Five thoughts from Game 3: Red Sox rally to force Game 4
Five thoughts from Red Sox-Astros Game 3
BOSTON — Hanley Ramirez at last looked the part of David Ortiz, David Price gave Boston reason to love him, and Rafael Devers became the sixth player ever to hit a postseason home run before turning 21 years old.
The Red Sox rallied from another first-inning deficit to win 10-3 over the Astros in Game 3 on Sunday afternoon, forcing a Game 4 that's scheduled for a rainy Monday at Fenway Park.
Ramirez had four hits. Devers hit the go-ahead home run off Francisco Liriano in the third inning. Price threw four shutout innings in relief.
But the comeback really began with Mookie Betts, who robbed a three-run home run from Josh Reddick in the second inning — a catch that set everything in motion and helped save the season, and perhaps the manager's job.
Jackie Bradley Jr.'s break-it-open, three-run homer in the seventh that went off Josh Reddick's glove and into the stands just beyond Pesky's Pole was the icing on the cake.
Here are five takeaways from Game 3:
1. David Price can pitch in the postseason, and if the Sox advance, he absolutely needs to be starting
In Game 3, he became the first Sox pitcher to throw at least four shutout innings in relief since Pedro Martinez in 1999, and Price’s outing was as good as a start — better, in fact, than any start the Sox have received this series.
The lefty’s pitch count climbed all the way to 57 pitches with four shutout innings of work, protecting a 4-3 lead from the fourth through the seventh innings. Sox manager John Farrell showed such faith in Price that heading into the final frame, with the Astros’ 2-3-4 hitters due up, no one had even started to warm.
A walk to Jose Altuve with one out in the seventh got Addison Reed up and throwing, but Price was able to finish it off, getting Carlos Correa on a line out to shallow right field for out No. 2. With the Fenway Park crowd on its feet, Price struck out Marwin Gonzalez, and there was a little jawing as he walked off the mound.
Pedro’s relief appearance is well known: Game 5 of the 1999 Division Series, against the Indians. He went six shutout innings. Other such performances in relief for Sox — of at least four innings and no earned runs — belong to Tex Hughson (1946 World Series) and Ray Collins (1912 World Series), per Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index.
2. Hey, remember when Rafael Devers was out of the starting lineup in Game 2?
Now he’s the youngest player in club history to go deep in a postseason game. The 20-year-old’s two-run shot in the third inning Sunday was probably the greatest single moment of the series thus far — considering it was the first time they took a lead.
With a runner on second, two down and a 3-2 Sox deficit, the Astros had just pulled righty starter Brad Peacock for southpaw Francisco Liriano. Liriano, a lefty, allowed just one home run to a left-handed batter in 100 plate appearances during the regular season. As the Sox have seen before when Devers faced the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Devers does not care for such numbers. He crushed an 0-1 hanging slider to right-center, putting himself in elite company with youngsters to homer in the postseason.
Devers carried the bat with him awkwardly and joyously up the first base line — he seemed to think about flipping it away, then stopped himself — as he joined elite company. Only six players have homered in the playoffs before the age of 21: Mickey Mantle, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Miguel Cabrera, Andruw Jones, and now, Devers.
3. Before David Price saved the game, Mookie Betts did
The top of the second inning was horrific from a few standpoints, including John Farrell’s, and somehow it didn’t cost the Red Sox a run. Where was Sandy Leon’s urgency? And why was Joe Kelly in the game?
With the Sox already down 3-0, Doug Fister went to the mound for the top of the inning. No one was warm behind him, although Kelly had started to warm up in the first inning. Note that before the game, Farrell was asked about the leash with Fister. "We know what’s at stake. This is a day you can’t afford to continue to wait.”
The first two batters reached, and Fister stayed in, retiring No. 9 hitter Brian McCann for one out in the frame. On came Kelly for the top of the Red Sox order. It’s hard to understand why Fister was allowed to let two runners reach at all. But at that point, Kelly was not the optimal choice. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, despite his velocity. If the Astros go up, say, 5-0, the game gets further and further out of reach for an anemic offense. Farrell had David Price, Addison Reed, even Craig Kimbrel available.
But Farrell went to Kelly. With his first hitter, George Springer at the plate, Kelly threw a wild pitch that Sandy Leon did not pursue quickly enough (the runners didn’t break right away) and Leon got burnt for it, with two men advancing. Kelly got out of the jam with help, though. First was a Springer ground out, and then a terrific Mookie Betts’ catch at the wall in right field. He took away a three-run from Josh Reddick, snagging the ball over the portion of the wall that’s particularly low, just to the right of the 380-foot sign. What could have been a 6-0 deficit remained 3-0.
Betts, in essence, reeled back Farrell’s mistake. He made another run-saving catch behind Kelly in the third as well.
4. No one to blame but starting pitchers themselves for how bad they’ve performed through last two Division Series.
The manager can't do anything, neither can the pitching coach. Doug Fister allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings Sunday. Spanning the 2016-17 ALDS, Red Sox starters have an 11.70 ERA: that’s 26 earned runs in 20 innings. Fister’s first-inning troubles continued Sunday, with singles to the first two batters he faced. He then got MVP candidate Jose Altuve to ground out before Carlos Correa popped a towering home run to center field, with as much hang time as distance. Four batters into the game, the Astros were up 3-0.
5. Hanley Ramirez is finally carrying the load like Big Papi.
Ramirez was out of the lineup in Game 1, you’ll recall, and is now hitting the ball as well as he has at any point this year. Whether those matters are related is hard to tell. A lot is hard to tell with Ramirez, who lineup along the first-baseline in the pre-game postseason ceremony with a "Believe in Boston" flag.
He was more than just a cheerleader on Sunday, though. With three hits under his belt already, Ramirez's fourth helped to put the game on ice in the seventh. The Sox had the bases loaded and none out against elite Astros reliever Chris Devenski when Ramirez roped a double to left-center, growing the lead from 4-3, where it stood since the third inning, to 6-3.
Ramirez is just the sixth player in Red Sox history to have at least hit 4 hits and 3 RBIs in a playoff game — and the first since David Ortiz in a different ALDS Game 3, in 2004 against the Angels.
The Red Sox still had tickets available for Sunday's game in the 12 p.m. hour, but the game did indeed sell out, the club said, announcing an attendance of 38,010.