For the Boston Red Sox in their Game 2 win over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, all the heavy lifting came early.
Thanks to two early grand slams in back-to-back innings, and another solid start from Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox put Game 2 away early to tie the series 1-1.
“There was no way today — the way they came to the ballpark, the way they talked in the meeting, the way they went over the business,” manager Alex Cora said in his postgame, explaining why there was no way Boston would drop the game. “We were locked in today.”
J.D. Martinez started things off, clearing the bases in the first for the initial 4-0 lead. Rafael Devers did the same in the second, giving their team an eight-run cushion. It was the first time a team hit two grand slams in a single game in MLB postseason history, and with a solo shot in the fourth, Kiké Hernández extended it to 9-0.
“That’s a tremendous mountain to climb,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said postgame. “We had opportunities to get back in that ballgame with the hitters and our guys didn’t quit. And so now we’re 1-1.”
Houston managed to close the gap to four by the end of the game, but to its detriment. It gave them hope and justified using more arms out of their bullpen in addition to the seven relievers used Friday.
For Boston, it was quite the contrast from Game 1, where forced swings led to 10 strikeouts and not much was converted from 10 hits and four walks.
“We struck out what, (12) times anyway today, right? So we still can be better, but overall I think it is more about what we can do and just try to keep that line moving,” Cora said. “I think it’s when we have this humble approach, and although we’re not trying to do too much, big things happen. J.D., that was great to see that, you know? Going the other way.
“Raffy, not trying to do too much and hitting the grand slam and so on and so on. So it’s a very good approach right now, we’re not getting greedy, like I said a few days ago, it’s not about hitting 30 home runs or driving in 100 runs. It’s about winning four games against the Astros, so now we got one.”
With the series tied up going back to Boston, the Red Sox will try to do much of the same.
Here are other notes from Game 2 of the ALCS:
— Obligatory Hernández bullet point. He was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI that came with a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning. Per MLB Stats, it took just seven postseason games with the Red Sox for him to tie the club’ record for most home runs in a single postseason. David Ortiz last accomplished it in 2013.
— After 16 pitchers were used Friday (eight from each side), Nathan Eovaldi brought stability back to the Red Sox in Game 2.
It wasn’t a brilliant effort per se, going 5 1/3 innings with five hits and three earned runs allowed with three strikeouts. But he had the run support to try going deep into the game while preserving the bullpen.
“There’s a reason we map things the way we do, and some people don’t agree with us,” Cora said, referring to his decision to have Eovaldi start Game 2. “But I think we have a pretty good pulse of what we do in our program and yesterday we almost pulled that off,. Obviously, we want Chris (Sale) to go deeper and I think he will. But having Nate in Game 2 understanding them and knowing that there’s a good chance he’s going to go deep in the game with the off day tomorrow, we felt comfortable with with the way we did things. He’s been a horse for us. He’s been amazing.”
— Late in his outing, Eovaldi had a trainer tend to him on the mound, seemingly having tweaked something during his throwing motion. He downplayed the ailment.
“I felt like I over-strided it and I just felt like a little grab in my back,” Eoaldi said. “That was really it. I mean, it feels fine now.”
— Astros Starter Luis Garcia didn’t last as long as Houston hoped, and Houston was forced to go with Jake Odorizzi in relief, breaking from the plan to save him for Game 4.
“We got to try to figure it out, you know?” Baker said. “We’ve been trying to avoid using Odorizzi the first couple of games — that’s why we used everybody yesterday, we planned on him being a Game 4 starter. But, you know, every time you make a plan, it’s always spoiled by something.”
— Cora did not name a Game 3 starter with a day off Sunday to continue mulling the decision over.