Red Sox-Astros takeaways: Offense comes up clutch in huge Game 2 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There will be no sweep in the 2021 American League Championship Series. The Boston Red Sox made that very clear Saturday.
The Red Sox took care of the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park, riding a pair of early grand slams from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers to a 9-5 victory that evened the series at 1-1.
While Astros starter Luis Garcia recorded just three outs, Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi retired at least 15 batters for the third consecutive outing, allowing three runs over 5.1 innings.
Here are three quick takeaways from Boston's Game 2 victory.
Red Sox pounce on early opportunities
The Red Sox left a whopping 18 men on base in Game 1, squandering several opportunities to extend an early 3-1 lead.
They did no such squandering in Game 2.
Boston converted two early bases-loaded opportunities into eight runs, as J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers launched grand slams in the first and second innings, respectively, to open up an 8-0 lead.
They managed just one run outside the first two innings -- another Kiké Hernandez homer in the fourth -- but those eight runs off Astros starter Luis Garcia and his injury replacement, Jake Odorizzi, were more than enough cushion.
Houston's biggest weakness is its starting pitching, so the Red Sox need to do as much damage as possible in the early innings if they want to win this series.
Mission accomplished in Game 2.
Nathan Eovaldi gives the bullpen a lifeline
Only one Red Sox pitcher has recorded at least an out in the sixth inning of this postseason, and it's the guy who took the mound Saturday.
Armed with a comfortable 8-0 lead after two innings, Eovaldi was his usual dominant self. The right-hander allowed just one hit over the first three innings before finally getting touched for three runs in the fourth.
Eovaldi bounced back, however, pitching a scoreless fifth and retiring the leadoff man in the sixth before getting pulled with one out.
Eovaldi's final stat line -- 5.1 innings, five hits, three runs, three strikeouts, one walk -- was mediocre by his standards. But the Red Sox needed their de facto ace to pitch at least five full frames after relying on a taxed bullpen for 19 outs in Game 1, and Eovaldi delivered.
One thing to monitor: Eovaldi appeared to have an issue with the mound prior to exiting in the sixth and went into the Red Sox' tunnel alongside assistant athletic trainer Brandon Henry after his outing ended.
(Mostly) encouraging effort by Red Sox' relievers
When's the last time we didn't have to sweat the final innings of a Red Sox game?
Boston's bullpen has been all over the place this posteason, but the relief unit bounced back in a big way Saturday after allowing four runs in Game 1.
Adam Ottavino and Garrett Whitlock combined to pitch 2.2 innings of scoreless relief behind Eovaldi, allowing just one hit over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to stymie any chance of an Astros comeback. (This web gem from Christian Arroyo also helped Whitlock's cause.)
The Red Sox were on their way to using just three relievers in Game 2, but Darwinzon Hernandez allowed a pair of solo home runs in the ninth inning, forcing Alex Cora to bring in Ryan Brasier for the final out.
Considering Boston used seven relievers in Game 1, though, Game 2 was a welcome sign for the bullpen. If Eduardo Rodriguez and/or Nick Pivetta can eat up innings in Monday's Game 3, that will go a long way in helping Cora's relief unit recharge.
First pitch at Fenway Park for Game 3 is set for 8:08 p.m. ET.