Facing elimination on Sunday, the Red Sox will turn to Doug Fister, who was 4-1 with a 1.78 E.R.A. as a starter in the postseason for Detroit and Washington. But Fister struggled for the Astros last season, and he lost to them last Friday in Boston. He had a 4.88 E.R.A. this year.
Like Sale — who gave up two of Jose Altuve’s three homers on Thursday — Pomeranz won 17 games in the regular season but wilted in his first career postseason start. He faced just 12 batters, retiring only half. He gave up five hits (including two homers) and a walk, with just one strikeout.
And like Sale, Pomeranz started with a two-run first. For Sale, the problem was consecutive homers by Alex Bregman and Altuve. Pomeranz held Altuve to a two-out single, but Correa unloaded on a fastball for a two-run homer.
That encounter illustrated the difficulty of facing the Astros. Pomeranz threw three pitches with a 2-2 count — two fastballs and a curve — and Correa fouled them all. He drove the eighth pitch of the at-bat (another fastball) deep into the stands above left field.
There was much more damage to come. Springer bats leadoff but led the Astros in homers, with 34. He greeted Pomeranz in the third inning by driving a curveball into the right-field seats.
Soon it was 4-1, after a double by Bregman and a single by Altuve, and Pomeranz was out of the game. Carson Smith struggled in relief — with two walks and a lineout to third — before Price induced two popouts to end the threat.
The three-run lead was plenty for Astros starter Dallas Keuchel, who deftly mixed cutters, sliders and sinkers after a wobbly first trip through the lineup. He retired 13 in a row from the second inning to the sixth, when a two-out walk ended his afternoon.
The Red Sox were not so lucky; they had to keep playing. Houston scored four times in the sixth off Eduardo Rodriguez and Addison Reed, taking advantage of an error, a hit batsman and Altuve’s second intentional walk of the day.
That was one way to limit Altuve’s damage. But danger lurks up and down this Astros lineup, and the Red Sox cannot stop it.