The Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALCS on Saturday became the first team in MLB postseason history to hit two grand slams in a single game. En route to a 9-5 win over the Astos, J.D. Martinez hit a grand slam in the first, and then in the second Rafael Devers, despite an injured forearm, hit another grand slam. The Red Sox and Astros are now tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series to determine the AL representative in the World Series.
Martinez's grand slam came off Houston starter Luis Garcia, who was ineffective before leaving with an apparent injury with no outs in the second inning:
He was replaced by Jake Odorizzi, who, after a lengthy starting-pitcher's warm-up routine that put Game 2 on hold following Garcia's exit, allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach. That brought Devers to the plate:
In addition to, as noted, becoming the first team ever to hit two grand slams in one postseason game, the Red Sox on Saturday also became just the fourth team ever -- postseason or regular season -- to hit a grand slam in each of the first two innings. It also marked the first time since 2008 that the Red Sox have hit multiple grand slams in a game.
In all, the Red Sox on Saturday racked up 10 hits, which is in keeping with recent history and puts them in rare company all-time:
The Red Sox have set a franchise record and tied the MLB record for consecutive games with 10+ hits in a single Postseason (5):— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) October 16, 2021
2021 Red Sox
Meantime, Boston ace Nathan Eovaldi pitched well enough to safeguard the outsized lead to which he was staked. Particularly impressive was that he pitched a perfect bottom of the second after the top of the frame took more than 40 minutes. The Astros were able to scratch out three runs in the fourth against Eovaldi, who wound up working 5 1/3. From there, Houston added two runs via solo home runs from Jason Castro and Yuli Gurriel in the ninth inning. Boston brought in right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier to close out the game.
Now here are four takeaways from Game 2.
1. Astros starters not named Lance McCullers Jr. have struggled badly this postseason
Given that Houston came into Game 2 with a 4-1 record in these playoffs, you'd probably expect that they've gotten good starting pitching in October. They have when Lance McCullers Jr. has been on the mound, but outside of that it's been a disaster. Relevant numbers forthcoming:
Astros starters not named Lance McCullers Jr. now have a 12.66 ERA in this postseason following Luis Garcia's four-spot here in the 1st inning.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) October 16, 2021
Garcia wound up being charged with a fifth earned run in only one inning of work, so that figure above is even higher now. The disaster outing for Garcia, who exited alongside a trainer with no outs and one on in the second, came after Game 1 starter Framber Valdez lasted just 2 2/3.
That's never a good situation, but it's even more grave in Houston's case. That's because McCullers, who suffered a forearm injury during his final ALDS start against the White Sox, was left off the Astros' ALCS roster and won't appear in this series. The Astros don't have a particularly deep or effective bullpen, but that bullpen will likely need to do a great deal of heavy lifting in this series, just as it did in Games 1 and 2.
2. Houston now has an uncertain rotation
Moving forward, there's some uncertainty. Jake Odorizzi, who in essence replaced McCullers on the roster, was pressed into relief duty in Game 2 and wound up throwing 82 pitches. He was likely in line to start Game 4 prior to his emergency detail on Saturday. Now the Astros may be forced to throw Valdez on short rest in Tuesday's Game 4 in Boston. That's not optimal, to state the obvious.
If it turns out that Garcia is seriously injured, then they're in even bigger trouble. Manager Dusty Baker has previously suggested that he's not inclined to move Zack Greinke back into the rotation, but might circumstances change that thinking?
For Houston to survive and advance, someone in the rotation is going to have to level up in McCullers' absence. It certainly hasn't happened so far.
3. Kiké Hernández stayed hot
The Red Sox's jack-of-several-trades (and former Astros draftee), Kiké Hernández, came into Game 2 with a 2021 postseason OPS of 1.644, which is an absurdly high figure. He homered twice in Game 1, and then his third homer of the series came in the fourth inning on Saturday:
That occasioned a furtherance of the postseason history he's already been making:
And there's also this:
Kiké Hernández is the first Red Sox player to hit 5 HR in a 5-game span in the Postseason.— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) October 16, 2021
After his 2-for-4 effort in Game 2, Hernández is now 16 for 32 in the 2021 postseason.
4. It's now basically a best-of-five series
Tied 1-1, this ALCS is now a sprint to three more wins with as many as five games to play. Given that Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary) will be at Fenway, the Red Sox now have home-field advantage in said best-of-five quasi-series. Of note is that the Red Sox this season are 52-32 in home games, counting the playoffs. The Astros in 2021 road games are 45-38, also counting the playoffs.
Game 3 is scheduled for Monday night. José Urquidy will go for Houston, and the Red Sox have yet to announce a starter.