Boston • Chris Sale left the mound to a standing ovation and then waited along with anxious Red Sox fans while the Boston bullpen frittered away most of a five-run lead.
Bases loaded in the sixth inning. Two runs.
Bases loaded, nobody out in the seventh. The Yankees scored another.
A leadoff home run by Aaron Judge in the ninth made it a one-run game.
It was only after Craig Kimbrel struck out the last three New York batters that Sale could savor the first postseason win of his career, a 5-4 victory over Boston’s longtime rivals Friday night in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
“There’s no holding back now. It’s everything on the table, everything you’ve got,” Sale said after striking out eight and taking a four-hit shutout into the sixth. “I threw every pitch tonight like he was going to take the ball out of my hand after. You have to go up there and do what you have to do to get a win.”
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Saturday night, with Boston starting another pitcher trying to overcome a history of postseason struggles: left-hander David Price is 0-8 as a starter in the playoffs. He’ll face Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka.
“It’s a five-game series, and getting them to use the bullpen is a good thing,” Judge said. “We were able to scratch a couple of runs off them. We’ve got to build off that coming into tomorrow.”
In the first playoff matchup between the teams since 2004, J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer off J.A. Happ in the first. The 108-win Red Sox made it 5-0 in the third and then white-knuckled it as New York slowly chipped away after Sale left with two on and one out in the sixth.
New York, which won 100 regular-season games plus the AL wild-card game against Oakland, got three singles and two walks in the sixth, scoring two before Brandon Workman — the only player on the Red Sox roster with a World Series ring — struck out Gleyber Torres to end the threat.
The Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh but scored just one run. Boston manager Alex Cora used scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello to get two outs in the eighth before turning to Kimbrel for a four-out save.
“We almost caught them,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought we did a really good job of pecking away, a good job of giving ourselves opportunities, and just ran out of time there.”
It was the first ALDS matchup between the clubs and the first in the postseason since the Red Sox staged an unprecedented rally from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 AL Championship Series to advance and then won the World Series to end their 86-year dynasty of disappointment. (They also met in the ALCS the year before, and it ended with Boone’s 11th-inning homer in Game 7, better known in Boston as the game when manager Grady Little inexplicably left a tiring Pedro Martinez on the mound.)
Boston fans were ready, with derisive chants for the Yankees during introductions and again after J.D. Martinez smacked a 2-0 fastball into the glove of a stem cell researcher in the front row of the seats above the Green Monster.
“Everything you did before in the season doesn’t matter anymore. This is the playoffs,” said Martinez, who signed with Boston as a free agent in the offseason. “You know what the situation is. You’re playing the Yankees. This is the playoffs. You have to go. And now is the time to get it going.”
Sale left with a 5-0 lead after giving up singles to Judge and Stanton in the sixth; both came around to score. In all, Sale was charged with two runs on five hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings — the longest playoff outing for a Red Sox starter since 2013.
Martinez and Benintendi each had two hits for Boston. Judge had three hits, including the only extra-base hit, and Luke Voit had two singles for New York, which went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Happ lasted just two innings for his shortest postseason start, allowing five runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two.
Astros blast off on Indians
Houston • It’s October and George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are all hitting home runs once again, helping the Houston Astros to a postseason win.
A year after launching a World Series-record 15 homers in winning their first championship, the Astros picked up right where they left off, hitting four home runs to power past the Cleveland Indians 7-2 Friday in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
Martin Maldonado also connected for the Astros, who didn’t waste any time displaying the same power that carried them to last year’s title.
Much was made about the pitching prowess these teams possess in the days leading up to this game. But it was a bunch of longballs to put the Astros ahead in this best-of-five series.
“As much as I’ve heard different opinions about our offense, it’s pretty long, it’s pretty good, it’s pretty potent,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Case in point today.”
Houston’s pop backed up a solid start by Justin Verlander, who bested Corey Kluber in a matchup of Cy Young Award-winning aces in the first postseason meeting between these teams.
Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and got his 12th playoff win. He allowed two hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings — the Indians finished with only three hits, all singles.
Kluber, a two-time Cy Young winner who was coming off his first 20-win season, was tagged for three home runs in 4 2/3 innings. It was a repeat performance from last October’s ALDS, when he made two starts against the Yankees and left with a 12.79 ERA.
Game 2 is Saturday in Houston. Gerrit Cole starts for the Astros against Carlos Carrasco.
The Astros hit 27 homers last postseason — Springer hit five in the World Series and set a record by connecting in four straight games on his way to winning the MVP award.
Bregman, coming off a breakout year, got Houston’s first hit with his drive to the Crawford Boxes in left field to start a two-run fourth inning.
“The only thing I can say about him is without him we wouldn’t be here,” Altuve said.
The 103-win Astros were still up 2-0 when Springer led off the fifth with a full-count homer to left. That made him just the third player in major league history to homer in five straight postseason games.
“I’m happy that I was able to help us win in all of those games and be a sparkplug,” Springer said.
Two pitches later Altuve, last year’s AL MVP, connected for his eighth career postseason homer when he also sent one to left field. He began last year’s playoffs with three home runs in the ALDS opener against Boston.
Kluber watched stone-faced as Altuve headed for first and shook his head slightly as he rounded the bases and the crowd roared with scattered chants of “MVP.”
Kluber followed up his splendid regular season with another playoff dud. A year after giving up four homers in two starts against the Yankees, the longball again proved to be a problem for him. He left with two outs in the fifth inning after allowing six hits and four runs while walking three.
“Last year has nothing to do with today,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “They’re a good team. He made a couple mistakes. They made him pay for it.”
Verlander was masterful through the first five innings, with Cleveland’s only baserunner in that span coming on a walk to Jose Ramirez with two outs in the first. The Houston right-hander set down 13 in a row after that, fanning seven, including striking out the side in the third.
Yan Gomes broke up the no-hitter with his single to shallow right field to start the sixth and Francisco Lindor singled with one out in the inning. When Verlander walked Michael Brantley to load the bases after that, Hinch had seen enough and replaced him with Ryan Pressly.
The Indians cut the lead to 4-1 on a wild pitch by Pressly, who came to Houston in a July trade, and got within two when Lindor scored on a groundout by Ramirez.
Maldonado, making his playoff debut, connected off Cody Allen for a two-out homer in the seventh. Bregman made it 6-2 with an RBI single later in the inning.
Milwaukee puts Colorado on brink of elimination
Milwaukee • It turns out there is way more to the Milwaukee Brewers than just Christian Yelich.
The rest of this Brew Crew can play, too. Especially those guys in that loaded bullpen.
Jhoulys Chacin pitched five sparkling innings on short rest, Mike Moustakas contributed two more big hits and the Brewers blanked the Colorado Rockies 4-0 Friday to take a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.
While the sweet-swinging Yelich had a quiet day by his lofty standards, the NL Central champions showed off their supporting cast on the way to their 10th straight win going back to an impressive finish to the regular season. Erik Kratz had two hits and two RBIs, and Milwaukee’s bullpen closed the door after Chacin delivered in his playoff debut.
“It’s been the story of the last six weeks for us for sure, really since the trade deadline, is we’ve become a team with a lot of depth, and that’s how we’re going to have to win,” manager Craig Counsell said. “They’re making an effort to be very, very cautious with Yelich. It’s pretty clear. So guys behind him are going to have opportunities.”
Game 3 is Sunday at Coors Field. Another win, and Milwaukee is into the NL Championship Series for the first time since its previous postseason appearance in 2011.
“The only thing that changes is that we hit first,” Moustakas said. “Other than that, it’s still baseball. It’ll be a little bit of a hostile environment.”
The Rockies, who have played in four different cities since Sunday, are hoping a return to more familiar surroundings will help jump-start their dormant lineup.
“We’re going home, where we feel really good hitting,” shortstop Trevor Story said. “Hopefully we can get it turned around there.”
Nolan Arenado had two of Colorado’s six hits — just two more than the franchise playoff low set in Thursday’s 3-2, 10-inning loss in Game 1. The wild-card Rockies have scored six times in their last four games, and their potent lineup is showing signs of frustration.
Chris Iannetta snapped his bat in half over his right leg after he struck out with a runner on third, no one out and Colorado down 1-0 in the seventh. Arenado threw down his bat and helmet after he struck out swinging in the fifth. Carlos Gonzalez leaned over with his hands on his knees after he lined out in the eighth.
“They’ve got some quality arms. They’ve got good stuff,” manager Bud Black said. “But with that said, it is a little surprising that we’re not generating some runs.”
The Rockies had just one hit through eight innings in the series opener before rallying for two runs in the ninth against Jeremy Jeffress. But the All-Star was back to his normal self in Game 2, working around a single in the eighth and ninth for his first save in his third career playoff game.
The excitable right-hander punctuated the win with a big fist pump after retiring David Dahl for the final out.
“It’s fun,” Jeffress said with 4-year-old daughter Jurnee sitting in his lap. “I’m enjoying every single moment, and that shows.”
Jeffress shared some Gatorade with Jurnee while she waited patiently for him to finish up.
“Every time I leave that bullpen, I say it’s for her,” the 31-year-old Jeffress said. “I mean, to have her watch and understand — she understands. She does fist pumps just like I do. She understands, and to have her here enjoying this moment with me, it’s great.”
Backed by a sellout crowd of 44,547 waving yellow towels and standing for every big moment, Chacin set up Milwaukee’s bullpen by escaping a pair of early jams. The veteran right-hander, who helped pitch the Brewers past the Chicago Cubs in the division tiebreaker Monday at Wrigley Field, allowed three hits and walked three.
Tyler Anderson matched Chacin zero for zero before Moustakas and Hernan Perez hit consecutive one-out doubles in the fourth. The Brewers had a chance for more, but Perez was caught off third in a baserunning blunder and Kratz flied out to end the inning.
Moustakas, who got the game-ending hit in the series opener, came up with the bases loaded in the eighth and singled in Yelich to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead. Kratz tacked on a two-run single with two out.
“That’s just what we’ve done all year. We pick each other up, and it’s huge,” Kratz said.
The 30-year-old Moustakas helped Kansas City win the World Series in 2015 and was acquired by Milwaukee in a trade in late July. Back in the playoffs for the first time since that run with the Royals, the veteran third baseman is working on another memorable October.
“His experience, it’s important,” Counsell said. “It really is.”
Dodgers blank Braves again
Los Angeles • Clayton Kershaw tossed eight innings of two-hit ball in the Dodgers’ second straight playoff shutout, and Manny Machado slugged a two-run homer as Los Angeles beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0 on Friday night for a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.
The Dodgers used a nearly identical formula to win 6-0 in Game 1 behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, who allowed only four two-out singles over seven innings, and home runs by Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and Enrique Hernandez.
Kershaw was even better. The left-hander struck out three and walked none in remaining unbeaten against Atlanta throughout his illustrious career.
“I think that it was one of the best outings that I’ve seen,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was in complete control.”
Los Angeles can sweep the best-of-five series in Game 3 on Sunday in Atlanta, where the Baby Braves will be looking to score for the first time this postseason.
Kershaw got bypassed as the Game 1 starter in favor of Ryu after the three-time Cy Young Award winner had started eight of the Dodgers’ past 10 postseason openers. Roberts said it was done to give both Ryu and Kershaw five days of rest between starts.
One more victory would put Los Angeles in the NL Championship Series for the third straight year. The Dodgers beat the Cubs in the NLCS last season and lost to them in that round in 2016.
Kershaw ran out to the mound as though he was going to pitch the ninth, bringing cheers from the sellout crowd of 54,452. But when Roberts went out to pull his ace after 85 pitches, fans booed.
Kenley Jansen gave up a one-out single to Ronald Acuna Jr. before earning the save.
Machado hit a two-run shot on a 3-0 pitch from Anibal Sanchez with two outs in the first. Joc Pederson doubled leading off.
Yasmani Grandal homered on an 0-2 pitch from Sanchez leading off the fifth to make it 3-0.
Acuna doubled to deep left-center on Kershaw’s first pitch. He became the first Braves runner to reach third base in the series when Johan Camargo grounded out to Kershaw.
After Acuna’s double, Kershaw retired 14 consecutive batters until Ender Inciarte reached on an infield single with two outs in the fifth. Ex-Dodger Charlie Culberson grounded into a fielder’s choice to shortstop, with Inciarte out at second.
Kershaw was sharp on defense, too.
He chased around to grab a ball hit by Camargo and fired to first in time for the initial out of the fourth.
One inning later, Kershaw did a 180-degree spin after a comebacker by Ozzie Albies struck him in the hamstring, slipped on the grass and made the throw to first for the second out of the fifth. A trainer briefly came out to check on Kershaw, who threw one warmup pitch to prove he was fine.
The Dodgers backed Kershaw with a double play to end the sixth after he plunked pinch-hitter Lane Adams leading off and Acuna Jr. grounded into a fielder’s choice to third.
The Braves’ offense was anemic again.
Other than Acuna’s double and his single in the ninth, they were limited to a two-out single by Inciarte in the fifth. Freddie Freeman was hitless with a strikeout in four at-bats. Nick Markakis went 0 for 3 with a strikeout, and Albies was 0 for 3.
“You can’t blame any one person,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, it’s just our whole lineup is having a hard time.”