From Fenway magic to Tropicana Field's catwalk aiding in a home run, the 2021 MLB playoffs have had their fair share of entertaining matchups and theatrics.
The Los Angeles Dodgers punched their ticket to the National League Championship Series Thursday with a slightly controversial and highly dramatic Game 5 win over the San Francisco Giants. They'll see the Atlanta Braves beginning Saturday with a trip to the World Series on the line.
Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox was set to be the next interesting act of the postseason.
There was no shortage of storylines for this rematch of the 2017 and 2018 ALCS contests. It's the third postseason meeting between the two teams, with the winner of the previous two going on to win the World Series.
The Astros are looking to advance to the World Series for the second time in three seasons, but they'll have to do it without Lance McCullers Jr. The right-handed pitcher left Game 4 of the division series against the Chicago White Sox with a forearm injury and remains on the taxi squad.
The Red Sox are coming off a thrilling series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Heading into the ALCS matchup, history appeared to be on their side as they won each of the last four postseason games against the Astros, but Houston managed to come out on top.
MLB postseason schedule, bracket
The dynamic duo did it again.
Longtime teammates Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa hit home runs in consecutive innings to propel the Astros to a come-from-behind Game 1 ALCS victory over the Red Sox, 5-4. Altuve's game-tying two-run shot in the sixth was his 20th career postseason home run.
Living legend.#ForTheH pic.twitter.com/oTZeBObviQ— Houston Astros (@astros) October 16, 2021
Only two players in the history of the game have more. Not to be outdone, Correa's solo shot off a high changeup in the seventh was his 18th career blast in the playoffs.
WHAT TIME IS IT?— Houston Astros (@astros) October 16, 2021
Correa is the Spanish translation for October.#ForTheH pic.twitter.com/ncglYnZLHN— Houston Astros (@astros) October 16, 2021
Altuve added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, in what turned out to be the winning RBI.
What could be lost in the night's storyline, considering the clutch home runs, is the job the Astros bullpen did after starter Framber Valdez was pulled after just 2⅔ innings. He gave up six hits as finally the Red Sox figured out his curveball, which had stymied them all season.
Kiké Hernández took Valdez deep on a curve sparking a three-run third inning rally but seven relievers nearly shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way. In fact, Boston only had four hits spread out over the final 6⅓ innings.
BIGGER SMILES FOR EVEN BIGGER HOMERS. https://t.co/B7R2qk5x5R— Red Sox (@RedSox) October 16, 2021
NO WORDS, JUST KIKÉ. pic.twitter.com/YdxHGT6nwu— Red Sox (@RedSox) October 16, 2021
Hernández was a one-man wrecking crew for the Red Sox, compiling four hits including two home runs. The second one came in the ninth, which only heightened the drama. The loss was Boston's first ever in the playoffs under manager Alex Cora after leading by multiple runs. The Red Sox led 3-1 until the Astros stars came up big.