HOUSTON – The Boston Red Sox, who won a franchise-record 108 games this season, should need no extra motivation. Their opponents just keep providing it. First, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge blasted “New York, New York” from a boombox following a Division-Series victory in Boston. On Monday, in the midst of their contested American League Championship Series, Houston Astros third baseman and trash talker extraordinaire Alex Bregman posted an Instagram story of the home run barrage the team dropped earlier this season on Boston’s Game 3 starter, Nathan Eovaldi.
The response from Boston first baseman Steve Pearce: “We do our talking on the field.” And just as they did in summarily dismissing the Yankees from the postseason, the Red Sox put their money where their mouth wasn’t Tuesday, stealing back home-field advantage from Houston with a resounding 8-2 victory at Minute Maid Park.
The win gave Boston a 2-1 series lead and ensured them of at least one more game at Fenway Park this season – either in the ALCS or, if they can take two more here, in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. It was Pearce who provided the first blow, lifting a towering solo home run down the left-field line in the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie, and Jackie Bradley Jr. who dealt the last, with an eighth-inning grand slam off Astros closer Roberto Osuna to blow wide open what had been a tight game before.
After allowing a pair of hits, Osuna grazed pinch hitter Brock Holt’s back foot with a two-strike slider to load the bases, hit pinch hitter Mitch Moreland with a two-strike fastball to plate a run and make it 4-2, and watched Bradley tomahawk a high-and-inside 94-mph fastball into the right-field stands for the Red Sox’s sixth-ever postseason grand slam. It gave Bradley seven RBIs in the past two games following his bases-clearing double off Gerrit Cole in Game 2.
It also served as a rude welcome for Osuna, whose midseason trade to Houston evoked significant controversy because he was still serving a 75-game suspension for a domestic-violence incident. Upon his return, Osuna had helped fortify a bullpen that looked to be yet another strength for the defending World Series champions.
Instead, after a Game 1 loss, the Red Sox have more than proven their mettle. They slapped three consecutive hits off Dallas Keuchel to start Game 3 and scored a pair in the first inning, staking Eovaldi a solid lead. He held it until the fifth inning, when Bregman’s RBI double down the left-field line – on a ball third baseman Rafael Devers could have fielded – scored Jose Altuve and tied the game. Nobody has been better this October than the Astros’ 24-year-old star, who has reached base on more than 70 percent of his postseason plate appearances this year. Bregman has been just as dazzling in the field, whether going to his left to rob Christian Vázquez of a single in the sixth or barehanding a chopper to cut down Mookie Betts in the seventh.
While his bat and glove are cashing the checks his mouth writes, the rest of the Astros couldn’t. And now the Red Sox, happy to plug along winning games without reminding everyone how good they’ve truly been, are two wins away from the World Series.
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