October 16, 2018

ALCS 3: Red Sox 8, Astros 2

Red Sox - 200 001 050 - 8  9  0
Astros  - 100 010 000 - 2  7  0
Jackie Bradley's eighth-inning grand slam off Robert Osuna doubled the Red Sox's run total from four to eight, releasing any pressure the bullpen might have felt about securing this pivotal third game. The Astros' last two half-innings were uneventful and Eduardo Rodriguez put the exclamation point on the win by whiffing George Springer on a 2-2 cutter to end the game.

Bradley has driven in seven runs in the last two games, both hits coming with the bases loaded. His three-run double in the third inning of Game 2 on Sunday put the Red Sox up 5-4, a lead they did not relinquish. His grand slam tonight increased Boston's lead from two runs to six runs - and avoided the possible perils of having Craig Kimbrel in the game.

The Red Sox lead the series 2-1, with Rick Porcello on the mound tomorrow night. The Astros will counter with Charlie Morton, who has not pitched since September 30, in the final game of the regular season. Morton has thrown only four innings since September 15.

Boston again grabbed a lead in the first inning, this time off Dallas Keuchel (5-4-2-2-0, 84). Mookie Betts lined a single into center field and went to second when Andrew Benintendi lined an opposite-field single to left. J.D. Martinez (0-for-7 in the two games at Fenway Park) smoked a double down the right-field line, scoring Betts. Benintendi scored on Xander Bogaerts's grounder to short.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-6-2-2-4, 84) was hitting 101 with his fastball right away and George Springer fanned on a cutter away to start the bottom half. Two singles from Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman and a fielder's choice by Yuli Gurriel put Astros on first and third with two outs. Marwin Gonzalez dropped a single into right field to cut the lead to 2-1. Josh Reddick flied to left and the first inning was over - after 34 minutes.

Keuchel walked Martinez and Boagerts with two outs in the third. Pearce sent a drive to deep left that Tony Kemp tracked to the wall and caught with an extraordinary leap. Kemp's momentum carried him into the wall and a loud, metallic clank sound led Alex Cora to challenge the call. It was a clean catch, however, and the call was upheld.

Eovaldi got into and out of a jam in the third. Springer singled and was forced at second by Altuve (Eduardo Núñez made a fantastic backhand grab). Bregman worked a five-pitch walk. Gurriel grounded to third and Núñez made a long, one-hop throw to first. With runners at second and third, Gonzalez flied to the track in left.

Núñez singled to start the fourth and was lifted for Rafael Devers, giving Boston a platoon advantage since all but one of the Astros' relievers are right-handed. After that hit, Keuchel retired the next six Boston batters, with the last four being routine groundballs. In the bottom of the fifth, Houston tied the score with two outs. Altuve walked and scored on Bregman's double down the third base line and into the left-field corner.

Late in the game, TBS's Ron Darling made a keen observation. In the sixth, Astros manager A.J. Hinch went to his bullpen, despite Keuchel having allowed only one hit (and two walks) over the last 18 batters. He had thrown only 74 pitches. Joe Smith retired Bogaerts before Steve Pearce snapped the 2-2 tie with a 456-foot home run down the left field line. By contrast, Cora let Eovaldi - at 81 pitches - pitch the bottom of the sixth. He had no problems, allowing only a deflected infield hit with two outs. That left Cora needing to use his bullpen for only three innings rather than four.

Ryan Brasier had an uneventful seventh, although Altuve did bunt for a hit with two outs. A passed ball sent Altuve to second, but Bregman flied to center on a 3-1 count.

Robert Osuna made his first appearance in the series in the top of the eighth. His inning began well, as Martinez swung at the first pitch and flied to right. After that, though, it all went downhill. It was only after watching the half-inning a second time that I noticed Osuna was ahead of almost every hitter he faced. He threw 14 pitches after there were two outs, any one of which could potentially have ended the inning.

Osuna got ahead 0-2 on Bogaerts. The count eventually went full and Bogaerts reached on an infield hit that rolled slowly along the third base line. The announcers called it "a swinging bunt". Those types of hits are usually referred to in that way, but why? Bogaerts had no intention of bunting and he took a full swing at the ball. He simply did not make much contact, so the ball dribbled along the grass close to the plate.

Osuna fell behind Pearce 3-1. He chopped the ball down the third base line. Bregman moved to his right and made a strong, fadeaway throw from foul territory to second for the force.

Osuna now had a man on first and two outs.

Osuna got ahead 0-2 on Devers, on three foul balls. Devers grounded a single through the shift into right field. Pearce stopped at second.

Osuna got ahead 0-2 on Brock Holt, who was batting for Ian Kinsler (0-for-3). Osuna's third pitch to Holt was inside and low; plate umpire Joe West called it a ball. Holt stepped out and told West the ball had hit his left foot. West asked the Boston bench if they wanted to challenge the call. Cora said yes. The replays were clear and the ruling was changed to HBP. The bases were loaded.

(On TBS, Ron Darling first said that if anyone knew that Holt had been hit by the pitch, it was Holt. Fair enough. But then Darling uttered one of most bizarre sentences I have ever heard from an announcer.
It's one of those things where you have to trust the player. There has never been a player in the history of the game that comes out of the box and says he was hit by a ball unless he was. Because he felt the pain of it.
My mind went immediately to Saint Derek, who should have won an Emmy for his performance on September 15, 2010. (Was the MFY trainer also up for Best Supporting Actor?) What was Darling thinking? We have all seen outfielders pretend to have caught sinking line drives that were really trapped, infielders pretend to have tagged a runner they were nowhere near, and batters act like they really did foul off that two-strike pitch. Pitchers get away with balks on throws to first, batters have no issue with trying to get hit with a pitch (against the rules, though very rarely enforced) and fielders will never tell an umpire that a blown call benefiting their team was wrong and should be changed. ... Hearing that was like a quick drop into bizarro world ...

Osuna got ahead 0-1 and 1-2 on Mitch Moreland, who was batting for Christian Vázquez. Osuna's 1-2 pitch hit Moreland's right arm and forced in a run. Pearce scored to make it 4-2, Red Sox.

Osuna got ahead 0-1 on Bradley. As Osuna evened the count at 1-1, I posted to the JoS Gamethread, 8:25:27 PM: "JBJ needs to crush one."

JBJ crushed Osuna's 27th (and last) pitch of the game to deep right for a grand slam.

At 8:26:06 PM, I reacted:


(David Ortiz liked watching it.)

The Red Sox have hit a postseason grand slam in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018.

They did not hit a postseason grand slam in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2016, or 2017.

Just sayin'. ...

Matt Barnes took over in the bottom of the eighth and walked Gurriel. He got a force out and a strikeout before handing the ball to Joe Kelly, who threw a wild pitch before getting Carlos Correa to ground to short. Eduardo Rodriguez pitched the ninth. He faced two pinch-hitters, striking out Tyler White on high heat and inducing Evan Gattis to ground to Bogaerts. he got ahead of Springer 0-2. He threw two balls and Springer fouled off the next three pitches. Rodriguez's eighth pitch of the at-bat was a cutter on the outside black and Springer swung and missed.

TBS Report: I remain convinced that Brian Anderson and Ron Darling are both wearing Astros pajamas during this series and using an Alex Bregman night-lite. (At one point, Anderson said the mere sight of Bregman in the on-deck circle sends "fear" through the Red Sox dugout.)

When the Astros had singled twice off Eovaldi in the bottom of the first, Anderson cheered that the Astros "have come right back". (The score was, of course, still 2-0 at that point. So when Houston scored one run, were they really up 3-2?)

Martinez walked in the third and Anderson said: "Great at-bat from Martinez." Darling also mentions Martinez's strong "at-bat". But walks do not count as at-bats. The next batter, Bogaerts, also walked. Anderson said Keuchel had two-strike counts on both hitters. Bogaerts had actually walked on a 3-1 pitch, which had happened less than one minute earlier.

At the end of the third inning, Darling says Eovaldi was averaging eight pitches for every out he had recorded. Eight pitches times nine outs is 72 pitches. Eovaldi's pitch count at that point was 55.

One inning later, Anderson says Keuchel was cruising, having thrown only 70 pitches through four innings. Not much later, Darling said that Eovaldi's pitch count was too high, at 65 pitches through four innings.

In referring to Josh Reddick's catch on Ian Kinsler's fly ball in the fourth, Darling says Reddick made the play "against the wall". While he said those words, the replay showed Reddick catching the ball while crossing from the grass to the warning track.

When Anderson said that Osuna had allowed "five ernies" in his eighth-inning stint, I began rethinking my opposition to the death penalty.
Nathan Eovaldi / Dallas Keuchel
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Pearce, 1B
Núñez, 3B
Kinsler, 2B
Vázquez, C
Bradley, CF
Early start time: Enjoy dinner while watching the Red Sox hand Keuchel his lunch. ... Mookie's home run will be a nice dessert.

Steve Pearce, on Alex Bregman's Instagram post of three Astros hitting home runs earlier this year off Nathan Eovaldi:
I don't know why he would do that. We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now we'll see who is talking at the end of the series. I don't think he needs to run his mouth. ... Nothing against the guy. If that's how he has to motivate himself, whatever.
Blake Swihart grew up with Bregman in New Mexico:
[I]n his mind, he’s probably thinking he's trying to pump up his team, get everyone excited. It might have come off the wrong way. I know he deleted it ... In this type of game, you should already be pretty pumped up.
Brock Holt was asked yesterday if he thought the Astros - as the defending World Champs - were the toughest team in baseball.
Besides the Boston Red Sox, yes, but we can't play them. ...[T]he Houston Astros, I feel these two teams are the best in baseball. ... We did what we did in the regular season. But they're the champs. So they're the ones everyone's chasing.... [T]hey're solid, 1 through 25, as far as their roster goes. Their starting pitching is unbelievable. Offensively, they scored the most runs in baseball. ... [W]hen we beat the Yankees, we knew that we had a tough task ahead of us.
Note: The Astros were actually 6th in runs scored among all major league teams. The Red Sox were #1 - they scored 79 more runs than the Astros.

2018 Runs Scored (MLB)
Red Sox      876
Yankees      851
Clevleand    818
Athletics    813
Dodgers      804
Astros       797
Rockies      780
Nationals    771
Cubs         761


Zenslinger said...

Get it together, Brock!

Paul Hickman said...

Jackie just ensured that we may only need a "lite beer" during Kimbrel Time tonight ?

allan said...

Bregman and friends need to do some more video work.

hrstrat57 said...

Does anyone know the reason why Darling clearly hates the Sawx?

Very curious, thoughts?

Jere said...

"Does anyone know the reason why Darling clearly hates the Sawx?"

He's from Milbury, and I definitely heard all about that back around '86 when he was on the Mets, how he was pitching against the Red Sox, his childhood team, in the World Series. His family, like the rest of us, was rooting AGAINST him in the World Series. True die-hards! (Actually I just found an article that says his mom rooted for him, but his dad and bro were like "fuck that," and the whole family to this day are Sox fans.)

So maybe he's trying to compensate! Because he's clearly been rooting against us all postseason!

Jere said...

I also noted the Keuchel "cruising" line, which was said after he started fucking up, and came after a 2-run first inning. I think it was one of those cruises where everybody's shitting the whole time at sea.

They also kept harping on his streak of retired batters. The first batter of that streak knocked in a run! I feel like they should point that out. I mean if a pitcher enters a game in the bottom of the 9th with a 1-run lead, and gives up [single, single, sac bunt, sac fly, walk-off sac fly], nobody's gonna care about him retiring three in a row.