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Journeyman Steve Pearce on his best journey ever: ‘It means everything’

Mookie Betts congratulates Steve Pearce after Pearce’s solo homr in the sixth inning.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

HOUSTON — Steve Pearce knew it was gone. Channeling the spirit of all-time Red Sox great Carlton Fisk, he just hoped it stayed fair.

Pearce wasn’t as demonstrative as Fisk, but he secured a golden result all the same.

With Game 3 of the ALCS tied, 2-2, in the top of the sixth inning Tuesday, Pearce launched a moonshot into orbit off Houston reliever Joe Smith. The ball appeared well on its way to San Antonio before Minute Maid Park’s elevated left field wall intervened. A booming thud silenced the 43,102 folks on hand as Boston’s dugout exploded in celebration.

The ball indeed stayed fair.

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The Red Sox never relinquished the lead Pearce provided, further separating themselves with a grand slam from fellow South Carolina alum Jackie Bradley Jr. in the eighth and grasping the series lead with an 8-2 victory.

Seated next to each other at a news conference following the game, the two Gamecocks bumped fists and beamed.

“It felt great,” Pearce said of the blast. “I’m not going to lie, I’m just glad it stayed fair. It was really close and timely. It means everything.”

Who could have envisioned Pearce playing as prominent a role as he has for the 108-win Red Sox come autumn? Dave Dombrowski acquired the veteran at the trade deadline, sending minor leaguer Santiago Espinal to Toronto in return. Even Dombrowski couldn’t have imagined the 35-year old making this significant an impact.

Pearce has recorded at least one hit and scored at least one run in each of his six starts in the 2018 postseason. His sixth-inning missile was the first homer of his playoff career, making him the fifth-oldest Red Sox player to go deep in October. He joins a star-studded list featuring Don Baylor, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and Carl Yastrzemski.

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Pearce’s explosion comes at a perfect time for the Red Sox. Mitch Moreland remains hampered by a tweaked hamstring, rendering him largely unplayable despite being an active member of Boston’s ALCS roster. Now, the man who has never started 100 games in a single season finds himself manning first for the best team in baseball in October.

“These guys made it a lot easier for me when I came in here,” Pearce said. “Being in the AL East for such a long time, I played against these guys for so long that I knew them. I just had to get a chance to learn their personalities.

“These guys have been great to me from Day 1, and they make it enjoyable for me to show up at the park every day.”

Pearce’s homer wasn’t the only notable occurrence he had a hand in Tuesday.

In the third he came within inches of recording a wall-ball double that probably would have gifted the Red Sox a three-run cushion. Instead, Astros left fielder Tony Kemp made a spectacular leaping effort and corralled the ball, stranding two runners to end the inning.

For a moment, all on hand at Minute Maid Park paused in unison, many reaching for their phones. A slow-motion replay of the catch began circulating on Twitter as umpires dialed New York for a review. Some thought the ball hit the wall before landing in the pocket of Kemp’s glove. Others weren’t so sure.

The play was upheld, much to the chagrin of Pearce, who shed his helmet in disbelief approaching second base.

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“The first one that I hit off the wall,” Pearce coyly began, “or not off the wall, but the one that Kemp made a great play off of it, I missed that one. And thankfully I didn’t miss the second one.”

Indeed, Pearce took matters into his own hands three frames later, turning with purpose on a heater off the inside corner and sending the ball on a 456-foot journey to Neverland.

“First pitch [was a] fastball,” Pearce said. “I saw it really well. I was hoping I got another one, and I did. I didn’t miss it.”

Simple as that.

Pearce is defensively limited — certainly not as capable with the leather as Moreland — but he held down the first base fort admirably on Tuesday.

Save for a backhanded gaffe in the sixth on a sharp grounder by Carlos Correa — the play was ruled a hit thanks to Houston’s notably generous official scorekeeper — Pearce was solid in the field, showing off his athleticism with an acrobatic stretch in the bottom of the third. Eduardo Nunez fielded and threw, but his effort forced Pearce to sink into a split to nab Houston’s Yuli Gurriel.

Still, Pearce’s bat is the reason he’s in Boston. He’s 7 for 26 this postseason and showing no signs of slowing down.

After 12 years of hopping from team to team, it appears Pearce has finally found his baseball home.

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Owen Pence can be reached at owen.pence@globe.com.