The Houston Astros became the first team to punch their League Championship Series ticket on Monday when they defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-4 to win the series 3-1.
— MLB (@MLB) October 9, 2017
The series produced plenty of good performances. Of course, it produced more than a couple that were not so good, too. For example, likely American League MVP Jose Altuve dominated for the Astros. Conversely, possibly American League Cy Young Award winner Chris Sale struggled.
Of course, Altuve and Sale were not the only people to have standout performances. It was a series filled with them.
These were the biggest winners and losers in Houston’s four-game victory.
Winner: Jose Altuve
Altuve got the ball rolling in this series by hitting three home runs in Game 1.
While he wouldn’t hit another home run against Boston, Altuve did finish the four-game series with a .533/.632/1.333 line. We also don’t know how much the threat of facing Altuve with the bases loaded impacted how Craig Kimbrel pitched to Josh Reddick in the eighth inning of Game 4. Reddick ended up delivering the game-winning, (and series clinching) hit.
The Astros had many stars in this series. Truthfully, the Red Sox did as well, even in defeat. Still, it’s hard to claim that anyone shone brighter than Altuve.
Loser: Chris Sale
Sale’s first postseason start went anything but swimmingly. In fact, it was a complete disaster.
Chris Sale's line; 5+ IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He threw 100 pitches, 63 strikes.
— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) October 5, 2017
In Game 4, Sale came on in relief. And for four innings, he seemed poised to redeem himself. He was essentially unhittable, in stark contrast to his fellow Game 1 starter, whose Game 4 relief appearance did not go well.
Then, Sale started the eighth by surrendering a towering game-tying home run to Alex Bregman. He also allowed a single to Evan Gattis in the eighth inning. Eventually, Cameron Maybin (running for Gattis) came around for the go-ahead run.
Realistically, any chance that the Red Sox had to upset the Astros involved winning his two outings and scratching another out. Instead, Boston lost both of his outings, with Sale taking the loss both times.
Winner: Alex Bregman
Bregman hit only .222 this series. But wow, what an impact he made.
He got the offense going in the first game with a home run against Sale. Then, when the Red Sox were looking at quite possibly turning an 0-2 deficit into a winner-take-all Game 5, Bregman hit the home run to tie things up and start Houston’s winning rally.
OVER THE MONSTER, TIE GAME!
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 9, 2017
Oftentimes, playoff heroics are more about the quality of moments, not the quantity of them. Bregman can certainly work on having more moments. But against Boston, his moments were of the highest quality.
Loser: John Farrell
Prior to the series, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported (paywall required) that Farrell’s job could be on the line if the Red Sox lost in the ALDS. Ultimately, time will well if Farrell will lose his job.
But as we see it, Farrell now faces one of two scenarios. Quite frankly, neither are that inviting.
Scenario 1 is that he’s fired. The drawbacks of that are fairly obvious.
Scenario 2 is that he enters 2018 in an incredibly precarious position. Rumors like this usually have some backing behind them. That doesn’t mean the decision to fire Farrell will be made. Still, it’s obviously on the minds of some in Boston’s front office. Farrell does have a World Series win to his credit. But since then, he’s turned in two last-place finishes (2014 and 2015) and had two quick postseason trips (2016 and 2017).
It’s not as though things with the Red Sox have a tendency to go under the radar in Boston. If Farrell gets Scenario 2, then 2018 becomes a zoo from Day 1. Farrell’s status with the team is anything but secure.
Winner: Justin Verlander
Verlander was almost the polar opposite of Sale in the ALDS.
Sale was erratic in Game 1. Verlander was steady. Sale started his Game 4 relief appearance poorly and eventually flamed out. Verlander started his Game 4 relief appearance terribly and finished well. The home run to his first hitter was the only hit that Verlander surrendered. Verlander stabilized himself so well, in fact, that he pitched long enough to be the winning pitcher.
This is precisely what Verlander was acquired for. The Astros had obvious talent, but they lacked some stability at the front of their starting rotation. Verlander was acquired at the 11th hour to change that.
His ALDS performance went a long way towards validating that acquisition.
Loser: Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts
The general scouting report coming in to this series was that Boston was never going to match Houston’s power. In order to win, the Red Sox had to set the table and produce runs with small ball.
Boston’s power was actually better than expected. But for the most part, that scouting report rang true. The Red Sox fell well short of matching the Astros’ power.
So, how did those table setters do?
Pedroia finished the series with a .125 average and a .222 OBP. Bogaerts had a good Game 4, but still concluded the four games hitting .059 and getting on base at a .111 clip.
One of those two led off every game. In Games 2-4, those two were batting first and second in some order. The struggles of Sale went a long way towards losing the series, but the offense can’t be exonerated. That starts with the men who were supposed to set the tables.