By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The final score of Tuesday night’s ALCS Game 3 indicates that the Red Sox won handily. That would not be an accurate representation.
Much like in Game 1, when the Astros turned a 3-2 game into a 7-2 game in the late innings, the Red Sox strung together some good at-bats and got a little help from the Astros to turn a 3-2 game into a laugher in the eighth inning.
The Red Sox never trailed in this game, but the Astros made it tough on them throughout. And there was certainly a fair share of dicey moments for the visiting team.
With that in mind, and with a whole new ballgame set to begin less than 24 hours after the conclusion of this one, here’s a brief run-through of the “Ups” and the “Downs” from Tuesday’s Game 3.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Of course, the headline from the game was Jackie Bradley Jr.’s eighth-inning grand slam. It was the second straight game that featured a game-changing hit from an unlikely source. Though the Red Sox were leading 4-2 at the time, that hit was the one that officially ended Houston’s chances on this night.
The Red Sox’ best postseason pitcher thus far has been … Nathan Eovaldi, of course. There was a debate late in the season about whether he’d be in the bullpen or the rotation for the postseason. It looks like Alex Cora has made the right decision.
Eovaldi allowed two runs in his six innings. Both were earned, though the first wouldn’t have scored if Eduardo Nunez hadn’t bobbled a would-be double play ball, and the second scored on what should have probably been ruled an error on Rafael Devers.
Nevertheless, Eovaldi is now 2-0 in the playoffs, having allowed three runs in his 13 innings of work. He struggled at times with command, but his overpowering fastball and his highly effective cutter helped to offset any issues.
Alex Bregman, despite his “RBI double” (more on that soon), likely won’t be posting any clips from this Eovaldi outing on Instagram.
The manager had a golden touch in the ALDS, and he made a sequence of decisions in the seventh and eighth inning on Tuesday to bring it back.
First, he decided to let Ryan Brasier go after Alex Bregman with the tying run on second base in the seventh, even though first base was open and Brasier was behind in the count 2-0. Instead of an intentional walk, or even an unintentional intentional walk, Brasier went right after Bregman and induced soft contact to center field for the final out of the inning.
In the eighth, he inserted Brock Holt as a pinch hitter for Ian Kinsler. Holt was hit by an 0-2 pitch by Roberto Osuna to load the bases with two outs.
Then Cora inserted Mitch Moreland as a pinch hitter for Christian Vazquez. Moreland also got hit by a pitch, scoring a run and increasing the Boston lead to 4-2.
Having made his moves, Cora let Bradley face Osuna, and the center fielder of course belted a grand slam on a 1-1 fastball to put the game out of reach.
Some terrible command by Osuna certainly helped, but there’s no arguing with the end result of Cora’s moves in the late innings.
As an added bonus, Cora smartly managed his bullpen after the grand slam, allowing Matt Barnes to throw just 16 pitches, Joe Kelly to throw four pitches, and Eduardo Rodriguez to throw 16 pitches. All three should be available for Game 4.
The first baseman was an early candidate to make the Downs from this game, after he failed to score a runner from third when he came to bat with one out in the first. But that groundout was washed away when he broke a 2-2 tie with an absolute moonshot of a home run in the top of the sixth inning.
It came immediately after the Astros had tied the game in the fifth, and it helped to mitigate some of the offense that was lost on a potentially botched replay review.
The aforementioned at-bat against Bregman was certainly a high-leverage moment, and it capped off an impressive inning from the reliever.
Brasier entered a 3-2 game and got Tony Kemp to fly out before striking out George Springer on three pitches. Altuve reached on a well-placed bunt single on an 0-1 count, leading to the Bregman showdown.
He didn’t make any plays or get any hits on Tuesday, but Boston’s president of baseball operations looked like a very smart man during Game 3.
On June 28, Dombrowski traded Santiago Espinal in exchange for Steve Pearce.
On July 25, Dombrowski traded Jalen Beeks to Tampa Bay in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi.
In Game 3 of the ALCS, Pearce hit a home run that scored what proved to be the game-winning run, while Eovaldi earned the victory with six innings of work.
Beeks posted a 4.47 ERA with Tampa, while Espinal had a decent year for Double-A New Hampshire. Neither of those players would have helped the Red Sox beat the Astros in the ALCS, and those somewhat minor moves have already paid some major dividends.
He lands on this list because, unfortunately for him, it appears as though he suffered a lower-body injury. You’ll recall that he went down in a heap after making the series-ending play in the Bronx a week ago, and he slipped again while making a play in Game 3 vs. Houston.
That slip was costly, too, as it led to a bobble that prevented Nunez from turning what should have been an inning-ending double play in the first. Instead, the Red Sox barely got one out on the play, and the Astros would score a run that inning. But he also made a pair of excellent defensive plays later in the game, and he legged out an infield single.
That single, though, would be the end of his night, and his status might be in question going forward. Cora said the issue is with Nunez’s ankle.
Some fans were relieved to see Nunez exit the game, given his defensive struggles this inning. But Rafael Devers quickly made them miss Nunez.
In the bottom of the fifth, with a runner on first and two outs, and with the Astros trailing 2-1, Alex Bregman sent a chopper down the third-base line. Devers charged and tried to make a backhand stab, but he missed the ball, which then rolled all the way down into the left field corner. Altuve came around to score and tie the game.
The official scorer in Houston ruled it an RBI double for Bregman, and while it was technically a difficult play to make, it was one that an MLB third baseman makes with regularity.
Devers did do a good job at the plate, going 1-for-1 and working a walk. But the shaky defense that led to him to lead all third basemen with 24 errors during the regular season did rear its head in an ugly way in Game 3.
The catcher generally did a good job behind the plate, but a mental mistake in the seventh inning could have been significant.
That mistake came on an outside fastball thrown by Brasier to Bregman. The pitch wasn’t that far outside, but Vazquez nevertheless just missed it, allowing it to fly to the backstop and allowing Altuve to trot to second base.
Brasier was able to get out of the jam, but gifting scoring position to an opponent late in a playoff game doesn’t always have a happy ending.
After recording a hit in all four games against New York, the veteran second baseman is having a rough go of it vs. Houston.
Kinsler went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in Game 3 before getting lifted for Brock Holt. Kinsler is now 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in this series.