After squandering multiple scoring opportunities in a Game 1 loss to kick off the American League Championship Series on Friday, the Red Sox bounced back in a tremendous way against the Astros in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.
Boston mashed their way to a 9-5 win over Houston at Minute Maid Park, meaning this best-of-seven ALCS is now tied at one game each as it heads back to Fenway Park.
Matched up against Astros rookie right-hander Luis Garcia to begin things on Saturday, a hungry Sox lineup kicked off the scoring right away in their half of the first inning.
Kyle Schwarber led off with a double, Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo each drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs, then — following a brief mound visit — J.D. Martinez unloaded the bases on a 1-0, 94 mph fastball from Garcia and crushed it 363 feet over the right field wall.
Martinez’s grand slam, which had an exit velocity of 106 mph, gave Boston an early 4-0 lead, but they were not done there.
That being the case because an inning later, the Red Sox threatened once more after Kevin Plawecki began the top half of the second by drawing a leadoff walk off Garcia.
To that point in the contest, Garcia had struggled with his command, with only 14 of his 33 pitches through one-plus innings going for strikes. As a result, he left the game with right knee discomfort and was replaced by Jake Odorizzi.
Odorizzi, a traditional starter, then went through his regular warmup routine on the field, which took quite a bit of time before he was ready to face Christian Arroyo with no outs and a runner on in the second.
Arroyo, coming off that long layoff, promptly ripped a single to right field before a one-out base hit of the bat of Enrique Hernandez filled the bases for Boston yet again.
Devers then followed in Martinez’s footsteps by clubbing the Sox’ second grand slam of the day, making them the first major-league team to ever hit two grand slams in a single postseason game.
While the long layoff caused by Garcia’s injury played into Boston’s favor on the offensive side of things, it also resulted in Nathan Eovaldi having to wait a while in between innings.
Eovaldi, making his third start of the postseason for the Sox, got his day started against his hometown team by retiring six of the first seven Astros batters he faced. From the time he recorded the final out of the second inning, though, he had to wait a grand total of 41 minutes before throwing his first pitch of the third.
The veteran right-hander had a sizable 8-0 cushion to work with at that point, and that lead only increased after he got through another 1-2-3 frame.
In the top of the fourth, with Odorizzi still on the mound for Houston, a sizzling Hernandez stayed hot at the plate by tattooing yet another home run — a 395-foot solo shot into the Crawford Boxes.
By doing so, Hernandez became the first Red Sox player to ever hit five homers in a five-game span during the postseason. He also gave his side a commanding 9-0 lead.
While Eovaldi had been able to keep the Astros at bay in his first three innings on Saturday, he ran into some two-out trouble in the bottom of the fourth after issuing his first walk of the afternoon to Yordan Alvarez before giving up a hard-hit single to Carlos Correa.
Kyle Tucker then plated Houston’s first run of the contest with an opposite field RBI double, while Yuli Gurriel tacked on two more on a two-run single down the right field line.
That sequence cut Boston’s advantage down to six runs at 9-3, but Eovaldi countered by getting out of the fourth before tossing a scoreless fifth inning that included a visit from a team trainer.
An inning later, Eovaldi got the first out of the sixth on an Alex Bregman groundout before giving up a one-out single to Alvarez — at which point his afternoon came to a close as he got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora in favor of Adam Ottavino.
Ottavino proceeded to officially close the book on Eovaldi’s outing by stranding the lone runner he inherited while also maneuvering his way around a bit of a jam.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 81 (53 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler (Eovaldi) wound up allowing three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.
Garrett Whitlock took over for Ottavino in a 9-3 game in the seventh, and he worked his way around a one-out walk of Jason Castro with some defensive help from Arroyo, who made a fine play while in the shift to get Michael Brantley at first base for the final out of the inning.
From there, Whitlock rolled on by sitting down the side in order in the eighth, thus paving the way for Darwinzon Hernandez in the ninth.
Hernandez, making his first appearance of the postseason, served up a pair of solo solo home runs to Gurriel and Castro, which trimmed Houston’s deficit down to four runs.
Ryan Brasier was forced to come on for the second straight day in relief of Hernandez. He was able to slam the door on the Astros in order to secure a series-evening 9-5 victory for the Sox.
With the win, the Red Sox even up this series at one game apiece while guaranteeing it will go at least five games. They have also taken homefield advantage away from the Astros for the time being.
Next up: Back to Boston for Games 3, 4, and 5
The Red Sox will board a flight to Boston and enjoy a well-deserved off day on Sunday before resuming the ALCS against the Astros at Fenway Park on Monday night.
Boston has yet to officially name a starter for Monday’s contest, while Houston will go with right-hander Jose Urquidy for Game 3.
First pitch from Fenway Park on Monday is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. eastern time on FS1.
(Picture of: J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)