BOSTON – On the first night of the true October playoff weather in the northeast, in the coziest and most intimidating building of baseball, in the first game of an American League Championship Series, between two of the best teams of the last year, something caused hearts too grasp and tear nerves. Two of the best pitchers in baseball, and a parade of smaller, lost all feeling for the batting zone. Outs were thrown away. A reserved and good-natured manager became angry. A catcher threw a second referee to the referee.
If not for the impressive work of the Houston Astros Bullpen, perhaps the lonely unit on both sides to give a respectable portrayal of themselves, Game 1
If someone had told them Both teams had two goals in the ninth inning, they could have imagined an epic, long duel from the two Aces in Game 1, Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale and Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, both leading candidates for this year's AL Cy Young Award. But that was far from the case.
Sale had a rare meltdown in the second inning and had gone 2-0 after four shaky innings. Verlander rescued his meltdown for the fifth and gave the lead untypically on three straight walks and a wild litter. In the evening, the teams had 14 balls running, 10 of the Red Sox.
Was it the weather, the nerves, or something else that everyone was wary of?
The referee was not sure Help me not. Pitchers for both teams were sometimes challenged by Homeplate Umpire James Hoye's attack zone, but at the end of the fifth innings, Red Sox manager Alex Cora lost it completely. His quarrel about the dugout over the called third strike on Andrew Benintendi took him out a second time all year – but before he left the field, he fumed in Hoye in the grass between home and first, spending his full money on the ejection Crew boss Joe West between them.
West would have his own signature moment in the forefront of the eighth when a throw of Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, trying to grab a would-be stealer, drilled West near the shoulder.
But the worst night of all could have been that of Eduardo Nunez, Boston's third baseman. It was Nunez who made the stormy end-of-the-game game in the crucial Game 4 of the AL Division Series defeating the hated New York Yankees.
But on Saturday night it was Nunes' defense that it could have cost the Red Sox the game. He did not manage to play a base-loaded single in George Springer's one-hop smash running just under his glove, which brought the first two runs of the Astros home. And four innings later, he made a mistake on a Gurriel Grounder who helped the Astros give the green light.
Sale's fastball averaged 94.7 mph this season, and 94.6 mph in his Game 1 start against the Yankees in the ALDS a week earlier. But on Saturday, despite temperatures going back to the 1940s, Sale's first offer fell 91, his second 89. His order was also down as he needed 34 pitches to go through the second inning to meander just 16 of them for strikes.
The impression was of a thrower who was physically not quite right. The sale suffered in the second half of the season under a patella, which reduced him to five starts in August and September. The drop in speed and the sudden and untypical loss of command were red flags. His Wipeout Shifter, usually a deadly weapon, was practically useless. Only two of the first 69 positions of sale generated swings and beats.
This sale could pervade by four innings with such diminished armament, and only allowing these two second-inning runs was evidence of veteran's cunning and competitiveness.
It seemed like a small thing, but the way Sale threw the fourth inning – his speed up again, his command better, his slider had his bite again – was a good omen for the Red Sox. Knowing that his time was tight, he chose the intensity with excellent results. It's certainly possible, given Boston's thin bullpen and the aggressive way Cora manages the ALDS, that Sale in Game 3 or 4 in Houston could be a relief.
In the meantime, Verlander seemed to be against the highest score in baseball until the moment he did not. He had taken ten Red Sox hits out of the race before Steve Pearce put the fifth in the lead, and then the right-hander lost all sense of touch. After meeting Brock Holt, he went for a walk, walked, went to the lower third of Boston's Order, the last of which plated the first Red Sox run, then uncorked a wild field that brought home a second run and the game tape.  After finally escaping the inning – in the third offense against Benintendi, who had eliminated Cora – Verlander gathered, completed an uneventful sixth position and handed the then unique leadership at his deep and strong Bullpen.
Ryan Pressly handles the seventh and Lance McCullers Jr. the eighth. After the Astros interrupted the game in the ninth game, Houston manager A.J. Hinch had the luxury of keeping Roberto Osuna under wraps and giving Collin McHugh the last three outs.
Four hours 3 minutes after the game started, Game 1 ended with a weak grounder, a clean game, and Astros creating a handshake line to celebrate a win that counts as well as anyone else, even if he does not follow the script, that someone could have created.