Toronto Star

Red Sox slam their way past Astros

Pair of grand slams sends series back to Boston tied at one apiece


HOUSTON—J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers helped the Red Sox have a grand old time in Houston.

Boston became the first team to slug two grand slams in a post-season game, with Martinez and Devers connecting in the first two innings of a 9-5 win over the Astros on Saturday that tied their AL Championsh­ip Series at one game apiece.

Game 3 is Monday night in Boston. It’s the first of three consecutiv­e home games for the Red Sox, back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2018 World Series after downing Houston in the ALCS.

Martinez made it 4-0 with his opposite-field shot off rookie Luis García with two out in the first. It was the first career playoff slam for the four-time allstar, who began his career with the Astros.

“That situation, the pressure is on him, it’s not on me to come through there,” Martinez said. “It’s the first inning. He has bases loaded. I’m trying to tell myself that, trying to stay relaxed and just looking for a pitch so I can just put a barrel on it.”

García exited with right knee discomfort after walking the first batter of the second inning. Jake Odorizzi took over, and shortly after a 13-minute delay while the right-hander warmed up on the field, Devers connected with one out for slam No. 2.

“J.D.’s swing was huge to get us on the board early, and then Raffy, same thing, another granny,” red-hot teammate Kiké Hernández said. “Has that ever happened before?”

It has now. Hernández, who Boston manager Alex Cora referred to Friday night as “en fuego” after a two-homer performanc­e in Game 1, remained on fire Saturday. He had two hits, highlighte­d by a solo homer in the fourth inning.

Hernández has been this postseason’s hottest hitter, leading all players with 16 hits, five homers and four doubles. His nine extra-base hits are also the most in these playoffs and tied a Red Sox post-season record with Mike Lowell (2007), Kevin Youkilis (2007) and David Ortiz (2004 and 2007).

“The importance of the game is allowing me to stay focused and stay locked in,” Hernández said.

Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi permitted five hits and three runs in 5 1 ⁄ 3 innings.

The Astros captured a 5-4 win in the series opener as they rallied behind homers from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa before falling into the huge hole early in this one.

“That’s a tough team,” Cora said. “It’s never comfortabl­e with them because they’re a swing away from getting back in the game.”

The Red Sox were up 9-0 when Houston got on the board with an RBI double by Kyle Tucker with two out in the fourth. The Astros cut the lead to 9-3 when Yuli Gurriel fol- lowed with single to right field that scored two more.

Gurriel and Jason Castro added solo homers in the ninth off Darwinzon Hernández before Ryan Brasier got the final out.

“At the end, it was a little too close for comfort, but we got it done,” Hernández said.

Manager Dusty Baker isn’t sure how long García will be out, but he said that he’d been dealing with this issue “on and off” but didn’t tell anyone about it. “It wasn’t bothering him enough not to pitch,’” Baker said. “We’ll make a determinat­ion in a couple of days.”

The injury to García is another blow to a Houston team trying to reach the World Series for the second time in three years. The Astros are already reeling after an injury to staff ace Lance McCullers Jr. that kept him off the roster for this series.

They won the championsh­ip in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

When McCullers went out, Baker said the team would just have to “hit more” to absorb the loss. But now that the rotation is further depleted, it’ll be an even taller task for this powerful lineup outgunning a Boston team whose offence has outpaced everyone this post-season. So what is he asking from his offence now?

“Do some more,” he said with a chuckle while shaking his head. “You don’t have much choice, so we just have to do some more. That’s all.”

There’s a day off Sunday before Houston’s José Urquidy makes his first start this postseason in Game 3 Monday. The Red Sox had yet to name their starter, but should have starters Nick Pivetta and Eduardo Rodríguez available after neither were needed in the first two games.

 ?? TONY GUTIERREZ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Fans in Houston reach for a grand slam hit by J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox on Saturday night in Game 2 of the American League Championsh­ip Series.
TONY GUTIERREZ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Fans in Houston reach for a grand slam hit by J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox on Saturday night in Game 2 of the American League Championsh­ip Series.

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