Astros vs. Red Sox final score: Defending champs take Game 1 as Boston battles control issues

The Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox 7-2 on Saturday night in Game 1 of the 2018 American League Championship Series. The Astros now lead the best-of-seven series 1-0.

Astros lineup does enough early, strikes late

The last time we saw the Astros, they were putting a hurting on the Cleveland Indians. Relatively, their performance on Saturday was subdued. Still, they got the job done.

As a whole, the Astros combined for four runs on four hits and nine walks and three hit by pitches. They didn't hit a homer until the ninth, when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel each parked one, but it didn't matter. They drove in runs with all of their hits (George Springer and Carlos Correa), which maximized their value.

Pretty? Hardly. But add in strong defensive play -- particularly by Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman -- and that proved to sufficient, even on a night when Justin Verlander wasn't his vintage self.

Sale scuffles

An evergreen question this postseason for the Red Sox is this: How effective will Chris Sale be if he continues to show reduced velocity? The answer Saturday was "below the desired amount."

Sale averaged 92 mph on his heater, a couple ticks below what he did in his ALDS start against the New York Yankees, and three-to-four below his seasonal average. Making matters worse is he lacked a real feel for his slider or his command, leaving him in an awkward spot where he couldn't throw consistent strikes or miss bats with any regularity.

To Sale's credit, he permitted just two runs across four innings despite walking four batters and hitting another two. He was able to pull that off because he allowed one hit all night. That belies how his stuff was below his normal caliber, however, and overshadows that most of his six swinging strikes came in his final frame, when he looked about as good as he had all night.

In all, Sale's start could've gone a lot worse. That's both, a positive and a negative for Boston.

Verlander doesn't wow, either

On paper, Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander looked like a brilliant pitching matchup -- arguably the best we'd see this postseason. It didn't live up to the hype.

In addition to Sale's woes, Verlander had an uncharacteristically wild start. He went six innings and allowed just two hits, but walked four and struck out six while giving up two runs. Technically a quality start, just one that doesn't impress relative to Verlander's typical excellence.

Cora ejected

Red Sox skipper Alex Cora was managing his first ALCS game, but he didn't finish the job.

Cora was tossed arguing a strike call to Andrew Benintendi to end the fifth inning. Here's the pitch in question:

It's worth noting that just last October Joe Maddon became the first manager in league history to be ejected twice during an LCS. Cora probably would rather not join Maddon in that exclusive club, but it's something to keep in mind as the series progresses and emotions run higher.

Nunez starts, disappoints again

If Cora's most questionable decision on the night wasn't permitting Sale to work four innings, then it was definitely starting Eduardo Nunez over Rafael Devers at third base.

Nunez is in the lineup ostensibly due to his defense. The problem is that he's not a good defender. He offered more evidence in Game 1,

In the second, Nunez misjudged a George Springer grounder, which allowed two runs to score. Then in the sixth, he couldn't come up with a Yuli Gurriel batted ball that could've resulted in a double play -- or at least one out. That play allowed Alex Bregman to advance to second. He'd later score.

There's no telling if Devers would've made one or either play, but it stands to reason he could've given the Red Sox more at the plate without being much (if any) worse in the field. During the regular season, Devers posted a 94 OPS+; Nunez checked in at 81.

Perhaps Nunez's latest collection of missteps will cause Cora to reconsider his decision processes when it comes to picking a starting third baseman.

West struck by throw

This also happened:

Say what you will about Joe West, but him taking a throw to his chest without flinching or falling down is impressive.

Astros lead 1-0

Some might wonder, just what does history say about Houston's chances of winning the series now that they're up 1-0? The website WhoWins tracks data in best-of-seven series and allows us to provide some context.

Per WhoWins, the team that wins Game 1 in a best-of-seven series goes on to win the whole enchilada more than 64 percent of the time. If it's the visiting team that wins Game 1, they go on to win the series about 59.7 percent of the time.

Bottom line, winning Game 1 is a good sign.

Next up

The Astros will look to extend their series lead to 2-0 on Sunday evening. Houston will send Gerrit Cole to the mound. He'll be opposed by David Price. That game will begin at 7:09 p.m. ET and will air on TBS. You can stream the game on fuboTV (Try for free). 

Live updates

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CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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