Vazquez Crushes Rays With Walk-Off Blast

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Man, what a game. What a tension-filled, back and forth, high intensity good old fashioned baseball game.

The Rays jumped out to an early lead in Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday, with Austin Meadows crushing a two-run shot off of Nathan Eovaldi in the opening inning. Perhaps Meadows was anxious to contribute after being held out of the starting lineup in each of the first two games as the Red Sox had left-handers on the hill.

The Red Sox struck back in the home half of the first, with Kyle Schwarber blasting a leadoff homer off of Drew Rasmussen. The score would remain 2-1 heading into the third inning, where the Christian Arroyo, Schwarber and Enrique Hernandez started the frame with three straight singles to push the tying run across and chase Rasmussen from the game. Rafael Devers added a run-scoring knock of his own, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 edge.

It would stay that way until the fifth inning, where Hernandez ambushed Peter Fairbanks by blasting a 424-foot homer to increase the Red Sox edge to 4-2. Nathan Eovaldi settled in nicely after giving up the early homer to Meadows, as that’s all the damage he would allow while striking out eight over five strong innings.

The Red Sox then used Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier and Austin Davis to get through the sixth and seventh innings unscathed, getting the ball to Hansel Robles in the eighth. It was there that 20-year-old rookie sensation Wander Franco crushed a leadoff home run to cut the Rays deficit in half. Meadows followed with a double and was pinch-run for by Manuel Margot. Margot advanced to third on a ground ball and ultimately came in to score the tying run on a two-out RBI double by Randy Arozarena. Garrett Whitlock eventually came on to get the final out of the inning.

Heading to the home half of the eighth, the Rays had already burned six pitches in Rasmussen, Josh Fleming, Andrew Kittredge, Fairbanks, J.P. Feyereisen and Matt Wisler. Wisler would stay on to get the first out in the eighth, then J.T. Chargois got through the rest of the inning. Whitlock and Chargois each returned to work a scoreless ninth inning.

In the 10th, the Red Sox turned to Nick Pivetta -- who was scheduled to start for the Red Sox in Game 4 on Monday. He allowed a leadoff single to Manuel Margot, but nothing came of it. David Robertson came on for the Rays in the bottom of the 10th and pitched around a one-out single by Christian Arroyo. Onto the 11th.

In the top half, Pivetta issued a leadoff walk to Randy Arozarena, who wound up stealing second base as Kevin Kiermaier struck out for the first out. Not to worry, Pivetta battled back to fan Mike Zunino and Jordan Luplow to get out of the inning. Robertson returned for the 11th for the Rays and allowed a one-out double to Hunter Renfroe, but the Red Sox couldn’t get him home.

Pivetta came back for the 12th and retired the Rays in order -- including a pair of strikeouts. Luis Patino -- who was expected to either start or work the bulk innings for the Rays in Game 4 on Monday -- was summoned to work the bottom half of the 12th and needed just six pitches to retire the heart of the Red Sox lineup in order.

It was in the 13th that things really got interesting. After striking out Nelson Cruz to begin the frame, Pivetta allowed a one-out single to right by Yandy Diaz. Kevin Kiermaier then smoked a ball into the gap in right center that bounced off the wall, then off of Hunter Renfroe and bounced over the wall and into the bullpen. The umpire crew got together and ruled it a ground rule double. It then went to a booth review -- and the call remained the same. While any sane person observing the play could clearly tell that Diaz would have easily scored on that play, according to the official rule the umpire doesn’t actually have any discretion to award the runner an extra base -- which actually rewards the outfielder for the misplay by knocking the ball over the wall. It’s a bad rule, but the umpires enforcing it did their job correctly, much to the chagrin of Rays fans. Pivetta rebounded from that to strike out Zunino, stranding two runners in scoring position.

Patino returned to the hill for the home half of the 13th inning, but it didn’t go as smoothly as the 12th. He issued a one-out walk to Hunter Renfroe, then on the very next pitch served up a 394-foot walk-off two-run homer over the Green Monster to Christian Vazquez.

The Red Sox now take a commanding 2-1 lead in the five game series and have a chance to close things out at home on Monday.

Slugfest on the South Side

In the other ALDS series, the White Sox entered Sunday night staring at a 2-0 deficit in the series and playing for their lives. They would soon be staring at a major deficit in Game 3 as well.

The White Sox struck first in this one, as Eloy Jimenez drove home Tim Anderson with an RBI single off of Luis Garcia in the first inning. The Astros struck right back in the second though, as Kyle Tucker laced a two-run double off of Dylan Cease then came around to score on an RBI knock by Jake Meyers.

It would get worse in the third inning, as Tucker bombed the first pitch that he saw from Michael Kopech for a 363-foot two-run blast to make it a 5-1 ballgame. These White Sox are a resilient bunch though. They stormed back in the bottom of the third inning as Yasmani Grandal smacked a two-run homer to make it a 5-3 game, then Leury Garcia crushed a three-run homer to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead.

It would be short-lived. The Astros came right back in the fourth inning as Alex Bregman drove home Jose Altuve with an RBI single. Then, just like in the other ALDS game, things got a little wild.

The White Sox started the home half of the fourth inning with three straight singles from Tim Anderson, Luis Robert and Jose Abreu -- the third one driving in the go-ahead run. Then, Yasmani Grandal hit a chopper to first base that Yuli Gurriel fielded and attempted to get the out at home. Grandal, while running to first base, ventured way inside of the base line and was hit by Gurriel’s throw. Ultimately, it was not ruled as interference and scored as an error by Gurriel, allowing Robert to score. The White Sox tacked on another run on an RBI single by Eloy Jimenez, leaving the inning with a 9-6 edge.

After that, things calmed down and both bullpens pitched well -- for the most part. Zack Greinke came on to get three outs in the fourth inning, then Cristian Javier struck out six over 2 2/3 innings with Ryne Stanek getting the final out of the seventh and the first two outs in the eighth for the Astros.

Ryan Tepera fired two scoreless frames, Aaron Bummer got five outs and Craig Kimbrel got the final out in the eighth -- all without allowing a baserunner while totaling seven strikeouts.

The White Sox tacked on in the eighth inning on RBI doubles by Andrew Vaughn and Leury Garcia, then an RBI single off the bat of Tim Anderson -- making it a 12-6 ballgame. Liam Hendriks then came on and retired the side in order in the ninth inning to close it out.

The White Sox are still staring at a 2-1 deficit in the series, but they were able to stave off elimination for at least one more day. Carlos Rodon takes the ball on Monday to see if they can do it all over again.

Monday’s Slate

NLDS Game 3 - Braves vs. Brewers - 1:07 PM

(Series tied 1-1)

This NLDS matchup shifts to Atlanta where we have another tremendous pitching matchup on tap. Freddy Peralta will take the ball for the visiting Brewers, coming off of a regular season where he posted a stellar 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 195/56 K/BB ratio across 144 1/3 innings. On the other side, we have 23-year-old right-hander Ian Anderson who was unbelievable for the Braves last postseason -- going 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 24/10 K/BB ratio over 18 2/3 innings in his four starts.

ALDS Game 4 - White Sox vs. Astros - 3:37 PM

(Astros lead 2-1)

The White Sox were able to stave off elimination at home on Sunday night. They’ll need to do so again on Monday in order to force a decisive fifth game in the series. They’ll send Carlos Rodon to the hill, coming off of a breakout season in which he posted a magnificent 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 185/36 K/BB ratio over 132 2/3 innings. The Astros will counter with Jose Urquidy who will be making his ninth career postseason appearance (fifth start). He has been great in his career in October, posting a 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 24/8 K/BB ratio over 25 2/3 innings in the postseason.

ALDS Game 4 - Red Sox vs. Rays - 7:07 PM

(Red Sox lead 2-1)

After dropping the opening game in Tampa Bay, the Red Sox have stormed back to win each of the next two and will now have a chance to put things away at home on Monday. Nick Pivetta and Luis Patino were scheduled to take the mound for their respective clubs, but each right-hander was utilized in extra innings on Sunday night, so that’s no longer the case. Red Sox skipper Alex Cora announced that he would likely start left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. A bullpen game looks like the most likely scenario for the Rays.

NLDS Game 3 - Dodgers vs. Giants - 9:37 PM

(Series tied 1-1)

The final game of Monday’s fantastic quadruple-header pits the two best records in baseball against each other in a critical game three as this series shifts to Los Angeles. Dodgers ace Max Scherzer will take the ball for the home team, coming off of a disappointing outing where he allowed one run and lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals in the Wild Card Game. The visiting Giants will counter with Alex Wood, who struggled in three starts against the Dodgers during the regular season, registering a 4.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 17 frames.

MLB Quick Hits: Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts announced that Albert Pujols will start at first base in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Giants on Monday with opposing left-hander Alex Wood on the mound. … A check-up on the injured left thumb of Brandon Belt revealed that he’s still dealing with a fracture. The Giants are still hopeful that he’ll be able to return at some point if they have a deep run, but the NLCS is looking a little doubtful. … Hansel Robles was pulled from Sunday’s outing due to illness -- not injury or ineffectiveness. His availability for Monday’s Game 4 remains in doubt.