Over in the National League, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are the only Division Series that needed a fifth game, which will be played on Thursday evening. In the American League, both the Houston Astros — and surprisingly the Boston Red Sox — took care of business in just four games.
We’ll break down each ALDS matchup and what went wrong for the teams who are now at home for the winter.
Astros defeat White Sox 3-1
Starting with the more expected outcome, the Astros flexed their experience over the young, but talented White Sox. From Game 1, it was clear the White Sox were not going to be able to put up much of a fight.
Lance Lynn, who has been as reliable as anyone in the Majors all year, allowed five earned runs in 3.2 innings during that first game. He threw over 90% fastballs, and the Astros hit the fastball better than anyone. The Astros won 6-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Lucas Giolito did not fare much better in Game 2. He walked five batters in his outing, giving up four runs over 4.1 innings. Even still, they were tied at four apiece through five innings. In the seventh inning, the normally elite White Sox bullpen crumbled, with Aaron Bummer and Craig Kimbrel combining to allow five runs. The Astros won 9-4 and took a 2-0 series lead to Chicago.
The White Sox didn’t pitch necessarily well in Game 3, but their offense took off. They scored five runs in 2.2 innings of the Astros starter, then scored another four off the first bullpen arm they saw. They won Game 3 12-6 to set up a Game 4.
In between Games 3 and 4, there was some controversy, as White Sox pitcher Ryan Tepera said that the Astros lost because they were not at home. This was a strong hint that they may be stealing signs the way they did during their 2017 World Series run.
The Astros did not take kindly to this, and showed it in Game 4. Lance McCullers Jr. and the Astros bullpen were dominant, and their offense proved that it didn’t matter if they were on the road or at home. They secured a series win with a 10-1 road victory.
Red Sox defeat Rays 3-1
After Game 1, much of the baseball world wrote off the Red Sox. They got shut out, 5-0, in a game that looked as though the Rays were simply the better team. It was a calculated victory that could have demoralized any opponent, but not the Red Sox.
Game 2 in St. Petersburg, Florida started off with even more hopelessness for Boston. Chris Sale allowed five earned runs in the first inning, and the Rays led 5-2 through the first frame. This would be the turning point of the series.
The Red Sox crushed the Rays bullpen the rest of the night, ultimately winning 14-6 and splitting the series heading back to Boston. Then came the controversial Game 3.
Game 3 was an absolutely classic playoff battle. The Red Sox led the Rays for much of the game before Tampa Bay tied it in the eighth inning, forcing things to go to extra innings. Without the ghost runner on second, teams struggled to produce runs. That was until the top of the 13th.
With a runner on first, Kevin Kiermaier crushed a ball to deep right-center field. It bounced off the wall, then was misplayed by Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe, allowing the ball to bounce back over the wall. Had it not bounced over the wall, Yandy Diaz absolutely would have scored from first and given the Rays the lead.
However, the MLB rule states that if an outfielder accidentally causes the ball to go over the fence after it has touched the ground, it’s a ground rule double. Diaz and Kiermaier took second and third, and the Rays were unable to score. Then, Christian Vazquez hit a walk-off home run in bottom of the 13th.
Moving to Game 4, another close battle with the series on the line, the Rays staged a furious five-run comeback. After trailing 5-0, they scored five runs over a four inning span to tie it 5-5. However, in the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox did some classic manufacturing.
It ended with a Kike Hernandez sacrifice fly to win the game and the series for the Red Sox.
Brief ALCS Preview
The Red Sox and Astros now move on will face one another in the ALCS. This is not only a rematch of the 2018 ALCS — when the Red Sox defeated Houston — but it’s also the fifth consecutive ALCS that the Astros have been a part of. They are 2-2 in their first four.