Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez left the mound with a six-point lead and a message for Carlos Correa and the rest of the Houston Astros:
Now it’s Boston time.
Slap his wrist to mimic Correa’s Game 1 celebration, Rodriguez rode four more Boston homers – including Kyle Schwarber’s record-breaking grand slam – to a 12-3 win on Monday night as the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the Best of Seven Series AL Championship.
One game after JD Martinez and Rafael Devers each reached the Grand Slam, Schwarber hit a 3-0 second inning pitch 430 feet into the right-field grandstand. Boston is the first team of all time with three slams in a playoff series.
Martinez and Devers each hit a home run again, Christian Arroyo also scored a hit and Kiké Hernández had two more hits for Boston, who could advance to the World Series with wins at Fenway Park in Games 4 and 5. Tuesday evening and Wednesday. The Astros must win at least one to return the series to Houston.
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Rodriguez allowed five hits, including Kyle Tucker’s three-run homer, and struck out seven. He pulled Correa out to finish the sixth and reminded the Astros shortstop that a win wasn’t enough – a move that earned him a reprimand from Boston manager Alex Cora, celebrating his 46th birthday.
The Red Sox totaled 11 hits, becoming the first team in major league history to hit double digits six times in a single playoff series. Hernández has 18 hits during the playoffs and hits .500, both leading the majors.
Capitalizing on two Astros mistakes and the struggles of Houston starter José Urquidy, the Red Sox opened a 9-0 lead for the second game in a row.
Rodriguez, who missed all of last season with COVID-related heart issues, pulled out the first six hitters before struggling in the third, when Tucker went 9-3.
Rodriguez’s efforts helped Cora keep Nick Pivetta cool for a start in Game 4. Urquidy allowed six runs, five earned, five hits and two walks, pulling out one strikeout in 1 2/3 of an inning.
Right fielder Hunter Renfroe finished the game with a diving catch on Correa’s liner.
Much to the delight of Fenway fans, who targeted him with secular chants for his role in the 2017 Astros cheating scandal, Jose Altuve battled at plate and on the field.
A Gold Glove and AL MVP winner, the three-time batting champion went 0 for 4 and let Arroyo’s helicopter bounce off his chest for an error with the bases loaded in the second inning. A batter later, Schwarber hit Boston’s third grand slam in 11 innings.
The Red Sox, who only played three Grand Slams in the regular season, tied the 1998 Atlanta Braves as the only clubs to hit three in a single playoff. Boston has 20 playoff homers, tying the 2004 Astros for most in the first eight playoff games, according to MLB.com.
Altuve also waved a Martín Maldonado throw on Hunter Renfroe’s volley base in the third; the error went to the receiver. The pitch in the third was also wild, but the Astros were saved from another mistake when the ball missed cover and bounced off the padding towards the field.
Astros: Manager Dusty Baker has said outfielder Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in Game 4 of the Division Series, is doing better and could start as early as Tuesday.
The teams play Game 4 on Tuesday night. The Red Sox should count on Pivetta, who was 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA in the regular season. Houston will call on RHP Zack Greinke, with RHP Cristian Javier ready to follow the veteran. Greinke has been limited for the past two months due to a neck problem and a positive COVID-19 test.