By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 8-2 Red Sox: Rodriguez made quick work of the Astros, getting the first and third outs via swinging strikeout, and this one’s over. A thoroughly impressive win for the Red Sox, who now lead in the series and have regained the home-field advantage that they lost in Game 1.
Game 4, Wednesday night in Houston.
Middle 9th, 8-2 Red Sox: Benintendi led off the ninth with a single off Hector Rendon, but Martinez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to follow. Bogaerts grounded out to end the inning.
Eduardo Rodriguez is on to close out the win.
Bottom 8th, 8-2 Red Sox: Matt Barnes walked Gurriel to start the eighth, then retired Gonzalez (4-6 fielder’s choice) and Reddick (strikeout swinging). Cora elected to replace Barnes, likely to keep him available for Game 4 on Wednesday.
So Joe Kelly entered to face Correa and induced a weak chopper to short to end the inning.
Middle 8th, 8-2 Red Sox: What. An. Inning.
The Astros decided to not mess around, bringing in closer Roberto Osuna to keep this score locked at 3-2. But Osuna — who hadn’t pitched Oct. 6 — couldn’t get it done.
He did get two outs — a deep, deep flyout from Martinez, and a fielder’s choice that was made possible by a spectacular play by Bregman. But sandwiched between those outs was a swinging single by Bogaerts. Devers then sent a sharply hit single through the shift on the right side for a two-out single.
Cora sent Brock Holt to bat for Kinsler, and Holt immediately fell behind 0-2. But he laid off an 0-2 breaking ball for ball one — but he immediately signaled to Joe West that the pitch hit his back foot. Cora decided to trust his player and challenged the ruling. The Red Sox won.
Cora then sent Mitch Moreland to bat for Christian Vazquez, and Moreland fell behind 1-2. But Osuna came up and in on the 1-2 pitch and hit Moreland, allowing a run to cross the plate.
Up stepped Bradley, who belted a no-doubt-about-it grand slam to right field on a 1-1 fastball that was up and in.
That was some sequence for the Red Sox, who just clobbered the Astros’ best reliever to put this game out of reach.
End 7th, 3-2 Red Sox: The Red Sox made a bold choice in the seventh. It didn’t burn them.
After Altuve reached on a bunt single, a passed ball by Vazquez allowed the tying run to get into scoring position. With the dangerous Bregman at the plate, the Red Sox had the option of walking Bregman to avoid the chance of him driving in that run. Instead, with the count already at 2-0, the Red Sox decided to attack.
Brasier piped in a 97 mph fastball for strike one, but then missed away for ball three. Brasier fired another heater, this time catching a good chunk of the plate, but Bregman didn’t make the best contact, sending a soft flare to center field. Bradley came in to make the catch with ease and end the inning.
Bold decision making for Boston, and a lot of trust shown in Brasier by Alex Cora.
Middle 7th, 3-2 Red Sox: An impressive outing for Ryan Pressly, though he did need some help from his third baseman.
Pressly struck out Bradley on three pitches, before inducing some weak contact by Betts on a full count. It looked like it might have gone for an infield hit, but Bregman charged to his left, fielded the ball with his bare hand and threw a rocket to first to beat Betts. It was a mightily impressive play.
Pressley then ended the inning by striking out Benintendi, again on just three pitches.
Ryan Brasier is entering for Boston, ending Eovaldi’s day.
End 6th, 3-2 Red Sox: Pearce misplayed a two-out chopper by Correa, allowing the shortstop to reach base. And for a split-second, it looked like it might be costly.
That split-second came when McCann put a charge into a 1-0 fastball that ended up middle-middle. McCann appeared to have connected with it, and the home crowd erupted. But it turned out to have no juice, as Bradley made the catch easily while standing still about 25 feet shy of the fence.
And with that, Eovaldi’s day might be done. Six innings, two runs, six hits, two walks, four strikeouts. Two of those six hits were more like errors, but the official scorer didn’t agree. That’s immaterial anyway.
What’s important is that Eovaldi gave the Red Sox six innings, and the Sox have the lead.
Middle 6th, 3-2 Red Sox: Devers put in a good fight against Sipp, fouling off a trio of pitches, laying off three sliders and ultimately taking a ball four inside. But the inning didn’t go anywhere from there for Boston, as Kinsler struck out swinging and Vazquez grounded to third. Bregman’s throw took Gurriel off the bag, but he was able to apply the tag on Vazquez on the fly-by.
Kinsler is now 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in this series.
Top 6th, 1 Out, 3-2 Red Sox: The tie game did not last long.
After a Bogaerts popup, Peace stepped up and hit a deep fly ball to left field. The only question was whether or not it would stay fair. It did.
That thing was a blast, hitting the back wall of the stadium, and the Sox are back on top, 3-2.
That bomb ends the night for Joe Smith, who entered in relief this inning and only got the out. Tony Sipp enters to face Devers in a left-on-left matchup.
End 5th, 2-2: Third base defense has been a major storyline for the Red Sox. It’s going to continue.
With a runner on first and two outs, Eovaldi induced a chopper to third base. It should have been the final out of the inning. But Devers — again, he just entered last inning when Nunez was apparently injured — tried to field the ball on a charging backhand. He barely got any leather on it, allowing it to roll all the way into the left field corner. Altuve, even with his bad knee, was easily able to score from first, and this game is now tied.
Eovaldi got two quick outs — Kemp rolled out to first, Springer lined out to first — but then had to get to work. He got ahead of Altuve 0-2, but then lost him, ultimately walking him with four straight balls.
That brought up Bregman, who got ahead 2-0 before taking a strike and fouling off a pair of pitches. That set the stage for Bregman driving home the tying run. It was ruled a double, but it was absolutely an error.
Top 5th, 2-1 Red Sox: Baseball can be a cruel game. You’d never know that both Betts and Benintendi made great contact by looking at the box score, but that’s the way it goes.
Betts sent a ground ball back through the box, and it looked like his second hit of the night. (The exit velocity was 100.5 mph.) But Keuchel got a piece of his glove on it, slowing it down enough and deflecting it toward Correa. He fielded it easily and threw to first for the out.
Benintendi then pierced a ball to the left side, but Correa handled it and fired a missile to first for the second out.
Betts probably would have been Keuchel’s last hitter had he reached base, but Hinch stuck with the starter despite the hard contact. It paid off.
Martinez grounded out to third to end the inning.
End 4th, 2-1 Red Sox: Another 1-2-3 inning for Eovaldi, with a Reddick groundout, a Correa swinging strikeout, and a McCann lineout to center.
Middle 4th, 2-1 Red Sox: The Sox can’t do anything with the leadoff single, though Kinsler gave on a ride to right field. Reddick made a running catch on his way to the way for the out.
Vazquez and Bradley were then retired to end the frame.
The Astros did get Joe Smith up in the bullpen, but Keuchel was able to navigate his way out of the inning.
Top 4th, 0 Outs, 2-1 Red Sox: Eduardo Nunez was trying to gut it out this game, but his day is over.
He just singled on a sharply hit ball to third base. Bregman bobbled the ball and had to chase it down behind him, but he was still almost able to get Nunez out at first base. Nunez clearly had a slight limp while running past first, and so the Sox have replaced him with Rafael Devers.
End 3rd, 2-1 Red Sox: So, it turns out Eduardo Nunez can make some great plays in the field.
He handled a laser off the bat of Altuve, fielding it on a hop, spinning, and firing to second to retire Springer. Altuve beat out the throw to first, to prevent the double play.
Bregman then walked (what else is new?) to make things interesting for Houston, but Nunez made yet another good play in the field, this time waiting back on a high chopper from Gurriel and throwing across the diamond on one hop to retire the runner.
With two outs, Eovaldi got Gonzalez to fly out to left field to end the inning and keep the score at 2-1.
Middle 3rd, 2-1 Red Sox: Wow. The Astros were in a bit of trouble, as Steve Pearce sent a towering fly ball to left field with two runners aboard. As Tony Kemp kept backing up, and backing up, and backing up toward the wall, it looked like Pearce got just enough to scrape the wall and score the two runs.
But Kemp sized it up, timed a leap, and made a spectacular catch in front of the high left field wall to end the inning. Nobody in the Boston dugout could believe that Kemp actually made the catch without the ball first hitting the wall, but replay showed quite clearly that Kemp made the grab. An incredible play. (Had the Astros gotten defense like that out of Gonzalez in Game 2, they might have won the game.)
Alex Cora did challenge the play, and he did not win.
(UPDATE: A closer look makes it look as though the ball did hit the wall.)
Earlier, J.D. Martinez broke up a stretch of seven straight Red Sox retired by Keuchel, and he did it by patiently laying off a series of low breaking balls from Keuchel. That put Bogaerts in a one-on, two-out situation, and he drew a five-pitch walk. That set the stage for Pearce’s opportunity.
All of that came with two outs. To start the inning, Betts flew out on a breaking ball that was middle-middle, a swing Betts would definitely like another crack at. Benintendi then grounded out to second base.
Boston didn’t score that inning but at least drove Keuchel’s pitch count up to 57 and forced him to work to get out of it.
End 2nd, 2-1 Red Sox: And Eovaldi follows Keuchel’s lead, retiring the Astros in order in the second. Nunez was able to field Correa’s grounder cleanly and throw to first base to start the inning, McCann struck out on an inside cutter well off the plate, and Kemp flew out to shallow center.
Lots of pitches for Eovaldi thus far, as he’s at 44. Keuchel’s thrown 32 pitches through two innings. Top of the order due up for Boston in the third.
Middle 2nd, 2-1 Red Sox: That was a much better inning from Keuchel, as he retired the Red Sox in order. They went quietly, too. Kinsler and Vazquez both flew out, before Bradley grounded out to third.
End 1st, 2-1 Red Sox: The Astros got one back.
Eovaldi gave up consecutive singles to Altuve (who turned on a high 100 mph fastball and smoked it into left field) and Bregman (who pulled a cutter on the outside edge) before getting Gurriel to ground to third. Nunez, who’s been a bit of a mess defensively this series, slipped while trying to field it and didn’t field the ball cleanly. He was able to retire Bregman at second — barely — for out No. 2.
Eovaldi had a chance to limit the damage, but Marwin Gonzalez had a nice piece of hitting when he muscled an inside cutter into shallow right field to score Altuve.
Reddick flew out to left to end the inning.
Of note: Kinsler may have tweaked something when making a diving attempt at a foul ball by Gonzalez. Trainers visited him after the slip and throw to second, but he stayed in the game.
Eovaldi got his afternoon/evening started on the right foot, climbing out of a 2-0 hole with gas, gas and more gas. After painting the outside corner with consecutive 100 mph fastballs and then getting Springer to foul off another fastball away, Eovaldi threw a 96 mph cutter off the plate that had Springer flailing:
Middle 1st, 2-0 Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts was able to drive in the second run, with a ground-out to short. Correa charged and fielded the chopper and threw on to first, as Benintendi scored and Martinez advanced to third behind the play.
Pearce came up trying to score Martinez, but he hit a hard grounder directly at Gonzalez. With the infield in, Martinez didn’t break to the plate. Maybe it would have been a tough play, but Martinez really doesn’t have any speed, so staying put was probably the best way to keep the inning going.
So, up stepped Eduardo Nunez, with two outs and the runner still at third. Nunez made decent contact on a 1-2 pitch, but he lined out to second to end the inning.
Probably could have been more, but the Red Sox have to be happy with a pair of runs before even taking the field.
Top 1st, 0 outs, 1-0 Red Sox: The Red Sox have an early lead, and they look like they’re going to get more.
That lead is thanks to a leadoff single from Betts, an opposite field single by Benintendi, and an opposite field double by Martinez to drive in Betts.
Keuchel’s in a tough spot early.
Top 1st: Dallas Keuchel’s first pitch to Mookie Betts is a fastball high for ball one.
This one is underway in Houston.
4:30 p.m.: For the Astros, the big news on tonight’s lineup is that Jose Altuve will be serving as the DH. Altuve’s dealing with a bruised right knee, so it’s apparent that the second baseman could benefit from some time off his feet. Marwin Gonzalez will play second base, after playing left field to start the series.
1. George Springer, CF
2. Jose Altuve, DH
3. Alex Bregman, 3B
4. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
5. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
6. Josh Reddick, RF
7. Carlos Correa, SS
8. Brian McCann, C
9. Tony Kemp, LF
–LHP Dallas Keuchel
1:35 p.m.: With Dallas Keuchel on the hill for Houston, Alex Cora has loaded up his lineup with righties.
Eduardo Nunez is back in the lineup after Rafael Devers got the start at third base in Game 2. Ian Kinsler and Christian Vazquez both remain in the lineup for Boston:
1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Steve Pearce, 1B
6. Eduardo Nunez, 3B
7. Ian Kinsler, 2B
8. Christian Vazquez, C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr, CF
— Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
Kinsler is plenty familiar with Keuchel, going 11-for-36 with a homer and a double against the lefty throughout his career.
The Sox are hitting lefties very well this postseason, batting .314 collectively. Five of their 16 hits off lefties have gone for extra bases, including two homers.
8:45 a.m.: It’s another day for baseball, and this is going to be a big one.
Full disclosure: They’re all going to be big ones from here on out.
Today’s big one will be Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, with the series now in Houston and with the Red Sox and Astros tied at 1-1.
Fortunately for everybody, the wait for this one will be a little bit shorter, as first pitch will come shortly after 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. in Houston). It’ll feature Nathan Eovaldi starting for the Sox, opposed by lefty Dallas Keuchel.
Eovaldi, a Houston native, is coming off a strong performance against the Yankees in the ALDS. In a Game 3 with that series tied 1-1, he gave the Red Sox seven innings, allowing just one earned run on five hits and no walks while striking out five.
Keuchel allowed two runs in five innings against Cleveland in his lone start this postseason. He did not end his season on a strong note, as he posted a 4.65 ERA in the final month of the regular season. Included in that run was a start against Boston, when the Red Sox tagged Keuchel for five earned runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings.
Eovaldi, meanwhile, ended the year with a 1.35 ERA over four September starts. He didn’t face the Astros as a member of the Red Sox, but did surrender four runs over six innings in June while pitching for the Rays.
The needle may be pointing in Eovaldi’s favor, but past results won’t mean anything once this one begins.
And when it does, we’ll have live updates and analysis right here in the live blog, as the Red Sox and Astros fight for the right to take a 2-1 lead in this tightly contested ALCS.