When your baseball team isn't built to hit for power, you better have excellent pitching instead. Enter Chris Sale, who's been mostly excellent this year for the Boston Red Sox, save for his first ever playoff game, in which he was not.
The Houston Astros, who are built to hit with power and have some pretty good pitching, too, took the wind out of Sale's sails in a lopsided 8-2 win at minute Maid Park in Houston yesterday, with American League batting champ Jose Altuve doing much of the damage himself. Altuve hit three home runs in the game, two of them off Sale, becoming just the tenth player in Major League history to hit three homers in a post-season game. The last player to do it was Pablo Sandoval, in a World Series game for the San Francisco Giants in 2012, but Altuve may be the smallest player ever to accomplish the feat, standing at just 5'6", which means even Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia would be asked to stand behind Altuve if they were on the same squad posing for a team photo.
Justin Verlander went six innings for Houston, giving up just two runs on six hits, and is now 6-0 since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers. Sale also gave up a home run to Alex Bregman, who went back to back with Altuve in the first, and if things weren't bad enough for Boston, Eduardo Nunez had to be carried off the field after crumbling to the ground during a sprint to first base, re-aggravating the knee injury that kept him out the last couple of weeks of the season.
So Red Sox Nation turns its lonely eyes to Drew. Pomeranz, that is. The big lefty has been an excellent number two starter for Boston this year, but if he can't pitch the Red Sox to a win in game two this afternoon, Boston is looking at a likely second consecutive year of being swept out of the ALDS in three straight games.
The NY Yankees didn't lose as badly as the Red Sox did, but the margin of defeat doesn't matter, only the fact that they too are down a game after being shut out by the Cleveland Indians 4-0 last night. Cleveland manager Terry Francona is proving yet again to be a baseball brainiac, deciding to start Trevor Bauer in game one against the Yankees instead of 18-game winner and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber. Bauer rewarded Francona's trust in him with a great performance, giving up just two hits in six and two thirds innings of work that included three strike-outs of home run machine and Paul Bunyan look-alike Aaron Judge.
Cleveland's starting pitching is as good as any of the eight teams in the post season and their bullpen is better than any of them, proven again last night with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen following Bauer to close out the game while giving up only one other hit. Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer off Sonny Gray in the fourth, and drove in three on the night, prompting me to point out yet again that I desperately wanted the Red Sox to pick up Bruce from the Mets to add some pop to their line-up, but Dave Dombrowksi never returned my phone calls. In any event, the Yankees, will pin their hopes for evening the series on CC Sabathia, while Cleveland has the luxury of going to their best pitcher in Kluber for game two.
The New England Patriots played Thursday night football in Tampa against the Buccaneers last night and came away with a 19-14 win thanks to the team's much-maligned defense finally playing well, and the fact that Tampa Bay's field goal kicker missed on three attempts, leaving a potential nine points off the board. Tom Brady threw for 303 yards and a touchdown to Chris Hogan, and also threw his first interception of the year in the win. The Bucs still had a chance to win late, but Jameis Winston's throw to the end zone on the last play of the game was broken up by Jonathan Jones, but if veteran Nick Folk had connected on at least two of his three missed field goals from 56, 49, or 31 yards out, that desperation play may not have been necessary.
The Boston Bruins were without two veteran centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Backes for their first game of the new NHL season, but the Bruins are all about the kids these days, and they came up big in a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators in Boston last night. Rookie Jake DeBrusk scored his first NHL goal, with his Dad Louie, himself an 11-year NHL veteran, in attendance. Charlie McAvoy added a goal and an assist, his first regular season NHL career points. David Pastrnak also scored for Boston as did Brad Marchand, a short-handed strike. The Predators did score two goals in the last two minutes of the game to make it closer than it should have been, but the Bruins hung on for the victory.
The Montreal Canadiens also got their first win of the season, beating the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in an overtime shootout, with the newly acquired Jonathan Drouin scoring twice for Montreal in his Canadiens debut. The Quebec native scored the only goal in the shootout round on a nifty move from left to right to his backhand. Carey Price was his usual sparkling self in goal, making 43 saves.
The NY Rangers did not get off to a good start, losing 4-2 to at Madison Square Garden to the Colorado Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov made 37 saves and Tyson Barrie scored the game winner for Colorado.
The UVM women's soccer team fell into a 2-0 hole on the road against UMass Lowell yesterday but forged a second half comeback with a late goal to score a 2-2 draw. Sarah Martin scored her third goal of the season in the 57th minute to make it a one goal game and then in the 74th minute Brooke Jenkins put home a rebound to notch the tie, with her fifth goal of the season, and the Catamounts are at 5-5-2 on the season.