Red Sox pull away with Jackie Bradley Jr.’s late grand slam, take 2-1 ALCS lead over Astros

HOUSTON — In a tense Game 3 in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Minute Maid Park, the Boston Red Sox pulled away late with a Jackie Bradley Jr. grand slam in the eighth inning en route to a 8-2 victory over the Houston Astros. Boston regains home-field advantage and leads the American League Championship Series 2-1.

Boston struck first, opening the game with three straight hits that found holes in Houston’s infield and plating two runs in the top of the first against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.

The Astros chipped away at the Red Sox’s early lead with a rally of their own in the bottom of the first, scoring a run on a Marwin Gonzalez liner to right field.

The Red Sox threatened to blow the game open in the third. After Keuchel walked two batters in the inning, Boston first baseman Steve Pearce stroked a long fly ball to left that appeared ticketed for extra bases. But Astros left fielder Tony Kemp made a spectacular leaping catch at the wall to end the inning. Video of the play made it look like the ball might have nipped the wall before falling into Kemp’s glove, but the call on the field was upheld after a replay review.

After allowing one run in the first, Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi held the Astros offense in check until the fifth inning, when an Alex Bregman double under the glove of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers tied the game at two runs apiece.

But Pearce would not be denied: Facing sidearming righty Joe Smith in the sixth, the righty swinging Pearce launched a long home run off the foul pole in left to give Boston another lead.

The Red Sox added five runs in the eighth thanks to Bradley Jr.'s grand slam off Astros closer Roberto Osuna. 

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Turning point

Bregman has seemed impossible to retire this month and owns a postseason on-base percentage over .700. But Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier got Bregman in a big spot in the seventh. With Jose Altuve representing the game’s tying run on second base, Bregman worked a 3-1 count and got a fastball over the heart of the plate. But Jackie Bradley Jr. made easy work of Bregman’s soft line drive to center, ending the inning and the Astros’ best shot at a comeback.

Man of the moment

Normally reserved for facing left-handers, Pearce has seen more playing time than usual this postseason due to platoon-mate Mitch Moreland’s lingering hamstring injury. Pearce hit righties fairly well during the regular season, but the Astros carried Smith on their roster for this series precisely for matchups like the one against Pearce in the sixth. Pearce’s 456-foot blast made the difference for the Red Sox on Tuesday.

State of the Red Sox

The Sox' win Tuesday ensures that they'll return to Fenway at some point this season — either for the end of this series or the beginning of the next one. Alex Cora initially pegged Rick Porcello to start Game 3, but pushed him back to Game 4 after he worked an inning in relief in their win on Sunday. Porcello, the 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner, looked electric out of the bullpen in Game 2, but was not overpowering in the regular season. He finished September with a 17-7 record and a 4.28 ERA. The right-hander has allowed one run in 6 ⅔ innings across three appearances — one start and two relief outings — in the 2018 postseason.

State of the Astros

Houston will turn to Charlie Morton for Game 4. Using a mix of fastballs and a sharp curve, Morton has remade himself since joining Houston prior to the 2017 season. The 34-year-old went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA during the regular season. Wednesday’s outing will mark his first appearance this postseason.

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