Conventional wisdom might have told Kyle Schwarber to take a pitch in the second inning Monday night when he found himself with a 3-0 count and the bases loaded.
But the veteran slugger decided to slam his foot on the gas, and the decision paid off and then some.
Schwarber clobbered a belt-high, 93 mph fastball from Astros starter José Urquidy, sending it an estimated 430 feet into the right field bleachers at Fenway Park. The grand slam gave the Red Sox a sizeable lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as Boston went on to secure a 12-3 win over Houston in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
The 2021 All-Star should be commended for his gutsy approach, as history suggested he was not going to fare well by taking his hacks on a 3-0 count.
“I think I’m a really bad 3-0 hitter. I really do,” Schwarber told reporters, as transcribed by ASAP Sports. “I don’t know if I even have a hit in my career in a 3-0 count. That might be my first one.
“The thing is, you know what, we have guys on the pond, let’s be aggressive here. We’re wanting to get after these guys. We want to be aggressive, but be aggressive to our pitch. I think that you look at the at-bats beforehand, the way that we’ve grinded that guy out. There was a couple of walks. Christian (Vázquez) hits a bullet. (José) Altuve is not able to handle it; run scores. Then get to a 3-0 count, and he is forced to come to you.
“I think that’s kind of the biggest thing is just still being aggressive to your pitch.”
No, the slam was not Schwarber’s first career hit on a 3-0 count, but he was right about general lack of success in that situation. The seventh-year pro entered Monday with a career .193 average (11-for-57) on 3-0 counts.
But being aggressive has served the Sox well in these playoffs, and there’s no reason to change things now. Expect Boston to come out swinging Tuesday when it will try to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.