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Justin Verlander pitched six gritty innings, and Carlos Correa delivered the tiebreaking single in the sixth that sent the Houston Astros to a 7-2 victory over the host Boston Red Sox on Saturday night in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Game 2 is Sunday night in Boston, where Red Sox left-hander David Price will face Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole.
Verlander (1-0) gave up two runs in the fifth, needing 33 pitches to get through the frame. He allowed two singles, one to Mookie Betts in the first and one to Steve Pearce in the fifth, but did enough to win his 13th postseason game.
In his 23rd postseason start, Verlander struck out six and matched a postseason career high with four walks.
George Springer extended his postseason hitting streak to 10 games with a two-run single off Chris Sale in the second, and Correa delivered a single off Joe Kelly (0-1) that made it 3-2 after Verlander’s laborious inning.
“The at-bat that Correa had was just as significant as any of them,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “Obviously, Springer being a huge at-bat. Carlos has had huge at-bats. We talked about it. He had a little bit more results with a couple walks and the base hit with the RBI with two outs. So I’m not panicked about him, if you’re wondering.”
Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel added insurance in the ninth with home runs off Brandon Workman. Reddick opened the inning with a solo drive to center field, and Gurriel hit a three-run homer inside the Pesky Pole down the right field line with one out.
Correa’s clutch hit to left field occurred three batters after third baseman Eduardo Nunez’s fielding error on a potential double-play grounder by Gurriel.
“That’s a tough team over there. You give them more than 27 outs, and most of the time they’re going to cash in,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Alex Bregman scored on Correa’s hit after starting the inning by getting hit by Kelly’s 100 mph fastball. He briefly stared at Kelly before taking first and appeared to do so again after scoring.
Before Correa’s hit, Verlander labored through the fifth but did not allow the Red Sox to go ahead.
Verlander issued his first bases-loaded walk since Aug. 3, 2015, walking pinch hitter Mitch Moreland to make it 2-1. After Betts hit into a force play at the plate, the Red Sox tied the score on a wild pitch on a check-swing by Andrew Benintendi, but Verlander ended the at-bat with a called third strike on the left fielder.
“Something threw off my timing, something I’ll probably look at,” Verlander said of faltering in the fifth. “But to be able to get out of that inning [and] keep us tied, not relinquish the lead, that was for me the ballgame.”
Benintendi dropped his bat and vocalized his disagreement with plate umpire James Hoye’s call. In between innings, Cora was ejected by Hoye for arguing.
“You can’t argue balls and strikes. And I did. It’s kind of like embarrassing that it happens in the playoffs,” Cora said. “That wasn’t cool watching the game in the clubhouse. I got a job to do and manage the team in the dugout.”
In the ALCS for the first time since 2013, the Red Sox got four innings from Sale, who struggled early and allowed two runs on one hit while working around four walks. Overall, Boston allowed 10 walks, setting a team record for a nine-inning postseason game, and also hit three batters.
Sale ran into trouble with two outs in the second, and the Astros capitalized. The left-hander hit Martin Maldonado with a 96 mph fastball around a pair of walks and was one strike away from getting out of it, but Springer laced a full-count fastball under Nunez’s glove and into left field for a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Pressly worked around a throwing error by Correa in a scoreless seventh, Lance McCullers Jr. pitched a perfect eighth and Collin McHugh finished up for the Astros.
—Field Level Media