Valdez, Alvarez take Astros to brink as Red Sox downed

Published October 21, 2021, 9:26 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros pitches against the Boston Red Sox in the eighth inning of Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 20, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (AFP)

Houston pitcher Framber Valdez shut down Boston’s batting line-up as the Astros romped to the brink of a place in the World Series with a 9-1 demolition of the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

Dominican lefthander Valdez delivered a superb performance from the mound, striking out five through eight innings for a win that gives Houston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

The Astros now need to win just one of the two remaining games in the series — both in Houston — to return to the World Series.

Valdez’s gem was backed by another ruthless performance from the Astros bats, with Cuban slugger Yordan Alvarez leading the charge.

Alvarez opened the scoring for Houston in the second inning, smashing an opposite field home run off Red Sox starter Chris Sale.

The 24-year-old drove in three more runs with three hits from five visits to the plate as the Astros picked up where they left off on Tuesday in game four, which ended in a 9-2 victory.

After three scoreless innings following Alvarez’s early homer, Houston cut loose in the sixth inning with five unanswered runs.

A leadoff walk by Sale saw Jose Altuve get to first, before a fielding blunder by Kyle Schwarber allowed Astros slugger Michael Brantley to get on base.

With runners on first and third, Alvarez stepped up with a double down the line to score Altuve and Brantley for a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel drove in another run with a double to send Alvarez home for a 4-0 lead, prompting Red Sox manager Alex Cora to replace Sale with reliever Ryan Brasier. Brasier was unable to stop the bleeding, however, and Jose Siri’s single brought Kyle Tucker and Gurriel home to make it 6-0.

Brantley then drove in another Astros run in the seventh, before Rafael Devers finally got Boston on the board with a home run lashed to home field.

But any hopes of a miraculous turnaround were snuffed out by Houston in the ninth inning, with Gurriel’s double scoring Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.

Astros right-hander Ryne Stanek then closed it down in the ninth, getting Enrique Hernandez, Schwarber and Xander Bogaerts out in quick succession to wrap up the win.

Game six in the series takes place in Houston on Friday.