The Astros are lucky they are not down 3-0 in this series. Boston had a winnable game to open the series and dropped it, and in the next two they’ve left very little doubt. After smacking two grand slams in Game Two, they settled for only the one on Monday, but added to it a pair of two-run homers as well as a solo shot for 12 total runs. In addition, they also knocked yet another Astros pitcher out early as they continue to grab hold of this series. In addition to the offense, they got a big start from Eduardo Rodriguez, who went six strong and helped save this bullpen for the rest of this series. It’s only a 2-1 series lead and things can change in the blink of an eye, but things are going about as well as you could imagine thus far.
The Red Sox left Houston on Saturday not only feeling good about winning the most recent game and knotting this series up at a game apiece, but generally just feeling like they were in the better spot heading back to Fenway. Not only did they reclaim home field advantage by splitting those first two, but their pitching situation was much better. Houston was already without top starter Lance McCullers Jr., and the Red Sox offense exacerbated any depth concerns on the other side by knocking out each of the first two Astros starters early.
The goal was to do the same against José Urquidy, who is a bit different of a pitcher compared to the first two they saw as he fills up the zone a bit more. But it didn’t matter, because the Red Sox once again were relentless. It did, to be fair, take a little bit longer this time as the first four batters to come to the plate for Boston were outs. Alex Verdugo broke up that streak with a big at bat, starting off 0-2 before working his way back for an 11-pitch walk.
And that ended up opening the floodgates. J.D. Martinez followed it up with a double rocketed off the Monster, and Hunter Renfroe drew a second walk in the inning to load them up. We know Boston rode a pair of grand slams in Game Two, but initially they opted for a different route here as Christian Vázquez brought home one with a base hit before Christian Arroyo hit a potential double play ball that was booted (on a tough hop, to be fair) by José Altuve.
That not only gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead, but it allowed the inning to continue for Kyle Schwarber. The slugger got ahead 3-0 as Urquidy’s control continued to suffer in the inning, and he got the green light. Sitting dead red for a fastball up in the zone, that’s exactly what he got and he drove it 430 feet for yet another Red Sox grand slam. The blast put the Red Sox up six, and the three grand slams the last two games matched their regular season total and tied the all-time MLB postseason record.
That was all they got in that inning, but they kept their foot on the gas in the third as well to make sure they built whatever cushion they could. Now in Houston’s bullpen, Renfroe drew another walk before stealing second and moving to third on the bad throw. He’d then come home on a bloop single from Vázquez that only fell in because the Astros were playing the infield in. That brought Arroyo to the plate, and he went with hard contact instead. The infielder smashed his first homer of the postseason into the Monster Seats, and the Red Sox had a 9-0 lead just as they did in Game Two.
So the offense did their job, and on the other side Eduardo Rodriguez did his as well. The one thing Boston really wanted to avoid was having to go to Nick Pivetta and mess up their Game Four plans, and the southpaw never even threatened for that to be an issue. He came out firing with 96 mph fastballs, and for the first three innings he was basically untouchable, peaking by striking out the side in the second.
The one bit of trouble we did see from Rodriguez was in the fourth when the command started to wane a bit. It was 9-0 at this point, but he gave up singles to two of the first four batters he reached in the inning. That brought Kyle Tucker to the plate with two on and two out, and the young outfielder reminded people he was the American League’s best hitter (by wRC+) in the second half. Rodriguez made a bad 0-2 pitch with a slider staying up and over the plate, and Tucker crushed it out to right field for a three-run shot. Rodriguez would have to throw 34 pitches in the inning, putting into question just how deep he’d be able to go in this game.
But he was able to recover in a big way in the fifth, needing only nine pitches to get through that perfect frame. That, in turn, allowed him to enter the sixth with only 83 pitches. Rodriguez got through that one perfectly as well to end his night, allowing just the three runs over six huge innings, striking out seven and not issuing a walk. It’s hard to overstate how big that performance was.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense continued to work, adding two more in the sixth on a J.D. Martinez home run. Hansel Robles came out for a scoreless seventh. The Red Sox were starting to rest players at that point, with Kiké Hernández being replaced by Danny Santana in that seventh, and Kyle Schwarber being hit for in the bottom of the inning.
With an eight point lead and just six outs to go, Alex Cora turned to Martín Pérez for the eighth. The southpaw got the job done with a three-batter eighth. Boston added one more on a solo homer from Rafael Devers before Hirokazu Sawamura added another scoreless inning in the ninth, and the 12-3 win put them two wins away from a pennant.
The Red Sox look to take a 3-1 lead on Tuesday with Game Four at Fenway. Nick Pivetta will get that start for Boston, while Houston’s pitching plans are a little less clear. First pitch at 8:08 PM ET.