BOSTON — They’ve gone from a maddening second-place team to a juggernaut,  punishment seemingly imminent as a well-earned walk gives way to a timely hit and then, of late, baseball’s ultimate prize. 

The Boston Red Sox, suddenly, cannot be stopped, with a tremendous run of slugging putting them two wins away from the World Series.

Kyle Schwarber struck out Jose Urquidy’s fastball in the second inning of Game 3 Monday night. It rewrote the records and put the Red Sox back in control of the American League Championship Series.

Their 12-3 victory, which gives them a 2-1 ALCS lead, was made largely possible by Schwarber’s no-doubter into the right field seats, Boston’s third grand slam in two games.

That’s a playoff record, as were the two grand slams – in the first two innings, no less – hit by J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers, Game 2. A further sign of dominance: Both Game 2 (Red Sox) and 3 were won by the Red Sox, who took a 9-0 lead.

However, while these slamtastic facts can make great media guide fodder, scoreboard trivia, or even media guides, they don’t cover the fact that the Red Sox are on a punishing run.

Here’s a trivia answer for you: Shane McClanahan. In Game 1, the Tampa Bay Rays’ right-hander, Shane McClanahan, defeated the Boston Red Sox in five innings. It was a 5-0 win.

Are you still here? It’s been duck and cover.

MLB PLAYOFF SCHEDULE:Afterseason march to World Series

Boston has won five of six since while averaging 8.5 runs per game, bookended by a 14-run outburst to get back in the ALDS and Monday’s 12-run uprising, which included the Schwarber slam, two-run homers from Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez with a Rafael Devers shot in the opposite field.

Fenway Park has become ecstatic since the defeat of the Yankees by the Wild-card Game, then a pair to win against the Rays, and Monday’s victory, have electrified the park. This is reminiscent of 2004 where the Yankees had been banished and the Yankees never expected them. 

It could be the entire house (37,603 people packed in Monday night) who are thrilled that the Pandemic is over. Yes, it’s an enviable relationship. Both the Red Sox and the fans crush each other, and they both want to keep going.

“These are moments that you are never going to forget as a player. Schwarber says that is what we are living for. Schwarber hit his third homerun this playoff season and raised his career playoff OPS up to.973. “When you get that first taste, that first experience, you want to keep coming. You crave more.

“It’s an addicting feeling, and especially in this place where it’s just rocking the whole time and it’s rowdy and they’re in tune to every single pitch, and every run matters.” 

In the meantime, in just two games the Astros turned from an imposing nemesis who once led the ALCS by a mere 1-0, to a team that, despite having 95 wins, looked grossly outmatched.

With ace Lance McCullers Jr. out for this series, the Astros hoped Urquidy could provide a steadying influence – he’d started and won a crucial Game 4 in the 2019 World Series. In the second inning, however, Urquidy failed to make the right move. He loaded the bases with two runners on and was then unable get any help from Jose Altuve. Jose Altuve’s second mistake in this ALCS transformed a potentially inning-ending double play into an inning-ending Red Sox victory.

Then, Schwarber. Schwarber began the playoffs by hitting a crucial homer against the Yankees. He might even have ended the Astros’ season with the towering hit off Urquidy.

Urquidy left after 1 1/3 innings. Game 1 starter FramberValdez had only 2 2/3 innings while Game 2 starter Luis Garcia lasted one. Astros manager Dusty Baker stated that his starters were “like Groundhog Day” or a “recurring nightmare”.

Maybe it’s the Red Sox. 

Kiké Hernandez has slugged five home runs in six postseason games, along with a preposterous 18 hits in 36 at-bats. Schwarber has been deep four times and Martinez, three. 

Schwarber said that while home runs can be easy to focus on, it is important to remember what happened before them. Schwarber said that it was an 11th-pitch appearance of Alex Verdugo at the plate that led to a home run. Urquidy and five other batters fell short by three runs. Schwarber had his fastball sinking from 95 mph to 93 in the first innings, before unleashing his vicious stroke. 

Cora states, “Offensively,” that this is “the best we’ve ever been all season.” 

Just for the heck of it, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez spun six innings of five-hit ball, the lone run coming on Kyle Tucker’s three-run homer. Rodriguez is the third AL playoffs pitcher to make it into the sixth.

Heaven help the remaining three clubs if Boston’s pitching steadies itself.

Cora says, “Today was the closest we have been to perfect games.”


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