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Scattered Thoughts after a big Game Two win

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And ahead of a pivotal Game Three.

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Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox answered back with a frustrating series-opening loss on Friday to take Game Two of the ALCS in rather convincing fashion. Here are some scattered thoughts from both that big win as well as some looking ahead to Monday’s Game Three.

  • The obvious place to start is where the Red Sox started, which was with two grand slams. After dropping what was a winnable game, the Red Sox couldn’t let Houston grab a firm grip of momentum, on which they had some grip over the second half of that series opener. Boston knew they needed to set a tone in this one and not run the risk of Houston just running away with this series. There’s really no better way to do that than with two grand slams, and it just totally took momentum out of the equation, as well as the crowd for Houston. This was Boston’s night, and they were not going to let anyone feel otherwise.
  • It was especially satisfying that J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers were the two to come through with the big flies. These two have obviously been dealing with injury throughout this postseason run, and while neither have looked particularly incapacitated for any extended period of time this month, that concern is still lodged in the back of everyone’s minds every time they come up. That concern is still going to be there, but we know they can both still make impacts. The Red Sox need all of their stars to play like stars, and they sent the message on Saturday that both of these guys remain plenty capable of doing just that.
  • That this was the first time a team has had two grand slams in the same postseason game in league history was a shocking fact to me.
  • Generally speaking, I’ve been super impressed with what Red Sox batters have done in their approach against Houston starters. Obviously the Astros losing Lance McCullers Jr. was a huge blow, but both Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia had tremendous success against the Red Sox earlier in the year, the former having two very good starts. It wasn’t terribly difficult to imagine Boston’s offense to come out antsy and looking for impact early in at bats, but they’ve been patient and have successfully knocked out both starters early. Garcia, to be fair, left with a knee injury, but signs were pointing to an early exit regardless of how he was feeling physically.
Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
  • The offense stole the show on Saturday, but Nathan Eovaldi deserves a ton of credit for the way he pitched. It’s always easier to to pitch with a huge lead handed to you as Eovaldi got here, but he didn’t try to be too cute with it. He filled up the strike zone (which he always does, to be fair) and was able to induce some relatively weak contact against a talented Astros offense. He didn’t rack up the strikeouts, only setting down three in 5 13, but he was efficient, got into the sixth, and his secondaries in particular were extremely effective. He’s a playoff ace in every sense of the term.
  • And in large part due to that performance from Eovaldi, the Red Sox pitching staff is in much better shape than Houston’s. The Astros did avoid using their two big bullpen guns on Saturday, so both Ryan Pressly and Kendall Graveman are coming into Monday with the last two days off, but they had to use Jake Odorizzi for 82 pitches and started the series with back-to-back short starts. We talked before the series about how, if the Astros had a weakness it was with their bullpen depth. The Red Sox are successfully targeting that area of the roster.
  • That fact makes Game Three a particularly important one for Houston. They don’t just need a win, but they could really use one with starter José Urquidy going deep. Odorizzi was a potential Game Four starter, but that’s likely off the table, and the only other potential option for any length would be Zack Greinke. But if the Red Sox can chase Urquidy out early, Houston may have to turn to Greinke out of the pen on Monday and throw the plan for the rest of the series out the window. It’s probably the biggest storyline to watch for in this game.
  • And to that end, the way the Red Sox approach Urquidy is going to be fascinating. Like Valdez and Garcia before him, Urquidy had a lot of success against this Red Sox lineup in June. Unlike those two, he fills up the strike zone and isn’t likely to succumb to bouts of shaky control. Patience was a big win as a strategy in the first two games, but the move here may be to look for pitches early in counts to drive and force Dusty Baker’s hand based on damage, not walks or pitch count.
  • We have to bring up the Jake Odorizzi warm up that took 15 minutes but felt a lot longer. I don’t think it was really nefarious or even gamesmanship, but it slowed down the game like crazy. There’s not a great solution and this isn’t a problem that presents itself very often, but it definitely messed with the flow of the game as a fan.
  • I liked that Alex Cora was not going to mess around in this game even in a blowout, most notably by bringing in Garrett Whitlock for the seventh in a six-run game. It might seem excessive, but you can’t give Houston any signs of life and/or confidence. And to his credit, Whitlock came through as he has all season.
  • Kiké Hernández is unbelievable, and as fun as any Red Sox player in a postseason run since Ortiz in 2013. His homer was inconsequential in the game, but it just adds to his playoff legend.
  • The Fenway crowd could be the big X-Factor moving on in this series. We don’t typically think of baseball crowds having that kind of impact, but we’ve seen the Red Sox feed off that energy throughout this run. That energy could be enough to swing one of these games, which in turn could swing the series.