Three of them and one of his two wild pitches came in a fifth inning that nearly chased him from the game.
The teams combined for just eight hits, but Red Sox pitchers walked 10 and hit three batters. Three relievers kept the 'Stros at bay but luck ran out in the ninth inning when Brandon Workman was roughed up for two home runs that sent the crowd rushing to the exits. "So for him to tell me before we even took our jerseys off to put on our postseason shirts that we get when we win, that was special". What he did bring to the table was bushels of moxie and guile as he somehow, someway, survived four innings and allowed only two runs on one hit.
Running away with this one late in the game will only add to their swagger in the short turnaround before Sunday night's Game 2 and their favoured status has only been enhanced by the result of Game 1.
"He didn't find his slider till the fourth", said Boston manager Alex Cora, who was ejected after the fifth inning for arguing a strike call on Andrew Benintendi.
After J.D. Martinez lined out to second base, Xander Bogaerts tapped one back to the mound but Cole airmailed the throw to first, allowing Benintendi to take third and Bogaerts to scamper to second.
After the Sox came back to tie the game at 2-2 thanks to Verlander's wildness, Nunez struck again.
"He doesn't talk on his start day but his preparation is off-the-chart good", Astros manager Hinch said. These are the World Champion Astros, after all. "They pitched their way out of it, but we didn't hit our way into it". He surrendered a season-high five runs (four earned) in six innings.
"I guess Verlander executed his pitch, and he called it a strike", Cora said. That's a whopping 113 fewer than the Red Sox. It was the first extra-base hit of the game and extended the Astros post-season homer streak to 13 games in a row, matching an American League record. And based on their form from September bleeding into October, they look capable of shortening this series in a hurry. "If you're not kind of at your peak interest level at playing the game then something's wrong with you. That will make everybody sit up straight, feel a little better and kick it in gear". Cole's missed location to Bradley was not as egregious as the Benintendi single, but he missed enough to put it right in Bradley's wheelhouse. The Astros are an incredibly confident bunch and it got a nice start from their ace. They'll need to pitch better, hit better and field better.
This was supposed to be David Price's night.