Three 50/50 games in this series and the Red Sox lost all three of them. Game 1, Game 4, and Game 6 were all anybody’s game and the Astros took all of them. 27 runs surrendered by Red Sox pitching with two outs on the series. When plays needed to be made the Astros made them every single time they had to. The Red Sox did not.
Since winning Game 3 12-3 the Red Sox offense took the rest of the season off. There’s not a single guy I can point to who was a shining light of hope as everyone else around him faltered. Nope. Every single bat died simultaneously. The defense reverted back to its regular season slop. And the lack of defined roles in the bullpen cost them dearly in pivotal spots in Games 1 and 3.
Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia both carried no-hitters into the fifth of Games 5 and 6. For a rotation that was barely getting out of the second inning through three games of this series, it became their biggest strength. Shortening their bullpens, forcing ugly contact resulting in weak grounders and timely double-plays. That’s why Cora sent Verdugo. Because of the million double plays which squandered every single scoring opportunity this lineup hit into the last two games. Travis Shaw didn’t hit into a double play, he struck out - something we all wish Hunter Renfroe had done in Games 4 and 5. Somehow the Red Sox found a way to still register two outs in the at bat. That was the story of the season: men on base, scoring position, less than two outs on the board, no runs to show for it. They were able to remedy that problem against the Yankees, Rays, and Astros for three games. The Red Sox could not have picked a worse time to fall back into old habits.
It’s as frustrated as I’ve ever been at a season’s end. We’ve lost in the playoffs, that always sucks, but never like this. At least, not since The Curse was broken. 2008 ended in heartbreak, and it felt like that team was built to run back the ’07 title. This 2021 team wasn’t coming off a Championship run. They weren’t playing with house money, either. They stole home field advantage in the ALCS with a 2-1 lead and the Astros bullpen gassed. Credit to Houston, their pitching carried them to these last three victories. But this feels incredibly self-inflicted. Kiké dropping a first inning fly ball, leadoff walks being handed to Houston, first pitch meatballs on the inner half of the plate to Altuve. The frustrations with this team in the regular season stemmed from knowing they were better than their lapses. They lapsed at home, in the ALCS, up 2-1 a mere 18 innings away from the World Series. It felt like stealing being this close, and now it feels like it was stolen away.
You start looking ahead: Toronto will be better, the Yankees can’t keep being mediocre forever, the Rays aren’t going anywhere. And that’s just in the East. No one is going to be sleeping on the Red Sox going into ’22. They need to get drastically better this offseason if they want to get back to the ALCS. The farm system is stocked, they aren’t worried about the repeater luxury tax, there really aren’t any excuses to not improve. I’ll preview the offseason in full when it’s time. For now I’m going to smoke my brain into a coma until I get the memories of all the runners left stranded in scoring position from Game 4 on.
PS - 23-6 since Eddie did Correa's watch celebration. It's not all his fault but also very clearly his fault. Slight was on our side until it wasn't.