Jose Altuve and by Alex Bregman. Sale made a rare relief appearance in Game 4 at Fenway Park, replacing Rick Porcello to start the fourth inning with Boston trailing 2-1.
After Andrew Benintendi’s two-run homer put the Red Sox ahead, Sale allowed Bregman’s tying home run leading off the eighth and a one-out single to Evan Gattis, who gave Houston the lead for good when he scored on Josh Reddick’s single against Craig Kimbrel.
“Going through that the last two years helped,” Brock Holt said. “We’re better because of what happened last year.”
Boston was 57-24 at Fenway Park this year, the best home record in the major leagues, and Sale has a 1.29 ERA and .199 opponents’ batting average in his last eight home starts.
“I think he just feeds off the crowd and he just feels more comfortable at home,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said.
Boston won the AL pennant in four of the six times it opened the Championship Series at Fenway, in 1975, 1986, 2007 and 2013, the last two en route to World Series titles. The Red Sox failed at this stage in 1988 and 1990.
“It’s a big difference to be able start at home against a good team,” Holt said.
With its quirky dimensions that include the Green Monster in left, Fenway can be difficult for visiting teams defensively. Marwin Gonzalez has played just 24 regular-season innings in left field at Fenway plus the two games last October.
After beating the 100-win Yankees, the Red Sox face the 103-victory Astros. The only other year Boston met a pair of teams in the postseason with triple-digit regular-season wins was in 2004, when the Red Sox beat the Yankees (101) to become the first major league team to rebound from a 3-0 postseason deficit, then swept St. Louis (105) for their first title since 1918.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said thus year’s win over the Yankees provides a mental boost.
“I think we grew up as group,” he said.
Red Sox outfielder J.D. Martinez, right, made his big-league debut for Houston in 2011. He drove in 28 runs in his first full month in the majors.