The Houston Astros defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-0 (box score) in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night. As a result, the Astros win the 2021 American League pennant and will advance to their third World Series in five years. The Red Sox, conversely, will head home for the winter, having lost the best-of-seven series by a 4-2 margin.
The Astros received a stellar start from rookie right-hander Luis Garcia, atoning for his poor performance in Game 2. Garcia threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, holding the Red Sox to a single hit (an Enrique Hernández triple in the sixth) and a walk. He struck out seven batters and showed no ill effects from the knee injury that plagued him earlier in the series.
The Astros were paced offensively by Yordan Alvarez. He delivered a pair of doubles as well as a triple. He drove in one run and scored the other.
Nathan Eovaldi, pitching just two days after his Game 5 relief appearance, permitted five hits and a walk across 4 1/3 innings. He gave up a run and struck out four batters.
The Astros will await the winner of the National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves lead that series by a 3-2 margin heading into Saturday's Game 6 at Truist Park in Atlanta.
Now for some takeaways from the decisive Game 6.
Luis Garcia had a strong start
Luis Garcia came into his Game 6 start having struggled in the postseason. After one ALDS start and a start in ALCS Game 2, Garcia had a 24.55 ERA, more walks than strikeouts, and batters owned a line of .389/.542/.778 against him in these playoffs. To compound matters, Garcia was forced to exit that Game 2 start against Boston with knee discomfort.
Given all that, expectations were somewhat low for Garcia coming into Game 6. As it turns out, they should not have been. In 5 2/3 shutout innings, Garcia allowed only one hit -- he exited after giving up that lone hit -- and struck out seven against one walk. Of his 76 pitches, 52 went for strikes.
Maybe the extra day of rest between starts helped, but for the most part it was probably some mechanical tweaks that allowed Garcia to level up. Prior to Game 6, Garcia adjusted his drive foot on the mound, which not only helped ease the strain on his knee but also unlocked his stuff. The velocity on the fastball was up significantly:
updating this on Luis García...— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 23, 2021
Luis García has thrown 7 pitches at 97.0+ mph so far tonight
He’d thrown 1 such pitch out of 2,603 in 2021 entering tonight — 97.0 mph on the dot on 7/20
His 5 fastest pitches tonight are the 5 fastest of his career
And the late movement on his pitches, particularly his cutter, was truly impressive. In related matters, Boston couldn't sniff his cutter all night, as they swung at the offering 13 times and whiffed on it 12 times.
What's further encouraging for Houston is that since a mechanical adjustment underpins the improved velocity and movement, there's a solid chance it's sustainable going into the World Series.
Martín Maldonado helped save Game 6 for Houston
Seventh inning, one out, Astros up 2-0, but the Red Sox have runners on the corners. Take it away, Kendall Graveman and -- most of all -- Martín Maldonado:
That's a strikeout-throwout to cut down Alex Verdugo on his attempted steal of second and end the threat. That's also a museum-worthy throw by Maldonado that perfectly tailed into Carlos Correa's readied glove.
Prior to Graveman's final pitch to Travis Shaw, the Astros had a 67 percent chance of winning Game 6. After the strikeout and Maldonado's hose-job, the Astros had a 91.1 percent chance of winning Game 6 and thus the pennant.
Mr. Correa, your thoughts?
Yordan Alvarez is ALCS MVP
The 24-year-old Houston DH with the career OPS+ of 150 came into Game 6 with a slash line of .421/.455/.632 slash line for this ALCS with at least one hit in every game. Many of those hits were of the clutch, game-altering variety. Then in the pitcher's duel that was Game 6, Alvarez went 4 for 4 with a triple and two doubles and also a hustle base-running play in the sixth that scored the second run of the game for the Astros. Relevant:
Maybe you could've argued on behalf of Yuli Gurriel coming into Game 6 but not afterward.
Alvarez becomes the third Astro to win the ALCS MVP award. He joins Jose Altuve in 2019 and Justin Verlander in 2017. Roy Oswalt won the NLCS MVP award in 2005, when the Astros were still part of the National League.
The Astros have won the pennant again
For the third time in the last five years, the Astros are headed to the World Series. This marks the fourth pennant in franchise history, which dates back to 1962 (they were known as the Houston Colt .45s for the first three seasons of their existence). They won their first pennant in 2005 as a member of the National League. Then the Astros won pennants after their jump to the American League in 2017, 2019, and now 2021. Only in 2017 did they go on to win the World Series. The 2021 model will be aiming to change that and in the process perhaps punch manager Dusty Baker's ticket to the Hall of Fame.
CBS Sports provided live updates throughout the game. You can relive those below.