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Red Sox 8, Astros 2: Unlikely heroes give Boston a 2-1 series lead

Eovaldi, Pearce and Bradley lead the way.

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Thanks to some unlikely heroes, the Red Sox pulled out a Game Three victory in Houston to guarantee that this series will, at the very worst, get back to Fenway Park. They also leave open the possibility to clinch it in Houston, though there’s still plenty of work to be done before we can start that conversation. For now, we revel in the beauty that was that victory. Nathan Eovaldi, once again, came up huge with another phenomenal start. He wasn’t always efficient, but his stuff looked crisp (particularly the breaking ball) and he shut down the Astros lineup. Steve Pearce came through with a massive — both in terms of importance and sheer distance — go-ahead homer in the sixth. Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland both got hit by pitches in big pinch-hitting spots. And, of course, Jackie Bradley Jr. did the damn thing and broke the game wide open with a grand slam. Eventually, the stars will carry the day, but for now the Sox will take wins however they can get them. That’s a 2-1 series lead for those keeping track at home.

The gameplan for the Red Sox heading into this Game Three in Houston was clear: Get to Dallas Keuchel early. The Astros lefty has made it a trend all year long, struggling in the first before settling in more and more as games move on. The Red Sox have the talent and firepower to get to Keuchel at any point, of course, but they were undoubtedly looking for that early lead, even if it was just to take the Houston crowd out of it for a bit.

That’s exactly what they did, too. Mookie Betts started off the game positively, smacking a base hit right back through the middle. Andrew Benintendi followed that up with a single of his own, and the Red Sox had their first two batters reach base in front of J.D. Martinez. They were looking for a big swing from their slugger, and while they didn’t quite get that he did come through with a double to knock in a run and move Benintendi over to third.

Now, the Red Sox had a chance to really break the game open, but they couldn’t take advantage. They did get another run when Xander Bogaerts hit a ground ball, and Martinez moved over to third. Steve Pearce couldn’t get one in the air, though, instead hitting a ground ball for the second out. Martinez could have maybe tried to score, but opted to play it safe and hope Eduardo Núñez would come through. He did not, lining one right at second baseman Marwin Gonzalez to end the inning. It felt as though it should have been more, but it was at least a 2-0 lead.

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Now, it was up to Nathan Eovaldi and the defense to try and shut down the Astros and keep the hometown crowd quiet. As we all know by now, that’s much easier said than done. Sure enough, Eovaldi had some trouble, and so did the defense. After retiring the leadoff man George Springer on a sick strikeout, Jose Altuve (DHing in this one due to a sore knee) lined a single into left field and Alex Bregman got one through the left side for a base hit of his own. With two on, Yuli Gurriel hit a chopper out to third base, and Núñez was caught in between on it. Instead of a double play — which, to me, did not look like a sure thing but there was certainly a good chance for one — Boston barely got the one out at second base. That left runners on the corners, and after getting two strikes on Gonzalez, Eovaldi made a mistake. Fortunately he wasn’t punished as bad as he could have been, but the Astros utility man ripped a base hit into right, and the Astros had a run. That was all they’d get, but they made Eovaldi work and the lead was cut in half.

After that long, 40-minute first inning it sure seemed like it was going to be a quick night for both starters in a game dominated by offense. Instead, the pitchers settled in. Keuchel, after allowing hits to the first three batters he faced, retired the next seven which brought him into the third with two outs. The lefty did walk two batters in a row at that point, which brought Steve Pearce to the plate. Boston’s first baseman got a high changeup and hit one out towards the left-field wall. It looked like it was going to scrape up against it, but Tony Kemp made a great leaping grab to end the inning and keep more runs off the board. Now, on some very slowed down replays it looks like maybe the ball did scrape the wall. The more I see it, the more I think it actually may have. However, there’s no way that call was ever getting overturned. Hard to say the Red Sox got robbed there.

Anyway, that was frustrating and the Red Sox had to settle for their two runs. Keuchel came back after that and let the leadoff reach when Núñez hit an infield single. The Red Sox infielder did come out of the game after that, presumably for injury concerns though that hasn’t been confirmed as far as I can tell. Rafael Devers, who came in to run, was stranded anyway. Boston then went down in order in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Eovaldi was looking for some efficiency, and more importantly just some outs. He matched Keuchel’s 1-2-3 second with a clean inning of his own, but the third got hairier. Houston had two batters reach in that inning, but thanks to yet another great stretch from Pearce — whose defense has been shockingly impressive this October — Eovaldi kept them off the board. The Red Sox righty then had his best inning of the night with a quick 1-2-3 in the fourth.

That brings us to the bottom of the fifth, and disaster struck. It started when Eovaldi got up 0-2 on Altuve with two outs of the inning, but then lost the zone. The Astros star ended up reaching on a walk, which gave Alex Bregman a chance. He hit a ground ball over to the left side that looked like it would end the inning. Instead, Devers tried to backhand the ball, came up empty and it rolled all the way to the corner. Altuve scored, and the game was tied. Now, Devers may not have been able to make that play, but he absolutely has to get his body in front of that ball to knock it down and prevent the run from scoring. It was a massive and costly mistake, and the game was tied after five.

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Fortunately, it did not stay tied for very long. Joe Smith came on for Houston in the sixth, and Pearce came to the plate with the bases empty and one out. On the second pitch of the at bat, Smith left a fastball on the inside corner and Pearce annihilated it. His go-ahead solo homer travelled 456 feet, and the Red Sox had their lead right back.

That brought Eovaldi back out for the bottom of the sixth with a lead back in his corner, as the Red Sox tried to force some length out of their starter. This writer was nervous about that decision, but it turned out to be a good call. The righty allowed just one baserunner on a single that bounced off Pearce’s glove, and the lead was their for at least one more inning.

After the Sox went down in order in the top of the seventh, Ryan Brasier came on for the bottom half. After getting the first two batters, Altuve once again reached (this time on a bunt single) to bring Bregman up. Things got more perilous when Vazquez allowed a passed ball to advance Altuve to scoring position. Bregman was up 2-0 at this point, but Brasier went right after the superstar. It worked out as he hit a lazy fly ball to center field to end the inning and strand the runner.

In the eighth, well, things happened. Roberto Osuna came on to pitch for the Astros to try and keep the score close. He did not succeed. For a while, it looked like it was going to be a quick inning as among the first three batters the Red Sox managed just a swinging bunt for a single. Then, with two outs, they rallied. Devers poked a single through the right side. Brock Holt came up to pinch hit and was hit in the foot with a pitch. Suddenly, the bases were loaded for Mitch Moreland, who was also in to pinch hit. Sure enough, he’d also get hit by a pitch, and a run was in. It was a 4-2 lead, and the bases were still loaded. Jackie Bradley Jr. unloaded them when he unloaded on an Osuna fastball up and in, sending it into the right field seats for a grand slam. Just like that, it was a six-run lead for the Red Sox with just six outs remaining to seal the victory.

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

So, now it was just up to the pitching to hold the big lead for the Red Sox. Matt Barnes came on in the eighth despite the big lead after warming up a few separate times earlier in the night. He got two outs, and also issued a walk, before Joe Kelly came on to finish the frame. Eduardo Rodriguez then came on for the ninth and tossed a 1-2-3 inning to close this one out. Two more wins for a World Series berth.

The Red Sox now have a chance to take a commanding lead in this series in Game 4 with perhaps their hottest pitcher taking the mound. Rick Porcello will be getting this start, going up against Charlie Morton. First pitch is at 8:39 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs