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The Boston Red Sox evened the ALCS at 1-1 by defeating the Houston Astros 7-5 in Game 2 at Fenway Park on Sunday night, becoming the on Gerrit Cole. Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the decisive blow with a two-out, bases-loaded double in the third inning, and Mookie Betts accounted for two late insurance run by scoring on a passed ball in the seventh and then doubling home Rafael Devers in the eighth.
Boston starter David Price was not at his best, but the Red Sox bullpen shut Houston down in the middle and late innings. For the Astros, it was their first loss of the 2018 postseason.
Here's what you need to know about Game 2.
The Boston bullpen came through
The Red Sox's bullpen was expected to be a weak spot in this series, and indeed that's how things looked in Game 1. In Game 2, however, the Boston relief corps made the big difference. In all, three Boston relievers -- Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and Rick Porcello -- combined to shut out the Astros and keep them hitless for 4 1/3 innings. Closer Craig Kimbrel earned the save, but he did allow a run in the ninth and showed signs of ongoing command issues. Coming into Game 2, the Astros in the 2018 postseason had outscored their opponents 18-1 (!) from the seventh inning onward. Red Sox relievers, though, would have none of that on Sunday night.
Price struggled again
You know about Price's postseason reputation. Even though he's authored a number of playoff starts that range from adequate to downright good, there's no denying the overall numbers -- 5.54 postseason ERA after his Game 2 start and a 10.06 postseason ERA as a member of the Red Sox.
As you've probably already figured out, Price didn't do anything to reverse the narrative on Sunday night ...
All four of those runs he allowed came with two outs. That he started and lasted just 4 2/3 innings means that Price wasn't eligible for the win. That brings us to this ...
Whatever happens in this game from here on out, the one thing that won't happen is: WP - Price.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 15, 2018
11 consecutive postseason starts without a win ties the record for any stretch of postseason GS. The others with 11: Tim Hudson and Al Leiter.
In large measure, Price's Game 2 struggles from a lack of command of/confidence in his secondary pitches. If this series goes to a sixth game, the Price will be lined up for one more shot at playoff redemption.
Cole wasn't his usual self
Houston's Game 2 starter ran into some trouble in the first frame. Leadoff man Betts crushed a ringing double, and then Andrew Benintendi drove him with a single. J.D. Martinez lined out to second, and then Xander Bogaerts reached on an error by Cole. Steve Pearce walked, and Devers notched an RBI single. Cole escaped the inning thanks to an Ian Kinsler strikeout and a Bradley groundout. However, the Sox put two runs on the board, and Boston led for the first time in the 2018 ALCS.
Speaking of all that ...
Gerrit Cole never allowed more than 2 hits in the 1st inning during any game in reg season— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 14, 2018
Cole was of course outstanding during the regular season, but he wasn't entirely unfamiliar with first-inning fits and starts ...
Gerrit Cole this season:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 14, 2018
1st inning ERA: 3.66
All other innings: 2.73
Cole ran into trouble again in the third, thanks in part to Bradley (more on that below). He settled down, but in the end Cole as noted wound up allowing five runs (four earned) for the first time this season. The Boston offense during the regular season was the AL's best against right-handed pitching, and Cole learned that on Sunday night in Fenway.
The Astros made postseason homer history
In the third inning, Marwin Gonzalez cleared the Monster off David Price ...
That was skied and went 397 feet -- more than enough to clear Fenway's famous left-field wall (and Gonzalez basically hit it off the handle). That was also a history-making home run for Gonzalez's squadron ...
Indeed, the last time the Astros failed to go deep in a playoff game was Game 5 of last year's ALCS against the Yankees.
Springer keeps producing in the playoffs
OK, it wasn't exactly an authoritative double (it was pretty darn lucky), but Houston's George Springer tied it up with this clutch two-out knock in the top of the second ...
Springer came into Game 2 with a career slash line of .295/.383/.625 with 10 home runs in 28 games (a span that includes his winning the World Series MVP last year). The hit you see above also gives Springer an 11-game postseason hit streak, which breaks the franchise record of 10, which had been shared by Springer and Lance Berkman. Springer added another double in the ninth inning of Game 2.
JBJ came through
When Bradley came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the third, the Red Sox trailed 4-2 and, per basic win expectancy, had just a 36.9 percent of winning Game 2. Then he turned around a pitch from Cole that he typically doesn't handle ...
Oh, and the quirks of Fenway perhaps aided that go-ahead run in coming around to score ...
By the time Bradley wheeled into second, the Sox had a 64.8 percent chance of winning Game 2.
It's now in essence a best-of-five series
This best-of-seven clash is now tied 1-1, which means it's basically a best-of-five series to determine who wins the pennant. By winning a game in Boston, the Astros have seized home-field advantage the rest of the way, but the Red Sox are alive in a big way after beating Cole on Sunday night.
So what does history say? In best-of-sevens tied 1-1, the team that begins the series at home -- the Red Sox in this case -- goes on to win the series in question 55 percent of the time. The defending champs, though, may have something to say about that.
Now the series shifts to Houston's Minute Maid Park for Games 3-5. Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 16, with first pitch at 5:09 p.m. ET. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is expected to go for the visiting Red Sox (Rick Porcello pitched in relief in Game 2), while the host Astros are likely to counter with lefty Dallas Keuchel. Eovaldi is coming off a gem against the Yankees in the ALDS, while Keuchel pitched solidly in his ALDS start against Cleveland.
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