Sox Slam Bullpen
Boston Takes 2-1 ALCS Lead

Osuna watches Game 3 fly away
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
In what might be Dallas Keuchel's last game in an Astros uniform, the lefthander gave up two early runs and pitched from behind for the first five innings of Tuesday's important Game 3 of the ALCS. Houston tied it in the fifth but Boston quickly retook the lead then gave the Astros a taste of their own medicine with a five-run eighth than deflated much of the partisan crowd of 43,102 as the Red Sox gave an 8-2 pounding to the defending champions and seized a 2-1 lead in the series.

The pending free agent gave up three hits to the first three batters he faced, including an RBI double by former Astro J.D. Martinez. Xander Bogaerts bounced out to plate their second run for a 2-0 start.

The sputtering Astro hitters got one run back when Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman singled off native-born Nathan Eovaldi with Marwin Gonzalez later delivering a base hit to right to score Altuve.

Scoring opportunities withered from both teams after this. In the third, Tony Kemp made a leaping grab against the left field scoreboard to prevent more damage.

Altuve and Bregman combined again to score in the fifth to tie the game at two apiece. This time, it was Bregman with a ground rule double to left that brought Altuve home.

Out went Keuchel and in came disaster.

On the second pitch from Joe Smith, former Astro Steve Pearce cracked a homer just inside the left field foul pole to put Boston back on top. Tony Sipp and Ryan Pressly had relative success keeping the deficit to one.

In the eighth, however, closer Roberto Osuna allowed a pair of hits and then a pair of hit batters to give the Bosox a gift run. This was followed by Jackie Bradley Jr. teeing up an Osuna fastball and sending it into the right field stands for a clinching grand slam homer. Osuna was the guy the Astros acquired to help them forget Ken Giles, by the way.

That made it 8-2 Boston, which was the eventual final score. Now the Astros will need to win the next two contests at home or face the task of sweeping the final two games in Boston to return to the World Series.

Wednesday's Game 4 will feature a duel of righthanders. Charlie Morton (15-3) will need to hold serve for the Astros as he faces former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (17-7) in a 7:39 p.m. start. Porcello is 2-1 lifetime against the Astros in five starts but with a 5.12 ERA.

From here on in, A.J. Hinch will need to hand the ball to the pitchers with the hot hands to get through this ALCS. The bats will need to wake up the way they did against Cleveland. The Astros were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday. Their streak of consecutive postseason games with a home run also ended.

- Bob Hulsey