BOSTON (AP / FOX 26) - Justin Verlander and the World Series champion Houston Astros face Red Sox lefty Chris Sale in a marquee matchup to start the AL Championship Series at Fenway Park.
The All-Stars met twice last year in AL Division Series. They started opposite each other in the opener, then both worked in relief during the middle innings of Game 4.
Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA) led the AL with 290 strikeouts and beat Cleveland in the ALDS last week. Sale (12-4, 2.11) started and relieved vs. the Yankees in the ALDS.
Also familiar with each other: Red Sox manager Alex Cora and the Astros. He was Houston's bench coach last year during the team's run to its first title.
J.D. Martinez wants to thank the Astros - not get back at them - for releasing him when he was struggling. The Red Sox slugger says his growing pains in Houston taught him "how to fail," a lesson he credits with transforming him into an MVP candidate who helped Boston win a team-record 108 games.
Martinez made his big league debut for Houston in 2011, driving in 28 runs during his first full month in the majors. After playing part time the next two years, he was 26 and batting .167 in the spring of 2014 when the Astros released him, preferring to give the at-bats to top prospect George Springer.
Martinez landed with Detroit that season and by 2015 he was an All-Star. He totaled 45 home runs last year with the Tigers and Arizona, then hit .330 with 43 homers and a major league-high 130 RBIs this season.
The offense began for the Astros in the top of the 2nd inning when a Springer 2-out 2-run single gave the team a 2-0 lead over the Red Sox.
Verlander walked three consecutive batters in the bottom of the fifth inning, the third with the bases loaded, which allowed the Red Sox to score a run, cutting the Astros lead to 2-1. A Verlander wild pitch would bring home another runner for the Red Sox, tying the game at 2.
With a single in the top of the sixth inning, Carlos Correa drove in Alex Bregman to give the Astros a 3-2 lead.
Josh Reddick hit a solo home run in the top of the 9th inning to extend the Astros lead over the Red Sox to 4-2. Yuli Gurriel then hit a home run to right field that scored Jose Altuve, Bregman and himself to give the Astros a 7-2 lead in the 9th inning.