Red Sox

Correa, Altuve, Astros rout Red Sox 8-2, take 2-0 ALDS lead

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Correa, Altuve, Astros rout Red Sox 8-2, take 2-0 ALDS lead

HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and the high-powered Astros led the majors in runs, hits and batting average in the regular season.

Now that it's playoff time, Houston is still hammering away.

Correa homered , doubled and drove in four runs, Altuve got two more hits and the Astros battered the Boston Red Sox 8-2 Friday to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.

George Springer also homered to back Dallas Keuchel in Houston's second straight romp by the exact same score.

"One through nine, everybody can do damage, everybody can go deep," Correa said. "That's the good thing about our lineup, there's no holes in our lineup, and we feel very confident no matter if we went 0 for 4 the day before or if we went 4 for 4."

The Astros will go for a sweep in the best-of-five matchup Sunday at Fenway Park, a year after Boston was swept in the ALDS by Cleveland. Brad Peacock (13-2) starts for Houston against Doug Fister (5-9).

"We couldn't really script it any better," Keuchel said.

A day after Altuve hit three home runs in the playoff opener, he got things going with a two-out single in the first inning off Drew Pomeranz. Correa, who went 0 for 4 on Thursday, made it 2-0 when he launched a towering shot onto the train tracks atop left field.

"For me if he's not No. 1, he's No. 2 in the league," Altuve said of Correa, often referring to him as his little brother. "One of the best players, I'm really happy to have him on my team. Believe it or not I have learned from him."

Keuchel pitched into the sixth, allowing one run and three hits while striking out seven to improve to 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in three career postseason starts.

After Jackie Bradley Jr. had an RBI single in the Boston second, the Astros started to break away.

Springer hit his first postseason homer when he sent the second pitch of the third inning into the front row of the seats in right field.

So is Red Sox manager John Farrell surprised that the series has been this lopsided so far?

"They're very good, they're deep, and they have got a number of ways to beat you," he said. "So we fully respect and understood the opponent, and they're playing like that."

A double by Alex Bregman set up an RBI single by Altuve later in the third, making it 4-1 and ending Pomeranz's first career postseason start after two relief appearances. The lefty kept his head down as he trudged toward the dugout after being lifted.

"Any mistake that we've made these past two games, they've made us pay for them," Pomeranz said. "It's playoff baseball, and these guys have come out swinging."

David Price, the starter-turned-reliever with the $217 million contract, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the Red Sox. Following his exit, Houston tacked on four runs in the sixth.

A two-out intentional walk to Altuve, the major league batting champion this season, led to a two-run double by Correa . The top overall pick in the 2012 draft and crown jewel of Houston's yearslong rebuilding project raised his hands in delight and motioned for the crowd to get louder as he stopped at second base.

Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts had an error that looked like it was pulled from a blooper reel earlier in the sixth when he caught a fly ball by Bregman then simply lost the ball as he tried to throw it back in. Betts looked confused as the ball dribbled away from him and he was charged with an error, allowing a run to score.

"I'm not even sure how it happened," Betts said. "I messed up."

Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, known as much for his beard as his devastating sinker, was cheered on by Houston's other famous bearded superstar as Rockets guard James Harden watched from a front-row seat behind home plate.

Keuchel's father, Dennis, also was in attendance and multiple television shots showed him looking a mixture of excited and nervous as he gazed at his son's work.

The left-hander had trouble settling in early and after needing 30 pitches to get through the second inning, it looked like this start might be a short one. But he struck out the last two batters of that inning as the first of 13 straight he retired.

Keuchel exited to a standing ovation after walking Hanley Ramirez with two outs in the sixth inning.

Altuve, who hit .346 this year, kept punishing pitchers. After singling in his first two trips to the plate, giving him five hits in the series, the Red Sox had seen enough and intentionally walked him in the fourth. That drew a loud chorus of boos from the home crowd, which greeted Altuve with a standing ovation in his first at-bat.

Farrell was asked if the fourth inning was too early to intentionally walk Altuve.

"No, he's been dynamite," he said. "You pick your poison. He's an extremely hot, extremely good hitter. Felt like we were going to move on and go to the next guy."

Many fans held signs saying that Altuve should be this season's MVP and one behind home plate proclaimed in sparkly multi-colored letters: "Altuve, He's Pretty Good."

Boston also gave him a free pass in the sixth inning, but had to pitch to him in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs. Austin Maddox, who gave up Altuve's third homer on Thursday, jumped into the air and pumped his fist after striking him out.

It didn't matter much. Even with the strikeout, his average in the series is .714.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Betts said his wrist flared up on a swing in the eighth inning but that he's OK.

"It's going to take some time to heal, but we don't have that kind of time right now," he said.

HURRICANE MARIA RELIEF

Correa, who is from Puerto Rico, has partnered with Astros owner Jim Crane to charter a plane filled with water, food and other supplies to deliver to the island on Sunday to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.

"Obviously a lot of people are suffering from hunger and they're going through tough times right now, so I just want to bring a little bit of help over there," Correa said.

UP NEXT

Fister (5-9, 4.88 ERA), who pitched for the Astros last season, will start for Boston in Game 3 on Sunday against Peacock (13-2, 3.00 ERA), who will be making his postseason debut.

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Red Sox notebook: Velazquez, Elias getting shots at fifth spot

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USA TODAY Sports Photos

Red Sox notebook: Velazquez, Elias getting shots at fifth spot

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The starting pitchers for the Red Sox in the first two games of the Grapefruit League season, Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias, are likely going to get major league opportunities in 2018 — and one of them very well might get a look in the first week of the season.

The first four starters the Red Sox will carry are obvious, assuming health: Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello. Alex Cora on Saturday declined to name an Opening Day starter, but Sale is the obvious choice after finishing second in American League Cy Young voting to Corey Kluber. Cora said too that he likely would insert Porcello somewhere in the middle of the rotation, considering the other three aforementioned starters are lefties.

Where the Sox go beyond those four, though, could be to some relatively unknown quantities. 

Steven Wright is rehabbing from knee surgery and awaiting potential discipline from the league office following an offseason arrest on a domestic assault charge. Wright could well be suspended to begin the season, and may not be physically ready to start on the active roster anyway. Eduardo Rodriguez’s own knee surgery has him slated to come back perhaps in late April. 

That puts righty Velazquez and lefty Elias in prime position for at least temporary contributions. Both are on the 40-man roster and have big league time. In a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Ray on Saturday, Elias pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday, just as Velazquez did Friday against the Minnesota Twins.

In past seasons, the Red Sox would often have an off-day after their very first game of the regular season, thereby allowing for a fifth starter to be skipped if desired. That’s not the case for this year, with six straight games for the Sox — three vs. the Rays, three vs. the Marlins — before an off-day. Come April 2, then, the Sox will need a fifth starter. 

(Whether the Sox even use off-days this year to skip pitchers or just to rest their guys is to be seen. Sale, for example, historically has pitched often on extra rest, and the Sox want to keep him fresh.)

Lefty Brian Johnson could wind up a reliever, but he’s certainly capable of starting. Lefty Jalen Beeks, who is not on the 40-man roster but likely will be at some point this year, is depth as well, just like righty Chandler Shepherd.

***

• The Sox did say long ago they wanted to add lefty reliever this winter. Now they’ve done it. As depth, anyway. Tommy Layne, last with the Sox in 2016, is back — in minor league camp without an invite to major league spring training. He was a free agent who participated in the camp the Players Association set up for unsigned players in Florida. Don't be surprised if Layne sees some time in big league games anyway.

***

One area of the Red Sox spring complex has four practice fields aligned, with each field’s home plate positioned at nearly the same point, angled 90 degrees differently. In the past, the Sox more frequently used all four fields at once for the same set of drills. Now, they’ve cut back. The reason is so that coaches can see players better. This way, a coach could catch 50 percent of one pitcher’s live batting-practice and 50 percent of another. Attention is spread too thin if three or four fields are going simultaneously. That was Tony La Russa’s suggestion.

• Rafael Devers has shown some very quick feet in the early going, making a great diving stop to his right on Thursday. On Saturday, he made another smooth play but then threw away a throw to second base.

“Just get one out,” Cora said. “He was trying to get two which is great. This level you’ve got to turn double plays but there there’s certain plays you cant force.”

• Players union head Tony Clark visited camp on Saturday, part of his annual tour to meet different teams. Clark defended the collective bargaining agreement, which has been criticized because it helped create the environment that led to many unsigned free agents.

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Sox bringing Nunez along slowly at camp

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Sox bringing Nunez along slowly at camp

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Eduardo Nunez isn’t a starting pitcher, but the Red Sox are going to build him up slowly too.

The infielder (and assumed second baseman in place of the still-recovering Dustin Pedroia) hasn’t seen Grapefruit League action yet.

“Everything he did in the simulated game, he did a lot,” manager Alex Cora said Saturday after a 4-3 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park. “Stole bases..he had to dive [in the field]. I don’t want to push him. Today was a great day for him to just to, instead of being with the guys taking ground balls, we put him aside, just taking it easy, right at him, work on your footwork. Building up. So we’ve got to be fair with him too." 

Nunez, 30, a trade deadline acquisition last season from the San Francisco Giants, injured his knee and had to be carried off the field four pitches into the A.L. Division Series loss to the Houston Astros. 

“Over the course of the offseason it was more rehabbing for him and getting his strength back," Cora said. "We’ll take it easy with him. He’ll probably DH before he plays second or third or short or the outfield. But today I saw him taking ground balls before the live BP, and he did a good job moving his feet and working at third base too.”

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