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Scattered Thoughts after a blowout Game Three win

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A stress-free night at Fenway.

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

The Red Sox got exactly what they were looking for in Game Three of this ALCS against Houston, with a big 12-3 win to give themselves a 2-1 lead in the series. Things are far from over, of course, but Boston has to like where they sit right now. Here are some scattered thoughts after the win.

  • I think the place to start is just the general vibe of this game, which wasn’t really that of a playoff game. That’s nothing to do with the crowd, to be clear (more on that later), but rather just the flow. Even in Game Two, the offense went quiet enough that a few runs from Houston made it a little stressful. But the Red Sox offense never stopped on Monday and this was as stress-free a playoff game I can remember. I’m not expecting any more of these, but I’m glad we got one because it was a much easier viewing experience.
  • The offense was the story of this game and the series so far, but Eduardo Rodriguez deserves top billing among individual players for me. The Astros are in deep trouble with how much they’ve had to use their bullpen, and Rodriguez helped avoid the Red Sox being put in a similar state. Only Hansel Robles had to pitch in relief among important Red Sox relievers, and even he only threw nine pitches. We know Alex Cora isn’t afraid to pull pitchers early, so going six full innings is a real feat for Rodriguez.
American League Championship Series Game 3: Houston Astros v. Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images
  • And it wasn’t just the length. Especially early on but really for almost his entire outing, Rodriguez was electric. He was clearly amped up right out of the gates, throwing 96 in the first inning. When was the last time we saw that from him? His cutter was, to me, the most impressive pitch in this outing — he got Carlos Correa looking early in the game with a cutter that may have moved more than any he’s ever thrown — but more generally he was pitching with confidence. We know that’s when he’s at his best. Obviously pitching with a big lead helped, though it was still 0-0 in the second when he struck out the side for his best outing.
  • This has been a theme of the series, but Rodriguez continued to shut down the top half of the Astros lineup. In this game, the top five hitters for Houston — José Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Carlos Correa — went 2-19 without any walks and striking out five times. Their offense is terrifying, but much less so when you’re neutralizing those bats.
  • Sticking with the Rodriguez theme, his one rough patch was in the fourth inning when he gave up a three-run homer for Kyle Tucker and needed 34 pitches to get through it. It did pose some danger that he wouldn’t get deep, and in fact there was some activity in the bullpen. But he got out of the inning and answered back with a nine-pitch fifth. That was a quietly big moment in the game, and potentially for the series.
  • The big story for Rodriguez was when he finished his night and pointed at a fake watch a la Carlos Correa in Game One. Alex Cora wasn’t thrilled and yelled at him to stop. It got a lot of attention on the ol’ Twitter machine, but I think it’s one of those situations where no one was wrong. I’m totally fine with Rodriguez being pumped up and wanting to remind Correa that they don’t forget. Emotions are good. At the same time, the Red Sox know better than anybody how teams can take slights (no matter how much they may be blown out of proportion) to go on a run. Boston did it in 2018 with the Yankees playing Sinatra, and this year with the Rays and their champagne incident. So I get Cora wanting to try and nip that in the bud going the other way. Those two have a special relationship, and I’m not at all worried about either side overstepping.
  • The offense was pretty much just relentless in a way that I don’t really know what to say. They did match their regular season total with three grand slams over the last two games, with Kyle Schwarber doing the deed this time. Cora said after the game they’re more locked in than they’ve been at any point this year, and it’s hard to argue.
  • The crowd tonight was electric as it has been for pretty much this whole playoff run. The game got out of hand early enough that I’m not sure it played a huge role, but after the game it totally messed up FS1’s postgame. The crowd was chanting stuff at A-Rod that they didn’t want on TV, and they ended up having to mute sections of the segment. It ruled.
  • I mentioned before the series that I thought defense would be the X-Factor in this series, but it’s played out opposite as I expected. José Altuve made a big error in the second inning right before the grand slam on a ball that could have ended the inning.
  • Another big swing moment in that inning came a little bit earlier with Alex Verdugo at the plate. José Urquidy looked good early and retired the first four Red Sox batters before getting up 0-2 on Verdugo. But Boston’s outfielder worked a great at bat from there, ultimately getting on base with an 11-pitch walk that opened up the floodgates.
  • The score got so lopsided that Cora was able to rest both Kiké Hernández and Schwarber. It was notable that Rafael Devers didn’t get rest (to those wondering who would replace him, Bobby Dalbec has done so this year) even with his injury. I think that speaks to how well he’s feeling compared to earlier in the month. And as an added bonus, he hit a solo homer in the eighth as a cherry on top for the offense.
  • This guy.