all Friday to get on base, and when they built their best opportunity of the night in the seventh, a busted hit-and-run squandered it.
The Houston Astros claimed Game 6 of the American League Championship Series with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox, who mustered just two hits in the loss.
Down 2-0 with J.D. Martinez on third and Alex Verdugo at first with one out in the seventh, Cora had Travis Shaw pinch-hit for Christian Arroyo. Shaw worked the count full on Astros sinker-baller Kendall Graveman, who put Shaw away with a fastball upstairs.
Verdugo took off on the payoff pitch, but was thrown out by Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, ending the inning and stagnating any momentum the Red Sox had.
That wasn’t Verdugo going rouge, Sox manager Alex Cora indicated after the game.
“I just bet on my players. 3-2 count, if we put the ball in play against a sinker-baller, we score one,” Cora said after the game, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “He threw like a 1.4 to second, whatever he did, and we didn’t make contact, and he got thrown out. But that’s one of those that, it’s a 3-2 count with a sinker-baller, we were trying to score one. We felt we had the right guy at first … their catcher just came up shooting and made a perfect throw.”
It was a risk, no doubt, especially since Verdugo, though he has decent wheels, is not Boston’s most adept baserunner. But the logic Cora laid out makes sense, and it’s hard to argue the theory that if Shaw just puts the ball in play, particularly on the ground, the worst case scenario is runners on second and third with two outs.