Red Sox’ offensive struggles continue in 9-1 blowout loss to Astros in Game 5 of ALCS

Momentum can be a fickle thing, particularly when it comes to postseason baseball.

Two days ago, it appeared as though the Red Sox had all the momentum after taking a two-games-to-one lead over the Astros in the American League Championship Series.

Less than 48 hours later, it is the Astros who now have all the momentum after they took their second straight game from the Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

Boston fell to Houston by a final score of 9-1 in Game 5, which puts them in a three-games-to-two hole as this ALCS heads back to Houston.

Playing at Fenway Park for possibly the last time this year, the Red Sox got what they needed out of Chris Sale, though the left-hander’s final line may not reflect that.

Sale, making his third start of the postseason, allowed four runs — only two of which were earned — on three hits and two walks to go along with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.

After retiring the side in order to begin his day, Sale kicked off the top half of the second by serving up a towering solo shot to Yordan Alvarez on a first-pitch 94 mph heater that wasn’t in the strike zone.

Still, the Astros went up 1-0 on Alvarez’s home run, but Sale did not let that put a damper on things for him, as he rebounded and sat down the next seven batters he faced in order.

With one out in the fourth inning of what was still a one-run contest that favored Houston, Sale issued an eight-pitch walk to Alex Bregman that was followed by another hard-hit single from Alvarez that put runners at the corners.

Again, Sale did not back down and instead fanned Carlos Correa on three straight strikes before doing the very same to Kyle Tucker on four pitches to escape the jam.

Upon getting Tucker to fan on a 98.5 mph four-seam fastball — his fastest pitch of the night — that was up and out of the zone, an energetic Sale pumped his left fist, put his glove to his face, and let out a fiery scream while heading back to his dugout.

Sale’s evening was not done yet, however, as the lefty came back out for the fifth and put up another zero. At that point, Sale had gone through the dangerous Astros lineup twice and managed to avoid any serious damage aside from the Alvarez home run.

With his pitch count rising and Houston’s batting order flipping back over, Sale took the mound for the sixth and promptly issued a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve.

Michael Brantley then made matters worse when he reached base safely on a missed catch error committed by Kyle Schwarber at first base, which allowed Altuve to advance all the way up to third.

A groundout off the bat of Bregman moved Brantley up to second and kept the rally alive for Alvarez, who the Red Sox decided to pitch to despite first base being open.

Alvarez made Boston pay dearly for that mistake, as he proceeded to hit Sale hard yet again when he laced a two-run double down the left field line that plated both Altuve and Brantley.

Suddenly down 3-0, Sox manager Alex Cora quickly turned to his bullpen, giving Sale the hook in favor of Ryan Brasier. Brasier, in turn, yielded a two-out single to Tucker that put runners at the corners before Yuli Gurriel drove in another on an RBI double down the right field line.

Jose Siri made sure to keep it going by blooping a softly-hit two-run single to shallow right field that gave the Astros a commanding 6-0 lead before the sixth inning mercifully came to an end.

By the time the third out of the sixth was recorded, the book was officially closed on Sale’s outing while Brasier himself was charged with two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning.

In the top of the seventh, Hansel Robles took over for Brasier, but was unable to get through the inning. The right-handed reliever yielded a leadoff single to Altuve and allowed the speedy second baseman to advance an additional 90 feet on a failed pickoff attempt.

Altuve then scored all the way from second on an RBI single off the bat of Brantley before Bregman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that was followed by a pitching change that saw Darwinzon Hernandez replace Robles.

Hernandez did what he was called upon to do by punching out Alvarez on six pitches to set the Red Sox up in the bottom half of the frame.

To that point in the night, the Sox lineup had been held in check by Astros starter Framber Valdez in the process of squandering several scoring opportunities.

After going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss to Houston, Boston had been no-hit by Valdez through four innings on Wednesday before Rafael Devers led off the bottom of the fifth with a sharply-hit single.

J.D. Martinez followed by taking a curveball off the knee that put runners at first and second for Hunter Renfroe, whose postseason struggles continued to drag on when he grounded into a soul-crushing 6-4-3 double play that ultimately stranded Martinez at third.

An inning later, the Sox had the chance to respond to the Astros’ five-run sixth when Christian Vazquez ripped a one-out double off Valdez. He, like Martinez, was left in scoring position after both Enrique Hernandez and Schwarber were sat down by the opposing left-hander.

This takes us to the aforementioned bottom half of the seventh. Shortly after Houston tacked on another run to their lead, Devers got that one run back immediately.

With one out and the bases empty, Devers stayed hot by unloading on a 1-0, 94 mph sinker on the inner half of the plate from Valdez and wrapped it 402 feet around Pesky’s Pole in right field.

Devers’ fifth homer of the postseason left the young slugger’s bat at a scorching 110.7 mph. It also trimmed Boston’s defecit down to six runs at 7-1.

Another walk drawn by Martinez kept the inning alive momentarily, but Renfroe followed by grounding into another twin killing that extinguished the threat.

In the eighth, after Hernandez and Hirokazu Sawamura somehow combined to toss a scoreless frame of relief, Valdez capped off his stellar day for Houston in the bottom half by sitting down the final three batters he faced in order.

Martin Perez then surrendered two additional runs to the Astros to begin the ninth, while Ryne Stanek retired the side in order to close this one out.

All in all, the Boston bats went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left two runners on base as a team in what will go down as a lopsided 9-1 defeat.

With this loss, which is their second straight, the Red Sox’ backs are now against the wall as they trail this best-of-seven ALCS, 3-2.

Next up: Eovaldi on top for Game 6 in Houston

The Red Sox will have Thursday off as they board a flight to Houston for the final leg of this championship series at Minute Maid Park.

On the brink of elimination, it will be right-hander Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for Boston in Game 6 on Friday night. Houston, on the other hand, will turn to fellow righty Luis Garcia in what will be a rematch of Game 2 from last Sunday.

First pitch from Minute Maid Park on Friday is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez and Jose Altuve: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lineup for Game 5 of ALCS vs. Astros: Kiké Hernández leading off, J.D. Martinez batting fifth

The Red Sox will look to bounce back from an unexpectedly lopsided 9-2 loss to the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday with a quick turnaround for Game 5 on Wednesday.

After Boston dropped Game 4 to Houston at Fenway Park, this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied up at two games apiece and has essentially turned into a best-of-three race.

With Tuesday’s loss, the Sox have given home-field advantage back to the Astros, as the series will definitely be heading back to Houston since it will be at least six games in length.

Wednesday’s clash between the Red Sox and Astros will feature a pair of left-handers getting the start for their respective clubs, with Chris Sale getting the ball for Boston and Framber Valdez doing the same for Houston in what will be a rematch of Game 1.

In Game 1 of this series at Minute Maid Park, Sale went just 2 2/3 innings while allowing one earned run on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts on 61 pitches (37 strikes).

Valdez, meanwhile, did not last long either, as he surrendered three runs — two of which were earned — on six hits (one home run), three walks, and two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings of work.

Since a left-hander will be starting for the Astros, Sox manager Alex Cora has made some slight alterations to his lineup. For instance, the right-handed hitting Enrique Hernandez will be leading off in front of the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber.

J.D. Martinez, on the other hand, has been bumped up to fifth in the batting order, resulting in Alex Verdugo dropping down to the seven-hole behind Hunter Renfroe.

Christian Vazquez, who will be catching Sale, is batting ninth after second baseman Christian Arroyo. Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind Sale:

First pitch from Fenway Park on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox blow late lead in process of falling to Astros, 9-2, in Game 4 of ALCS

The Red Sox were just a few innings away from potentially jumping out to a commanding three-games-to-one-lead over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night … until they weren’t.

After holding on to a 2-1 lead for most of the night, Boston saw things unravel in the eighth inning of what would later go down as a 9-2 loss to Houston at Fenway Park, which means this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied at two games apiece.

Nick Pivetta, making his first start and third overall appearance of the postseason for the Sox, was solid in his championship series debut. The right-hander limited the Astros to just one run while scattering two hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts over five impressive innings of work.

The lone run Pivetta surrendered to Houston came right away in the top half of the first, when he served up a two-out solo shot over the Green Monster to Alex Bregman that gave the Astros an early 1-0 lead.

Despite that miscue, the Red Sox lineup picked up their starter right away in the bottom half of the frame.

Matched up against Astros veteran right-hander Zack Greinke to begin things on Tuesday, Rafael Devers drew a five-pitch walk with two outs to set the stage for Xander Bogaerts.

After not collecting an RBI in Monday’s 12-3 thumping of Houston, Bogaerts unloaded on a 1-0, 84 mph slider from Greinke and deposited 413 feet into the Boston night and onto Lansdowne Street.

Bogaerts’ third homer of the postseason — a sizzling two-run blast that left his bat at 107.9 mph — allowed the Sox to snatch their first lead of the evening at 2-1.

Given that fresh one-run advantage to work with, Pivetta took full advantage by stringing together four scoreless frames. He had to escape a bit of a jam he created for himself in the second, but followed by sitting down nine of the final 10 batters he faced leading into the middle of the fifth.

Even after the Astros lineup flipped over for a third time in that fifth inning, Pivetta responded by getting the dangerous Jose Altuve to ground out to third base to retire the side and end his night on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of just of 65 (36 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler topped out at 96.5 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he turned to 38 times to complement both his slider and knuckle curveball.

In relief of Pivetta, left-hander Josh Taylor got the first call from Red Sox manager Alex Cora out of the Boston bullpen, and he recorded the first two outs of the sixth before yielding a two-out single to Yordan Alvarez.

Adam Ottavino then came on for Taylor to finish the inning, and the veteran reliever did just that by emphatically punching out Carlos Correa on a 96 mph sinker on the outer half of the plate.

From there, Garrett Whitlock put up a zero in the seventh, but ran into some trouble an inning later.

To that point in the contest, the Boston bats had been held in check by Houston pitching. Despite knocking Greinke out after just 1 1/3 innings, the Sox were stymied by the Astros bullpen, though they certainly had their fair share of scoring opportunities.

In the bottom of the second, for instance, the Red Sox had runners at first and second with one out, but neither Enrique Hernandez or Devers were able to come through and instead went down quietly.

Two innings later, Chritian Arroyo ripped a one-out triple off Cristian Javier, but was stranded there after both Kyle Schwarber and Hernandez were retired by the Astros reliever.

With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Bogaerts laced a 106.9 mph double off Javier. He, too, was left there when Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez were sat down on a fly out and swinging strikeout, respectively.

Fast forward to the top half of the eighth, and the Astros promptly capitalized on the fact that the Red Sox had gone 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight runners on base as a team up until then.

That being the case because on the very first pitch he saw from Whitlock, Altuve led off the eighth by crushing a game-tying solo home run 400 feet off the National Car Rental sign hovering above the Green Monster.

Altuve’s late-game heroics knotted things up at two runs apiece, and it also paved the way for Nathan Eovaldi to attempt to keep it that way in the ninth.

Having just started Game 2 of this series on Saturday, Eovaldi immediately gave up a leadoff double to Correa that was just out of the reach of Hunter Renfroe in right field. He then struck out Kyle Tucker and intentionally walked Yuli Gurriel to face the pinch-hitting Aledmys Diaz.

Diaz, in turn, fanned on five pitches, bringing Eovaldi to within one out of escaping a sticky situation. Jason Castro, however, had different plans.

Moments after it appeared as though Eovaldi had punched out Castro on a 1-2, 80 mph curveball on the inner half of the plate that was instead called a ball by home plate umpire Laz Diaz, the Astros backstop responded by drilling a go-ahead, run-scoring single through the right side of the infield.

Castro plated Correa on his clutch hit to make it a 3-2 game in favor of Houston, but the Astros were not done there. Not with Altuve drawing a walk that prompted Cora to go get Eovaldi.

With two outs and the bases full of Astros, Michael Brantley greeted the newly-inserted Martin Perez by drilling a three-run, bases-clearing double to the gap in right-center field that increased his side’s advantage to four runs at 6-2.

Perez’s struggles did not end there, as the lefty surrendered three more runs on three more hits before the top of the ninth inning mercifully came to a close with the Astros up, 9-2.

In total, Eovaldi was charged for four runs — all of which were earned — on two hits, two walks, and two strikeouts in 2/3 of an inning. He is slated to start Game 6 of this series in Houston on Friday.

Perez, on the other hand, was charged with three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning.

The Sox somewhat threatened in their half of the ninth, but ultimately went down quietly against Astros closer Ryan Pressly to secure a heart-breaking 9-2 defeat in which they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base as a team.

With the loss, the Red Sox have given home-field advantage back to the Astros, as they ensure that they will be heading back to Houston later this week since this ALCS is now tied up at 2-2 and will at least be six games in length.

Next up: Sale vs. Valdez to start off Game 5

The Red Sox will turn to left-hander Chris Sale to start Game 5 at Fenway Park on Wednesday evening, while the Astros will roll with fellow southpaw Framber Valdez.

First pitch from Fenway Park on Wednesday is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Chris Sale likely to start Game 5 of ALCS for Red Sox, but left-hander will be available out of bullpen for Game 4 vs. Astros

The Red Sox will have Chris Sale available out of their bullpen for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday night, though the club is hoping they will be able to stay away from him.

When speaking with reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) at Fenway Park ahead of Game 4, Sox manager Alex Cora said that Sale is penciled in to start Game 5, but the veteran left-hander could pitch in relief of Nick Pivetta on Tuesday if the situation arises.

As noted by Speier, Cora and Co. would prefer to avoid using Sale out of the ‘pen in order to preserve him for what would be his third start of the postseason on Wednesday. If they were forced to use the lefty, though, Cora did indicate that the Red Sox would be able to make the necessary adjustments to their starting rotation.

Through his first two outings of these playoffs, Sale has allowed a total of six earned runs on nine hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over just 3 2/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 14.73 and FIP of 6.99.

The 32-year-old is coming off a start against the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS in which he surrendered one run on five hits, one walk, one HBP and two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings pitched at Minute Maid Park on October 15.

If Sale were to toss an inning of relief on Tuesday night, he would be working on three days rest and would subsequently not be available to start on Wednesday. Assuming he is not used, the seven-time All-Star would then be pitching on seven days rest come Wednesday night.

Per MLB.com’s Ian Browne, Cora likened this situation with Sale to what Boston went through with Pivetta on Monday. Pivetta, like Sale, had been available to work out of the bullpen in Game 3, but his services were not needed since the Sox bested the Astros in a 12-3 blowout win.

Following Monday’s victory, Cora officially named Pivetta as his Game 4 starter. The same sort of thing will likely happen on Tuesday night — with Sale getting tabbed to start Game 5 — so long as the southpaw does not make a relief appearance between now and then.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox sticking with same lineup they used in Game 3 for Game 4 of ALCS vs. Astros

Why fix what isn’t broken?

After mashing their way to a 12-3 win over the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday, the Red Sox are running back the same exact starting lineup for Tuesday night’s Game 4 at Fenway Park.

With veteran right-hander Zack Greinke on the mound for Houston, Boston will have the opportunity to take a three-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven series.

Kyle Schwarber, after belting a grand slam on Monday, will once again be leading off and starting at first base for the Sox on Tuesday. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and left fielder Alex Verdugo.

Verdugo batting fifth means designated hitter J.D. Martinez has dropped down to the six-hole once more, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round out the lineup.

Vazquez will be catching righty Nick Pivetta, who Red Sox manager Alex Cora named as his Game 4 starter following Monday’s blowout victory.

Pivetta will be making his first career postseason start come Tuesday night after only being used as a reliever on two separate occasions during the American League Division Series against the Rays.

In those two outings, the 28-year-old hurler turned in a pair of solid performances in Games 1 and 3, posting a 3.12 ERA and 4.67 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to three walks over 8 2/3 total innings of work.

Over the course of the regular season, Pivetta faced off against the Astros only once, and that came in Houston back on June 2. He allowed two runs on three hits, two walks, one hit batsman and nine strikeouts in six innings during that outing at Minute Maid Park.

Greinke, on the other hand, last started a game for the Astros on September 19, as he was used out of their bullpen just once and tossed a scoreless fourth inning in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the White Sox on October 10.

Like Pivetta, Greinke made one start against his upcoming opponent during the regular season. On June 10 at Fenway Park, the soon-to-be 38-year-old surrendered four runs to the Red Sox on seven hits, one walk, and two strikeouts over three uninspiring innings.

With all that being said, first pitch from Fenway on Tuesday night is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox tab Eduardo Rodriguez to start Game 3 of ALCS vs. Astros; Nick Pivetta likely to start Game 4

Eduardo Rodriguez will start Game 3 of the American League Championship Series for the Red Sox as they go up against the Astros at Fenway Park on Monday night.

Sox manager Alex Cora made the announcement while speaking to reporters during an optional workout at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon. He had previously declined to name a starter for Game 3 following Boston’s 9-5 win over Houston in Game 2 to even up the ALCS at one game apiece on Saturday.

Rodriguez, come Monday night, will be making his third start of the postseason and second straight at home. Through his first two outings, the left-hander has posted a 5.40 ERA, but a much more encouraging 1.97 FIP, to go along with seven strikeouts to just two walks over 6 2/3 total innings of work.

After struggling in his start against the Rays in the opening contest of the ALDS on October 7, Rodriguez bounced back in an encouraging way by limiting Tampa Bay to two runs on three hits, zero walks, and five strikeouts in five solid innings in the fourth and final game of the division series last Monday.

While the 28-year-old southpaw had been available out of the bullpen in Houston over the weekend, he ultimately was not used, thus allowing Cora to pencil him in as his Game 3 starter.

The last time the Red Sox faced off against the Astros in an ALCS three years ago, Rodriguez appeared in two games as a reliever and only faced a total of four batters, so there really is not much to go off there.

This time around, Rodriguez will be matched up against Houston right-hander Jose Urquidy to kick things off in Game 3 on Monday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.

As for who will start Game 4 for Boston on Tuesday, Cora indicated that responsibility will likely fall to Nick Pivetta. The right-hander will however be available to pitch in relief of Rodriguez out of the Sox bullpen on Monday if needed.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox rolling with Eduardo Rodriguez for Game 4 of ALDS vs. Rays

The Red Sox have an opportunity to advance to the American League Championship Series for the first time in three years on Monday night.

After walking off the Rays in dramatic fashion in a 13-inning thriller on Sunday, the Sox are now just one more victory away from taking this best-of-five American League Division Series.

With a two-games-to-one lead in hand, Boston will turn to Eduardo Rodriguez to try to put the finishing touches on this series in front of what is sure to be a packed house at Fenway Park to cap off a memorable Marathon Monday in the city.

Rodriguez struggled in his last time out, as the left-hander surrendered two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks, and one strikeout over just 1 2/3 innings of work Thursday’s 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 1 at Tropicana Field.

Opposing Rodriguez will be a familiar foe in Rays right-hander Collin McHugh, who — like his former teammate — took the loss in Game 2 by allowing three runs over 1 2/3 innings of relief in what would go down as a 14-6 win for the Red Sox on Friday.

In facing another righty on the mound to start things out on Monday, Sox manager Alex Cora has rolled out a nearly-identical lineup to the one he put out for Game 3.

Kyle Schwarber will once again lead off and start at first base while Enrique Hernandez will bat second and start in center field. Rafael Devers will bat third and start at third baset, leaving All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to assume the role as cleanup hitter.

Left fielder Alex Verdugo and designated hitter J.D. Martinez make up the 5-6 portion of Boston’s lineup, while right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Christian Vazquez, and second baseman Christian Arroyo round things out.

Vazquez, who came off the bench to replace Kevin Plawecki in the sixth inning of Game 3 on Sunday, went 1-for-3 with the biggest hit of the night: a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th that sealed a 6-4 win for the Sox.

With that being said, first pitch for Game 4 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FS1. The Red Sox will not be wearing their yellow City Connect uniforms and will instead go with their alternate red jerseys.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Kyle Schwarber on tipping cap to Fenway Park crowd: ‘You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself’

Well before Christian Vazquez walked it off for the Red Sox in thrilling fashion on Sunday night, Kyle Schwarber had quite the memorable sequence in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Rays at Fenway Park.

He later reminded everyone about the kind of endearing personality he possesses that has quickly made him a fan favorite in Boston.

“You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself every once in a while and loosen the situation up,” Schwarber said following Boston’s 6-4 win over Tampa Bay in 13 innings.

Going back to the third inning Sunday, with the Rays in front by a score of 2-1, Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi got leadoff man Brandon Lowe to dribble a softly-hit groundball in the direction of Schwarber at first base.

Schwarber, in turn, fielded the ball cleanly, but overthrew Eovaldi on his underhand flip back to the first-base bag, which allowed Lowe to reach base safely.

An inning later, after Boston had taken a 3-2 lead, Schwarber found himself in a similar position when Ji-Man Choi led off the top half of the fourth by hitting another groundball towards him.

This time, however, the relatively inexperienced first baseman was able to hit Eovlaid in stride and successfully make an accurate, underhand flip to get Choi out at first base.

Upon recording what would normally be regarded as a routine out, Schwarber broke out into a celebration in which he pointed to the sky with both hands and pumped his right fist before tipping his cap to the Fenway faithful.

“That was awesome,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “That’s who they are. That’s what we do. Of course we wanted to make the first play, and after that he makes the play, and everyone was excited because he did it. He did what he did, and I think it was great. Sometimes we take this game too seriously, and you can actually not enjoy it. … Although we take it seriously, we also have fun with it.”

Leading up to Sunday’s contest, Schwarber had made just nine regular season starts and postseason start at first base after the Red Sox acquired him in a trade with the Nationals in late July.

The 28-year-old primarily played left field in his time with the Nationals and acknowledged that he still has room to improve at first base — a position he is learning on the fly, though he did show some gratitude towards Eovaldi for helping him out.

“Obviously being new over there at first base, you make the error, and Nate picks you up,” Schwarber said. “Unbelievable job by Nate. You go out there and make the good, old routine play and loosen it up a little bit.”

As Cora alluded to, Schwarber is someone who can have fun doing what he does while also understanding the importance of the moment, as he went 3-for-5 with a home run, one RBI, and two runs scored as part of Sunday’s win that gave the Sox a two-games-to-one edge in this best-of-five ALDS.

“You’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself,” said Schwarber. “It was a good time. I think I got a laugh out of pretty much almost everyone. It’s a game. Like you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself.”

(Picture of Kyle Schwarber: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez once again batting sixth for Red Sox in Game 3 of ALDS vs. Rays

J.D. Martinez made his impact felt in his return to the Red Sox lineup in Friday’s 14-6 trouncing of the Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field, and he did so while batting out of the six-hole.

Prior to Friday night, Martinez had never started a regular season game below the No. 5 spot in the batting order in his time with the Sox, but his first exposure to the No. 6 spot in quite some time netted extremely positive results.

Hitting behind Alex Verdugo and in front of Hunter Renfroe, the 34-year-old slugger went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, three RBI and one run scored while starting at designated hitter. He was pinch-ran for by Danny Santana in the ninth inning.

Martinez did all that while still nursing a left ankle sprain, and with another right-handed pitcher in Drew Rasmussen getting the start for the Rays, he will once again be batting sixth in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday afternoon.

As was also the case with Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s lineup on Friday, the left-handed hitting Kyle Schwarber will lead off and start at first base in place of Bobby Dalbec. He will be followed by center fielder Enrique Hernandez, third baseman Rafael Devers, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Verdugo, Martinez, and Renfroe comprise the 5-6-7 portion of Boston’s lineup, which will be rounded out by Kevin Plawecki and second baseman Christian Arroyo.

Plawecki will be catching right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Sunday. The pair developed quite a bit of chemistry over the course of the regular season, which carried over into Tuesday’s Wild Card Game win over the Yankees.

Eovaldi allowed just one run on four hits and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 strong innings while earning the victory in that outing, and he will look to do more of the same on Sunday opposite Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, one of two pitchers the Rays acquired as part of the trade that sent Willy Adames to the Brewers back in May, made his postseason debut for Milwaukee in last year’s Wild Card Series against the Dodgers. He tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Game 1 of that series.

As Eovaldi goes up against his former team, he will have the opportunity to get the Red Sox ahead of the Rays after the two clubs split the first two games of this best-of-five ALDS at Tropicana Field.

With that being said, first pitch from Fenway Park on Sunday is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. eastern time on MLB Network.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Garrett Whitlock closing out Wild Card Game win for Red Sox a fitting way for Yankees’ season to end

At this time one year ago, Garrett Whitlock was still a member of the Yankees organization.

While still recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent the previous July, Whitlock — then a prospect — was left off the Yankees’ 40-man roster as the November 20 deadline to add eligible minor-leaguers came and went.

As a result, Whitlock was to be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft the following month. And despite only having pitched 70 1 /3 innings above the High-A level since being drafted in 2017, the right-hander was scooped up by the Red Sox in said draft on December 10.

Fast forward 10 month later, and Whitlock was presented with the opportunity to end his former team’s 2021 season on the biggest of stages under the bright lights at Fenway Park.

After putting together a fantastic rookie season in which he posted a 1.96 ERA, 2.84 FIP, and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 81-17 over 46 relief appearances spanning 73 1/3 frames of work, Whitlock was called upon in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s Wild Card Game against the Yankees.

Having just been activated from the 10-day injured list two days prior, the 25-year-old hurler was tasked by Red Sox manager Alex Cora to record the final three outs of the night.

Working with a five-run lead to protect while taking over for Hansel Robles, Whitlock got the first batter he faced in Aaron Judge to ground out to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop.

He then yielded a solo shot to Giancarlo Stanton that cut New York’s deficit to four runs, but bounced back by retiring Joey Gallo and Gleyber Torres in order to put the finishing touches on a 6-2 Wild Card victory for the Red Sox.

In closing things out on just eight pitches (seven strikes) in the top of the ninth, not only did Whitlock send the Sox to the American League Division Series; he eliminated the Yankees from the postseason as well.

For as humble as he is, it’s unlikely Whitlock would say anything about Tuesday’s win meaning more since it sent his former team home packing. Still, as a competitor, there has to be some level of gratification upon successfully dashing the hopes of the organization that essentially gave up on you not too long ago.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)