BOSTON — It began, in concept, as a Yankees nightmare. In practice? No one’s suffering more in this American League Championship Series than the Astros.
It turns out the Yankees unleashed a beast with their AL wild-card loss here at Fenway Park, as the Red Sox, a clearly flawed ballclub, are getting crazy hot at the most sensible time. They smoked the Astros once again Monday night, 12-3, to capture Game 3 and jump out to a 2-1 lead, and the biggest question currently hovering over this matchup is whether the Astros possess enough pitching to simply make it through 18 more innings, the results be damned.
When Bosox trade-deadline acquisition Kyle Schwarber pummeled Jose Urquidy’s second-inning, 3-0 fastball into the right-field stands, it marked his club’s third grand slam in two games and propelled the home team to a 6-0 advantage, mimicking the Game 2 plotline that saw Boston crack grannies in both the first and second innings. Just to mix things up, Christian Arroyo followed with a mere two-run blast in the third, trailing a Christian Vazquez RBI single. And after Houston’s Kyle Tucker created a little noise in the fourth inning with a three-run homer off Red Sox starter and winner Eduardo Rodriguez, J.D. Martinez countered with another two-run shot in the sixth. To cap the night’s power display, a convincing argument that home runs win you postseason games, Rafael Devers slammed an opposite-field solo shot over the Green Monster in the eighth.
Urquidy lasted only 1 ²/₃ innings, allowing six runs (five earned), giving the Astros’ starting pitchers a collective ERA of 20.25 through three games. None of the trio — Framber Valdez (2 ²/₃ innings, three runs, two earned) in Game 1, Luis Garcia (one inning, five runs) and Urquidy — has notched as many as nine outs.
“It’s been different, but we’re here, and if you are here, then you’ve got a chance,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said before this game, as he addressed his team’s starting pitching woes. “And I get all these texts, ‘Oh, man,’ you know, people like talking doomsday, but we’re 1-1. Last year during these playoffs we were 0-3, you know what I mean? You got to look at it in its entirety and in reality.”
The Astros did lose the first three games of the 2020 ALCS to the Rays, and they rallied to win the next three, scaring the daylights out of Tampa Bay, before dropping Game 7. Those games, however, were close and well played. In these last two tilts, the Red Sox have outscored the Astros by a 21-8 margin.
Baker and his players will try to wake up from this nightmare in Tuesday night’s Game 4. And just in case Yankees fans found comfort in the suffering by one of their enemies, they could rest easy knowing that, as this game plodded into the later innings, a group of vocal Red Sox enthusiasts broke out into a “Yankees suck!” chant.