J.D. Martinez hit a grand slam in the first inning and Rafael Devers hit one in the second to get the Red Sox started on a 9-5 victory on Saturday in Game 2 of the ALCS in Houston.
The series is tied, 1-1, with Game 3 on Monday at 8:07 p.m. in Boston.
Red-hot Kiké Hernández added a solo home run in the fourth inning, his fifth of the postseason. Hernández has 16 hits in the playoffs and has driven in nine runs.
Red Sox righthander Nate Eovaldi pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on five hits.
Below are updates and commentary from Globe Red Sox reporter Alex Speier as the game unfolded.
One concern for Red Sox — 8:09 p.m.
The Rafael Devers forearm issue is not going away. After a swing-and-miss on a high fastball in the eighth inning, he again dropped his bat – but this time, his discomfort became sufficiently pronounced that he required a visit from manager Alex Cora and assistant trainer Brandon Henry. Though he stayed in the game, Devers again dropped his bat after fouling out to end the inning. He looked sullen as he slumped after that at-bat.
The day off between Games 2 and 3 will give Devers some time to rest the injured forearm, but increasingly, it seems like he’ll have to face a barrage of elevated fastballs – the pitch on which he exhibits the greatest discomfort – while playing through pain.
Astros down to six outs — 7:52 p.m.
Houston is down to six outs, but the heart of the order is due up in the bottom of the eighth – Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Carlos Correa. Garrett Whitlock is Boston’s pitcher to start the bottom of the eighth.
The Red Sox lead, 9-3.
Eovaldi’s night is over — 7:05 p.m.
It wasn’t the greatest line of Nate Eovaldi’s postseason career. Indeed, it will go down as the worst. In 5 1/3 innings, he allowed three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out four.
Yet he pitched better than that line. The three runs he allowed all came with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, a rally anchored by a Kyle Tucker opposite-field jam shot that likely would have been an out in roughly 28 of 30 parks – the only exceptions being Minute Maid Park (where Game 2 is taking place) and Fenway Park.
Once again, Eovaldi limited self-inflicted harm (one walk) while also avoiding the worst kind of contact (no home runs permitted). In 38 career playoff innings, Eovaldi has a 35-to-5 strikeout-to-walk rate, and he’s given up just three homers. Many pitchers struggle with their command amidst the heightened adrenaline of October. Eovaldi is not among them.
Adam Ottavino replaced Eovaldi in the sixth inning.
Important work by Odorizzi — 6:44 p.m.
Is it possible that a four-run yield in four innings can represent a huge lift for a team? Jake Odorizzi has tested that proposition.
The Astros righthander, who entered in relief of Luis Garcia (who left with what Houston described as right knee discomfort) with a runner on first and no outs in the second inning, promptly gave up a pair of singles and a grand slam to Rafael Devers in the second, and later allowed a solo homer by Kiké Hernández.
Yet Odorizzi may have served a staff-saving function in providing four innings of work spanning 82 pitches. Much as Nick Pivetta left the Red Sox bullpen in solid shape by allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in a 5-0 Red Sox loss in Game 1 of the ALDS, Odorizzi allowed the Astros to avoid having to use a number of relievers on back-to-back days.
Astros get on the scoreboard — 6:33 p.m.
Houston cut into Boston’s lead with a three-run fourth inning that has made it 9-3.
The Astros have taken an up-the-middle/opposite-field approach off Eovaldi, to considerable effect. A two-out walk by Alvarez followed by three straight hits have made it 9-3.
You can’t even hope to contain him — 6:01 p.m.
Kiké Hernández launched yet another homer with one out in the top of the fourth inning, a solo smash to left that put the Red Sox ahead, 9-0. Hernández is 16-for-31 (.516) this postseason. He’s the second player – along with Hideki Matsui in 2004 – to record as many as 16 hits through his team’s first seven games of the playoffs.
With five homers, he’s tied the record for the most by a Red Sox in a single postseason, matching the mark set twice by David Ortiz (2004 and 2013) and Todd Walker (2003).
Houston may have a pitching problem — 5:48 p.m.
The Astros, already without ace Lance McCullers Jr., who was left off the ALCS roster due to a forearm injury, likely watched in horror as righthander Luis Garcia walked off the field accompanied by a trainer in the top of the second inning. The loss of two of their top three starters for the duration of the ALCS is a potentially devastating development – though not, it should be noted, an insurmountable one.
In 2016, the Red Sox appeared well positioned to take advantage of a thin Cleveland rotation that had lost both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, especially when Corey Kluber suffered a hamstring injury shortly before the postseason.
Yet Cleveland still swept the Red Sox and advanced past the Blue Jays in the ALCS before finally falling in seven games to the Cubs in the World Series. In that precedent, if Garcia is unable to pitch moving forward, the Astros can find hope. Nonetheless, they’d surely rather just have a healthy collection of pitchers.
A grand old time — 5:25 p.m.
Rafael Devers became the second Red Sox batter in as many innings to blast a two-out grand slam, ripping a Jake Odorizzi cutter into the right field seats in the top of the second inning. In so doing, he, J.D. Martinez, and the Red Sox made history. The RedSox are the first team in playoff history with multiple grand slams in a game. They lead, 8-0, in the second inning.
Meanwhile, Nate Eovaldi is through two scoreless innings in 31 pitches. Assuming he doesn’t faceplant, the Red Sox have an interesting choice about how long to let him go - do they pull him after 5-6 innings if he’s cruising to save bullets for a potential bullpen appearance?
Or, do they let him go longer in order to set up the rest of the bullpen moving forward?
This is going to take a while — 5:09 p.m.
One day after the Astros employed eight pitchers, it appears they’re going to be cycling again through their staff. Houston starter Luis Garcia, after a consultation with a trainer, was removed from Game 2 of the ALCS after issuing a second-inning leadoff walk to Kevin Plawecki. The Astros bullpen will be tasked with at least eight innings of work after recording 6 1/3 innings on Friday.
Jake Odorizzi, a starter-turned-long man, is in for Houston. His entry into the game represents a rain delay for Red Sox starter Nate Eovaldi, who (after a scoreless first inning) must sit and wait while Odorizzi takes as much time to warm up as he’d like.
Martinez puts Sox on top early — 4:42 p.m.
The Red Sox had four baserunners in the first inning of Game 1 of the ALCS yet somehow failed to score thanks to a double play and an inning-ending, bases loaded fly out. J.D. Martinez ensured the team did not repeat that fate on Saturday.
With the bases loaded – the product of a Kyle Schwarber leadoff double and walks to Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo – Martinez lined a 94 m.p.h. fastball from Astros starter Luis Garcia into the seats in right field. The grand slam was the seventh in Red Sox postseason history, with the most recent previous four-run homer having also come in Minute Maid Park, with Jackie Bradley Jr. going deep against Astros reliever Roberto Osuna in the 2018 ALCS.
While Martinez’s availability for the postseason was a question after he rolled his ankle in Game 162 of the regular season, the DH is now 8-for-19 (.421) with a pair of homers while driving in eight over his six playoff games. He’s struck out just twice in 20 plate appearances.
Inside Nate Eovaldi’s plan of attack — 4:30 p.m.
In Game 2 of the ALCS, Nate Eovaldi returns to Minute Maid Park – the ballpark where he decided to start his professional career after the Dodgers drafted him in 2008, and one that in many ways solidified his standing 10 years later as the dominant pitching force of the 2018 postseason.
As great as Eovaldi had been in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees (7 innings, one run), he faced some skepticism entering his Game 3 start in the ALCS against Houston that year. Astros third baseman Alex Bregman posted an Instagram story of Houston hitting back-to-back-to-back homers off of Eovaldi in a regular season game when he was still with the Rays, and it remained to be seen whether the righthander’s postseason success was a one-off or sustainable.
In Houston that year, Eovaldi provided an answer. He cruised through six dominant innings, allowing two runs on four hits as one Astro after another hit the ball into the ground against him.
In that contest, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel combined to go 4-for-12 – but three of the four hits were simply on groundballs. Eovaldi relied heavily on his cutter in that contest, using it 33 percent of the time against that quartet – his highest usage of any pitch against that brilliant group, which remains together now.
Such a plan of attack seems unlikely in Game 2 of the ALCS today. Eovaldi never threw his cutter more than 20 percent of the time against righties in any single game this year, a reflection of how good his comfort with his slider against righties.
But in the postseason, his plan of attack has been different. Eovaldi has challenged righties with his fastball, throwing the pitch 50 percent of the time against them. The Yankees and Rays righties have gone 1-for-7 with three strikeouts against Eovaldi’s fastball. Overall, righties in his first two postseason starts this year are 3-for-17 with no extra-base hits and eight strikeouts.
But the Astros represent a different sort of challenge. Houston led the big leagues with a .287 average against four-seam fastballs from righthanded pitchers, including a .277 mark against 95-plus mph heaters. In other words, Eovaldi likely will have to adapt and feature a more complete mix against Houston than he required in the Wild Card Game or the ALDS. His five-pitch mix suggests he’s certainly capable of doing so – as does his past October dominance in Minute Maid.
Luis Garcia on the mound for Astros — 4:20 p.m.
Garcia escaped with a no-decision in his last outing on Sunday despite permitting five runs on as many hits in 2 ⅔ relief innings against the White Sox.
Are Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts the two best shortstops in the AL? — 4:14 p.m.
By Michael Silverman
HOUSTON — Of all the positional matchups between the Astros and Red Sox, the one at shortstop between Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa may be the purest “even” there is, a meeting between the two best in the American League.
Bogaerts did not dismiss the suggestion.
“Definitely we’re in the conversation. I feel like we’ve done it for a while now, we’ve been really consistent,” he said Friday. “I mean, I know he has been dealing with some injuries throughout the years, but this year he has played a lot of games, and he has been really, really productive for that team over there. I mean, I’m definitely a fan of him.”
This season, Correa hit 26 home runs, batted .279, and posted an .850 OPS with a 5.8 fWAR. Bogaerts hit 23 homers, batted .295, and posted an .863 OPS with a 5.2 fWAR. (Toronto’s Bo Bichette ranked third among shortstops with a 4.9 fWAR.)
“He is a great player. He has done it in the regular season, he has done it in the playoffs, he’s had huge moments,” said Bogaerts of Correa. “I feel like I’m pretty much the same. We’re big shortstops. We both came up young. A lot of hype around us. I wasn’t drafted first overall [like Correa in 2012], but at one point we both were top prospects in [our] organization. I think we both did a good job just maintaining the same and helping our teams win as much as possible and leading them to victories.”
Bogaerts said his own season has not gone exactly perfect.
“I feel like this year has been really inconsistent for me personally,” said Bogaerts. “I had a lot of ups and downs, just not being as consistent as I want to be and it’s been one of the best years I’ve had, and it’s pretty weird to think of it that way.”
What we saw last night, and what it means for the rest of the series — 4:04 p.m.
With 16 combined pitchers — a new postseason record — it took 4:07 for the Astros to take a 5-4 decision, and it took an expanded scorecard to keep track of all the activity from the bullpen.
It’s a homecoming for Nate Eovaldi — 3:55 p.m.
Life has come full circle for Nate Eovaldi.
On Saturday, Eovaldi will take the mound for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros. He will do so as the unquestioned staff ace of the Red Sox, a homecoming for a pitcher whose baseball roots are in Houston, whose baseball background connected him to a legendary Astros power pitcher, and whose professional career started, in a sense, in the same venue where he will aim to help get the Sox back to the World Series.
“It’s definitely special,” said Eovaldi.
Eovaldi went to Alvin High School, about 30 miles from Minute Maid Park and the same school the legendary Nolan Ryan attended before being taken in the 1965 draft. Eovaldi arrived as a hard thrower, but a growth spurt combined with a relentless work ethic and competitiveness soon distinguished him as a special talent.
Pregame scenes — 3:47 p.m.
Curious about the backstory here? Read Alex’s story from 2019.
Lineups —3:41 p.m.
Here’s who RHP Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.48 ERA) will be facing tonight:
RED SOX (92-70): Schwarber 1B, Hernández CF, Devers 3B, Bogaerts SS, Verdugo LF, Martinez DH, Renfroe RF, Plawecki C, Arroyo 2B
And RHP Nate Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75 ERA):
ASTROS (95-67): Altuve 2B, Brantley LF, Bregman 3B, Alvarez DH, Correa SS, Tucker RF, Gurriel 1B, McCormick CF, Maldonado C
As noted — 2:50 p.m.
Here are a few nuggets from the pregame notes package prepared by the Red Sox media relations staff:
• The last three times the Sox lost Game 1 of the ALCS, they went on to win the World Series (2004, 2013, 2018).
• Kiké Hernández is leading MLB this postseason in hits (14), doubles (4), HR (4), XBH (8), RBI (8), AVG (.500), SLG (1.071), OPS (1.571), and total bases (30).
• The Sox have recorded 10-plus hits in each of their last four games, matching their longest streak in a single postseason (also twice in 2004 and once in 2007).
• The Red Sox have seven players batting .300 or higher in the postseason (min. 10 at-bats). Six players have an OPS above .900: Kiké Hernández (1.571), J.D. Martinez (1.032), Xander Bogaerts (.994), Rafael Devers (.974), Kyle Schwarber (.912), and Alex Verdugo (.909).
The pitching matchup — 2:45 p.m.
With much of the Sox bullpen seeing action on Friday, Boston needs Nate Eovaldi to pitch deep into Saturday’s contest — the righthander has pitched at least five innings in both of his postseason starts, but was roughed up to the tune of 11 hits and five earned runs in his only start against the Astros this season.
Luis Garcia will throw for Houston; the rookie righthander threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Sox on June 1.
About last night — 2:28 p.m.
Here is the Globe’s coverage of Game 1:
Photography throughout our coverage is by legendary sports photographer Jim Davis of the Globe staff.