By Gethin Coolbaugh, The Sports Xchange
BOSTON — A.J. Hinch calmly reaffirmed his faith in his team after the Houston Astros’ loss to the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of their American League Division Series extended the series.
“We’re going to be fine,” the Astros’ manager said after the 10-3 blowout loss. “We’ll bounce back out of this and come back and play hard.”
Houston did exactly that on Monday at Fenway Park.
The Astros scored two runs in the eighth inning and one in the ninth to rally past the Red Sox for a 5-4 win in Game 4 to clinch their first trip to the AL Championship Series on a rainy afternoon.
Houston won the best-of-five series 3-1 after Boston temporarily staved off elimination on Sunday, assuring the Red Sox would not be swept in the ALDS in consecutive seasons.
“We felt like that we could win this series, but we knew it was going to be tough,” Hinch said. “We get out to a 2-0 (series) lead, and then you come to Fenway and it’s just a different animal. … But our guys just stayed the course (to advance).”
The Astros will face either the Cleveland Indians or the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Cleveland leads its ALDS series against New York 2-1 with Game 4 scheduled for Monday night.
“We’re going to face a great team, whoever it is, and we’re going to have to be ready to play,” said Houston’s Alex Bregman, who tied the game at 3-3 with his solo homer in the eighth.
“But I’ll tell you this, the game that we just won is going to prepare us a lot for those crucial moments during the next series.”
Josh Reddick drove in the go-ahead run on a two-out single to left field in the eighth off Boston’s Craig Kimbrel, who came in for starter-turned-reliever Chris Sale (0-2) after Houston tied it.
Evan Gattis reached second on a hard-hit bouncer down the third base line with one out in the inning off Sale, but was sent back to first because it was errantly picked up by a ball girl.
After Cameron Maybin entered as a pinch runner for Gattis, George Springer drew a walk off Kimbrel before Reddick’s big hit.
Pinch hitter Carlos Beltran doubled in a critical two-out insurance run in the ninth.
Rafael Devers cut the Astros’ deficit to one with an inside-the-park home run, his second of the playoffs, to lead off the Boston ninth against closer Ken Giles.
Giles proceeded to strike out Jackie Bradley Jr. and got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to complete the six-out save.
Bregman clubbed his game-tying homer, his second of the series, off Sale in the eighth and Springer and Jose Altuve drove in one run apiece for Houston.
“Man, that was a sigh of relief,” Springer said of Bregman’s homer. “… That was the game there. For him to hit that homer off of (Sale) was huge.”
Andrew Benintendi hit a tying two-run homer in the fifth and Xander Bogaerts crushed his first career playoff homer, a solo shot in the first, for the Red Sox.
“It’s always tough when you end the season so abruptly, but extremely proud for the way they (the Red Sox) compete,” manager John Farrell said. “… It’s just you go 100 miles an hour and then all of a sudden it feels like you face plant in a wall when the season’s over.”
Farrell, who has been on the managerial hot seat, declined when asked to say if he expects to return this season.
Under Farrell, Boston has won three AL East titles in five years, making him the first manager in franchise history to lead the team to three division crowns.
Whether or not Farrell returns, the Red Sox are in good shape with their young core of players intact.
“A lot of guys that carried this team are young guys that are gonna be here for a while,” Sale said. “It’s hard not to be optimistic about this team for the next long time.”
Sale entered in relief of Red Sox starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, whose outing lasted just three innings after giving up two runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Sale allowed two runs on four hits with six strikeouts over his 4 2/3 frames out of the bullpen.
Game 1 starter and winner Justin Verlander (2-0) earned the victory after making his first career relief appearance, allowing one earned run on one hit — Benintendi’s homer — with two walks in 2 2/3 innings.
Astros starter Charlie Morton was chased after 4 1/3 innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Farrell was ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes. Bench coach Gary DiSarcina assumed managerial duties in his absence.
Houston will make its first appearance in a Championship Series since beating the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in 2005 when the Astros played in the National League.
The Astros were then swept by the Chicago White Sox in their only trip to the World Series.