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All eyes were on the homers, but it was Alex Verdugo’s 11-pitch walk that sparked the Red Sox in Game 3

Alex Verdugo drew a lengthy walk that sparked the Red Sox' bats.
Alex Verdugo drew a lengthy walk that sparked the Red Sox' bats.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

On a night when the big bashers hogged the spotlight, it was an early 11-pitch walk drawn by Alex Verdugo that lit the fuse for all the Red Sox fireworks that followed.

Considering that Astros starter José Urquidy had breezed through the first three hitters in the first inning on just 11 pitches and then struck out Xander Bogaerts on three pitches to lead off the second inning, there was no crumb of evidence that the Red Sox offense was up to anything special in Game 3 of the ALCS Monday night.

Watching the first two pitches from Urquidy sail in for strikes against Verdugo did not signal anything different, either.


The next nine pitches, however, served as a master class in patience that tipped the game toward a 12-3 Red Sox blowout and a 2-1 lead in the series.

Two ball-foul-foul sequences — one foul ball was a towering, catchable slice that fell harmlessly in front of the Astros dugout because third baseman Alex Bregman was shaded so closely to second base on the defensive shift — were followed by a third ball and the fifth foul ball.

Then Verdugo watched a wayward Urquidy fastball sail in and he was on base, the first of five in a row to reach before Kyle Schwarber clubbed the grand slam that began the thrashing.

An illustration of Alex Verdugo's 11-pitch walk.
An illustration of Alex Verdugo's 11-pitch walk.Baseball Savant

“People get caught up in the big swing, or whatever it is, right? People kind of forget what led up to it, right?” said Schwarber. “The at-bats beforehand are what set up the big moments, and those are things that you can’t take for granted. Dugie — unbelievable.”

After using those 14 pitches against the first four batters he faced, Urquidy wound up throwing 53 more, including Verdugo’s 11, to the next nine batters before he was mercifully lifted.


Showing the rest of the Red Sox lineup an example of what Urquidy had and did not have meant the ballgame.

“For him to come in there on a guy who was kind of cruising, looked like he was handling it pretty well, it changes the direction on how the game is going,” said Christian Arroyo, author of a two-run home run the next inning.

Verdugo has not exactly been a paragon of patience toward the season’s end.

In his final 19 regular-season games, he did not draw a single walk.

In the first five postseason games, same thing.

In Game 1 of this ALCS, he drew his first walk in 24 games.

In Game 2, he drew his second, this one to load the bases and set up J.D. Martinez’s grand slam.

“I was joking with Alex a few days ago that his last walk was, like, four months ago it seems like it, right?” said manager Alex Cora. “He has done an amazing job getting hits and hitting righties, but he hasn’t walked, and that’s part of what he does, just get on base. For him to be able to start that way, it was huge.”

The Red Sox know how to swing their bats at big times for big results; that has been clear this regular season and postseason.

Usually, though, it’s when the batters know when not to swing that leads to teachable moments on a grand scale.


“It’s relentless,” said Schwarber. “That’s what we want to be as an offensive group — relentless. I think we’ve been doing a really good job of that.”

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Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.