Houston is one win away from advancing

Valdez deals, lineup mashes as Astros take 3-2 ALCS lead with Game 5 win over Red Sox

Framber Valdez pitched eight brilliant innings of one-run ball in ALCS Game 5 for the Astros in the win over the Red Sox. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The playoffs of any sport are a breeding ground for dramatics, and MLB's league championship series with pennants on the line are no exception. Midway through Game 4 the night prior, the Astros found themselves in a desperate position: down 2-1 in the game and 2-1 in the series, before roaring to life to take the game late and even the series 2-2.

With the stage resetting in the ALCS with it becoming a best-of-three, either team could end Game 5 with a firm grasp on momentum. Luckily for Houston, it was them, as they would get a terrific start on the mound and continued success at the plate to put them a win away from moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 9, Red Sox 1

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 3-2

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Losing Pitcher: Chris Sale

Valdez deals in much-needed successful start

After getting a combined 20 outs from their starters in the first four games, eight of which came from him in Game 1, Framber Valdez matched that and more with a gem in Game 5. He took a perfect game into the fifth, retiring the first twelve batters he faced to keep Boston not just off the board but off the bases. The Red Sox looked to break up his rhythm in the bottom of the fifth, getting a leadoff single before getting another on base by a hit by pitch, but Valdez would induce a timely double play then finish the inning with another groundout.

In the sixth, he stranded another runner, working around a one-out double to keep his efficient night going. In the bottom of the seventh, Boston would give him his only blemish on the night, a one-out solo home run, but he would regroup to finish the inning. After a lengthy top-half, Valdez returned to the mound in the bottom of the eighth, getting one more 1-2-3 frame to cap off his fantastic outing. His final line: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 93 P.

Alvarez leads another night of potent offense for Houston

Meanwhile, Houston's offense was backing him up with plenty of run support. Yordan Alvarez led the way, starting the scoring for the game with a leadoff solo home run off of Chris Sale in the top of the second inning. After remaining a 1-0 game into the sixth, the Astros put together a big frame, much like the ninth inning in Game 4.

After a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve followed by an error to put a second runner on, Alvarez would tag Sale again, this time getting a two-RBI double to chase Boston's starter out of the game. They continued scoring against Boston's bullpen, getting three more runs with two outs in the inning, one on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel, then a two-RBI single by Jose Siri, pushing the lead to 6-0. The top of Houston's order was up again in the next inning, and after a single to start the inning and then advancing to second on an error, Altuve would score on an RBI single by Brantley, making it 7-0.

Astros take Game 5 and control of the ALCS

After Valdez allowed the solo homer in the seventh and held the 7-1 lead in the eighth, Houston padded their lead in the top of the ninth. They loaded the bases with a single, a walk, and an intentional walk, setting up a two-out two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to make it an eight-run lead at 9-1. Ryne Stanek entered looking to finish things off in the bottom of the ninth in a quiet, much less filled Fenway Park. He would do so as the Astros go back on top in the ALCS 3-2, heading back to Houston needing one win in front of their home crowd to move on to their third World Series in five years.

Up Next: The Astros and Red Sox will have a day off on Thursday before picking up the series on Friday. While the time and place of Game 6 is known, Friday at 7:08 PM Central from Minute Maid Park, neither team has determined their pitching situation for that game.

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There's nothing left to do, but wait. Composite image by Jack Brame.

For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, Major League Baseball has entered into a lockout in which team officials and players cannot communicate with each other until both sides are “satisfied” and have come to an agreement on labor negotiations.

Before December 1st, MLB free agents were being signed left and right with teams like the Rangers spending over half a billion dollars on players that include Kole Calhoun, Jon Grey, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.

Other teams that opened their wallets this offseason were the Mariners, Mets and Tigers.

Baseball free agency came to a screeching halt once the December 1st MLB CBA ended. As of right now, players can't sign with any team until the lockout has concluded.

Now that Major League Baseball has entered this work stoppage, the question on everyone’s mind is what does this mean for the sport going forward?

The short answer is no one knows. This process will take some time and most owners have a wait and see approach in regard to this stoppage. Labor negations can be a long, meticulous process that could drag out for weeks, if not months.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred seemed optimistic that a deal should get done between both the owners and the MLB Player’s Association sometime before the 2022 regular season starts.

"We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season," Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. "We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the players' association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive."

That being said, it may be some time before any deal is made between either side, thus leaving certain free agents in a temporary limbo like Carlos Correa.

The 27-year-old shortstop looked to be the most coveted player available this offseason and would earn a major payday. Just like his fellow shortstops, Correa was looking to earn a deal similar to that of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Francisco Lindor. All of whom signed deals or extension’s of at least 10-year $300 million dollars or higher.

The aforementioned Seager signed a 10-year deal worth $325 million with the Texas Rangers two days before the current CBA ended. Correa was looking to earn a deal similar to this, and the Rangers were one of the team’s that looked to obtain the All-Star shortstop.

Another club that had been linked to Correa was the Tigers, but they just signed free agent short stop Javier Baez to a six-year $140 million contract.

With both Texas and Detroit out of the Correa sweepstakes presumably, where would the 27-year-old land?

We won’t know for some time due to the ongoing lockout negotiations, but as soon as there’s an agreement, Correa will sign somewhere and get his money.

According to Bleacher Report, the Gold Glove winning shortstop has drawn interest from the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers.

All of these clubs are big market teams who are not afraid to spend large sums of money in free agency.

As much as Astros fans would hate to see their beloved shortstop don Yankee pinstripes or wear Dodgers Blue, it seems to be more of a reality Correa won’t be wearing an Astros uniform next season.

Is it possible for Houston to keep Carlos Correa?

Sure, if James Click and the Astros’ front office do something they have never done before and give him an extension of more than $300 million.

The largest contract Houston has ever given out was a 5-year $151 million extension to Jose Altuve.

If they wish to keep Correa, the Astros would have to give him at least a deal similar to what Seager just received in Texas, therefore doubling their largest contract ever given out.

It is not out of the realm of possibilities to believe Houston could accomplish this feat, but it seems unlikely.

A lockout might prolong Correa’s free agency, but once clubs are able to sign again, the All-Star shortstop could sign quicker than we think.

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