Baseball: Sawamura flat in MLB playoff debut as Astros beat Red Sox

Japanese right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura made his major league postseason debut for the Boston Red Sox on Friday, struggling to get one out in a 5-4 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

The Red Sox took a 3-1 lead in a three-run third at Minute Maid Park, sparked by a Kike Hernandez leadoff home run, but a two-run Jose Altuve homer in the sixth and a Carlos Correa solo blast in the seventh launched the Astros back on top.

One of eight pitchers for Boston, who got 2-2/3 innings from starter Chris Sale, the 33-year-old Sawamura took the mound to start the bottom of the eighth with his team trailing 4-3.

He issued a leadoff walk to former DeNA BayStar Yuli Gurriel, allowed a single and then hit a batter to load the bases with no outs. An Altuve sacrifice fly brought home one run as Sawamura exited in favor of lefty Martin Perez.

Hernandez narrowed the margin with another solo homer in the ninth, finishing an outstanding night at the plate 4-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs.

Boston's Hansel Robles (0-1) was tagged with the loss after allowing Correa's go-ahead home run, while righty Ryne Stanek (1-0) got the win for Houston, who also used eight pitchers.

The teams will meet again on Saturday for Game 2 in Houston. Sawamura is the only Japanese major league player whose club advanced to the playoffs this season.

© Kyodo News