HOUSTON (AP) — Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a grand slam, Nathan Eovaldi hushed Houston a day after some social media trash talk and the Boston Red Sox beat the Astros 8-2 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Steve Pearce hit a tiebreaking solo homer for Boston off Joe Smith in the sixth inning, a drive that sailed just inside the foul pole in left field for a 3-2 lead.
Bradley’s slam capped a five-run burst in the eighth against Roberto Osuna. The Astros closer got two outs but allowed two singles and plunked consecutive batters to force in a run. Bradley then crushed a 1-1 fastball into the right field seats to send Houston fans streaming toward the exits.
Game 4 is Wednesday night, with Boston’s Rick Porcello opposing Charlie Morton.
With his childhood hero and fellow Alvin, Texas, native Nolan Ryan sitting behind the plate, Eovaldi turned in another solid start. He allowed six hits and two runs with four strikeouts in six innings for the win in the second playoff start of his career.
“For him, I know it’s a special one,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.
Red-hot slugger Alex Bregman had shared a video Monday on Instagram of Houston hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs off Eovaldi in his previous outing against the Astros in June. Eovaldi downplayed the post when asked about it Monday.
Bregman did much of the damage against Eovaldi, getting two hits, an RBI and a walk in three plate appearances. Bregman has reached base safely in 20 of 28 plate appearances this postseason.
Bradley hit a three-run double during Boston’s Game 2 victory, giving him three RBIs in consecutive games for the first time in his career. Moments after his slam, fans at TD Garden in Boston began chanting “JBJ!” during the Celtics season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Bradley had caught the ire of many Red Sox fans while batting .210 during the first half of the season.
“It’s a credit to him, because at this level, when you’re hitting .180 after two months or I think it was three months, it is hard,” Cora said. “And he kept showing up. He kept working. He kept working his craft. Now you see the results.”
Osuna had two on and two out when he hit pinch-hitter Brock Holt in the shoe. Plate umpire Joe West didn’t see that Holt was hit, but Cora challenged successfully for the hit-by-pitch. Osuna then drilled pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland.
Osuna was a controversial midseason pickup from Toronto while he served a 75-game ban under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
Pearce nearly delivered an extra-base hit with two on in the third, but 5-foot-6 left fielder Tony Kemp jumped at the wall and came up with Pearce’s towering fly. Replays showed the ball may have clanked off the wall just before falling into Kemp’s mitt, but umpires upheld the decision when Boston challenged.
“That’s a completely different inning if he hits that ball a foot further or if Tony can’t get up on the wall and make that catch,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said.
Boston jumped on Dallas Keuchel for two runs in the first, but the Astros cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the inning and tied it on an RBI double by Bregman in the fifth.
The Astros went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position in the first home game of the series, which was played in front of a sellout crowd of 43,102 and included Astros Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and Houston Rockets stars James Harden, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
Bregman’s double was the only extra-base hit for a team which entered the game having hit at least one homer in a record 14 straight playoff games.
Jose Altuve, at designated hitter on Tuesday because of a bruised knee, walked with two outs in the fifth and scored from first on the double by Bregman, which bounced past third baseman Rafael Devers and into the corner of left field to tie it at 2-2. Altuve also bunted for a single in the seventh.
Eduardo Nunez started at third base for Boston after Cora benched him in favor of Devers in Game 2. Devers took over at third in the bottom of the fourth after pinch-hitting for Nunez in the top of the inning.
Keuchel’s lousy first inning was a continuation of problems he had in the regular season when he allowed 26 runs in the opening frame to give him a 6.88 ERA in the first inning. He settled down after that to pitch four scoreless frames before Smith took over to start the sixth.
Morton will make is 2018 postseason debut. Morton, who spent time on the disabled list late in the season with shoulder discomfort, hasn’t pitched since Houston’s regular-season finale on Sept. 30. Porcello was scheduled to start Tuesday but was pushed back a game after he pitched in relief in Game 2.
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