HOUSTON - It was the first sign that things might not be breaking the Red Sox' way Friday night.
Kiké Hernandez - viewed for most of the 2021 season as one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball - presented a very unfamiliar sight at Minute Maid Park with two outs in the first inning of the American League Championship Series' Game 6.
He dropped a fly ball.
It was truly a shocking development considering how flawless Hernandez had been in center field. This was a player who just a few hours before was catching mile-high fly balls in batting practice behind his back.
But all of what led up to that Yordan Alvarez 409-foot blast didn't matter at the moment, with the miscue giving the Astros the game's first run. Ultimately, it signaled the beginning of the end considering every team in the ALCS that scored first ended up winning the game.
So, what happened? Hernandez explained before exiting Minute Maid Park ...
"All three of us were shaded oppo, probably considerably," he explained. "Off the bat, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get to the ball. I thought Hunter (Renfroe) was going to have a better chance than me at getting the ball based off where we were starting. Or I thought it was going to be a homer. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The ball kind of hung up there. I was running to it. Halfway there I was like, I might be able to get to it. I happened to look to Hunter to see where Hunter was, and when I looked back up, the ball was there."
Hernandez added, "I got to the spot, but the ball kind of beat me to the spot and I wasn’t able to close my glove in time. I mean, I thought about this for nine innings. I still think if I catch that ball, it’s a different ballgame."
The outfielder did manage to come back with a positive moment of his own during what would be a 5-0 Red Sox loss. Hernandez managed the first of the game for the Red Sox against Houston starter Luis Garcia, narrowly missing a home run with two outs in the sixth inning.
He became the second player in Major League Baseball postseason history to notch 19 hits and 10 extra-base hits a nine-game span within a single postseason, joining Hideki Matsui (2004). Hernandez was also the first Red Sox player in postseason history to register 10 extra-base hits in a single playoff run.
"Off the bat, I knew that I didn’t get all of it but I thought it was going to have a chance to go," he said. "I think I hit it a little more to left-center than I thought or more center than left. It was just unfortunate. Game of inches, bro, game of inches.”
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