HOUSTON -- Another swarm of relentless offense and another strong performance by a former Cy Young Award Winner overwhelmed the Red Sox and have the Astros on the verge of their first American League Championship Series.George Springer and Carlos Correa, both of whom were held hitless in Thursday's Game 1
HOUSTON -- Another swarm of relentless offense and another strong performance by a former Cy Young Award Winner overwhelmed the Red Sox and have the Astros on the verge of their first American League Championship Series.
George Springer and Carlos Correa, both of whom were held hitless in Thursday's Game 1 victory, walloped home runs to back 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball from Dallas Keuchel to send the Astros to an 8-2 win Friday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. Houston leads the best-of-five American League Division Series presented by Doosan, 2-0, heading into Sunday's Game 3 at Fenway Park.
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"It hasn't gotten us anywhere yet other than in a good position moving into Game 3," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We won't take anything for granted. This is a team that's very, very laser-focused on winning the series. You don't win the series with two wins -- you win it with three."
In the Division Series, teams that have won the first two games in the current 2-2-1 format have won the series 36 of 40 times.
"I think it all starts with the starting rotation," Correa said. "When you have two Cy Young winners in the front of your rotation, it gives you a lot of confidence, and we in the lineup know that a couple runs will be enough. So it's good to start with an early lead, and then [Justin] Verlander and Keuchel are going to do the rest."
Keuchel meandered through a 30-pitch second inning, allowing one run, before sending down 13 batters in a row. He was pulled with two outs in the sixth after issuing a walk to Hanley Ramirez and received a roaring ovation by the sellout crowd.
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"They had a good game plan early on, and that was to look over the plate and raise their eyesights, and I wasn't able to pull up the two-seam," Keuchel said. "So I just went to plan B, and that was go extreme -- extreme in with the cutter and slider -- and was able to get some early strikes, get ahead in the count, attack them and kind of put them back on their heels, and was fortunate enough to make an adjustment early enough before it was too late."
Correa, who became the first player in Astros history with multiple four-RBI games in the postseason, got Houston going with a two-run homer off Thomas Pomeranz in the first inning, and Springer made it 3-1 with a leadoff homer in the third. Jose Altuve added an RBI single later in the inning, chasing Pomeranz after he faced only 12 batters, allowing five hits.
"These guys are all coming out swinging and swinging at a lot of stuff, being very aggressive, and every time we've made a mistake, they've made us pay for it," said Pomeranz.
The Astros broke the game open with a four-run sixth inning that included a two-run double by Correa, who saw Altuve draw an intentional walk ahead of him for the second at-bat in a row. Evan Gattis' single off the left-field wall pushed the lead to 8-1.
"We're judged over 162 to get to this point, and we put up some pretty good numbers," Hinch said. "We have a number of guys that have contributed. So obviously you're seeing what's possible when we link things together and the hitters start to feed off of one another. We have a lot of guys that are putting up really good at-bats."
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On the brink of elimination, the Red Sox will try to come back from a 2-0 Division Series deficit for the third time in club history. Boston pulled it off previously in 1999 against the Indians and 2003 against the A's. In the history of Division Series play, seven teams have come back from that deficit in 56 attempts.
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"It's tough to be down, period," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We haven't played well yet, so we have to get back home and figure it out."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Astros strike first again: For the second game in a row, the Astros scored twice in the first inning. It was back-to-back homers by Alex Bregman and Altuve in Game 1, and Correa walloped a two-run homer with two outs in the first in Game 2 for a 2-0 lead. It was a familiar formula for the Astros, who outscored opponents in the first inning, 97-56, in the regular season.
"I think the one thing that we have seen in these first two games, it comes down to command and location within the strike zone. That showed to be the case again today," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Keuchel gets in a groove: Just as the Red Sox were creating some momentum, Keuchel shut it down. Chris Young doubled and scored in the second to cut the Houston lead to 2-1. With runners at first and second and one out, the Red Sox lineup turned over and Keuchel struck out Xander Bogaerts and Pedroia, beginning a stretch where he sent down 13 batters in a row.
"He collected himself and did a good job of getting a couple of punchouts at the top of the order," Hinch said. "Bogaerts and Pedroia are really tough, especially against left-handed pitching. He didn't unravel, which is the biggest moments of the game, or really the beginning of the game."
Mookie's drop opens floodgates: With runners at the corners and one out with Boston trailing by three, Addison Reed induced Bregman into a shallow flyout to right that wasn't going to be deep enough to be a sacrifice fly. Right fielder Mookie Betts made a nice running catch and positioned himself for a strong throw that would prevent Marwin Gonzalez from trying to score. But in a bad turn of events for the Red Sox, Betts dropped the ball on the transfer, and Gonzalez was able to score easily on the error. Houston quickly capitalized on the break by scoring three more runs in the inning to turn the game into a rout.
"Another run scored there, and momentum unfolded for the rest of it," said Betts. "I have to take full responsibility for that. Just trying to get it in. Just lost it. I'm not even sure how it happened. One of those things where I messed up, I owned up to it and there's nothing else I can really say about it."
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"Gotta win, we've gotta win. We've been in this situation last year. We didn't come through, but I feel like we have a good enough team to overcome that and to come through with the win. It starts by winning one game, and we go from there." -- Bogaerts
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve became just the sixth second baseman in MLB history to record at least two intentional walks in a postseason game. The other five: Daniel Murphy (2016), Roberto Alomar (1997), Joe Morgan (1976), Jackie Robinson (1952) and Tony Lazzeri (1937).
FROM THE TRAINERS' ROOM
It was not a good sight for the Red Sox when Betts flexed his left wrist while fouling off a pitch in the eighth. Betts had discomfort in his left wrist during the final week of the regular season. With the Red Sox trailing by such a large deficit, Farrell inserted Rajai Davis in for the bottom of the eighth. However, Betts says he will be fine to start Game 3.
Red Sox: Veteran right-hander Doug Fister takes the mound for the Red Sox as the series shifts to Fenway Park for Sunday's Game 3. Fister, who pitched for the Astros last season, has dazzled in the postseason during his career, going 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in eight starts. First pitch is set for 2:38 p.m. ET.
Astros: Hinch named Brad Peacock as the starter for Sunday's Game 3 at Fenway Park with a chance to eliminate the Red Sox. Peacock went 10-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 21 starts this season, striking out 135 batters in 111 2/3 innings.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.