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Bullpen's stumble puts Astros in 2-1 ALCS hole

After Smith allows go-ahead HR in 6th, Osuna gives up 5 runs in 8th
October 16, 2018

HOUSTON -- A bullpen that was supposed to be a strength faltered badly. An offense which had been so potent at home in the postseason the last two years scuffled. And now the Astros find themselves two losses away from elimination.The Red Sox wrestled control of the American League Championship

HOUSTON -- A bullpen that was supposed to be a strength faltered badly. An offense which had been so potent at home in the postseason the last two years scuffled. And now the Astros find themselves two losses away from elimination.
The Red Sox wrestled control of the American League Championship Series away from the defending champs, getting a tiebreaking homer from Steve Pearce in the sixth inning and a grand slam from Jackie Bradley Jr. in the eighth to thump the Astros, 8-2, in Game 3 on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.
:: ALCS schedule and results ::
"There is no time to feel sorry, there is no time to panic," said Jose Altuve, who went 2-for-3 and scored both of the Astros' runs as the designated hitter. "There is just time tomorrow to come back and win the game."
Boston leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1, heading into Game 4 on Wednesday in Houston. In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that win Game 3 on the road to grab a 2-1 advantage have gone on to take the series 27 of 36 times (75 percent).
"I don't think we're going to roll over," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
Pearce, who played 21 games for the rebuilding Astros in 2012 before going on to play for every team in the AL East, clocked a 1-0 pitch from Houston reliever Joe Smith in the sixth and sailed it high over the left-field wall for a one-out homer to break a 2-2 tie. Hinch said he liked the matchup of Smith against right-handers.
"If you look where the pitch is, it's really hard to get the ball airborne and hit it as far as Pearce did," Hinch said.
Smith, appearing in a game for the first time since Sept. 29 (16 days off), said he was trying to throw a sinker down and away to Pearce. The pitch ended up being down and in, but it wasn't in the strike zone.
"It was a ball," he said. "He put a great swing on it. I don't know how he kept it fair. It was a good piece of hitting."

Things went from bad to worse for the Astros in the eighth, when closer Roberto Osuna allowed five runs while recording just two outs. He hit Mitch Moreland with a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run, and Bradley -- whose three-run double gave the Red Sox the lead for good in Game 2 -- provided the exclamation point with a grand slam to right for an 8-2 lead.
"You know what, that's a pitch I always get him out with," Osuna said. "He hit it today, but I mean, I will go there a hundred more times."

Osuna had a runner at first with two outs when Rafael Devers singled to right. Osuna clipped Brock Holt on the foot with a pitch -- Boston challenged and got the call overturned -- to load the bases for Moreland, who was hit by another pitch to force in a run. Three pitches later, Bradley turned on an inside fastball for the sixth grand slam in Red Sox playoff history.
"It's really a matter of he didn't finish at-bats as well as he normally does," Hinch said of Osuna. "Whether it's going to pitches or executing the pitch, execution was a little bit of a problem at the end of at-bats. And he lost a lot of those at-bats at a huge time of the game."

Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, whose first-inning struggles in the regular season are well-documented, allowed the first three batters of the game to reach, two of whom scored. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi singled, and J.D. Martinez shot an RBI double to right to score Betts. A groundout by Xander Bogaerts scored Benintendi for a 2-0 lead.
"That was just good pieces of hitting," Keuchel said. "I made the pitches I wanted to and just was unfortunate with the placement. There wasn't a single hard-hit ball in the first inning above 91 mph. That's just tough luck, but the kind of the damage they can put on you early."

The only offense for the Astros in six innings against Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi came on an RBI single in the first by Marwin Gonzalez and a game-tying RBI double in the fifth by Alex Bregman (2-for-3 with a walk), which scored Altuve from first base despite a sore knee. Houston is hitting .194 in the ALCS, including 6-for-25 with runners in scoring position.

"We definitely pride ourselves in two-out hitting, having traffic on the bases and driving in runs," Bregman said. "We didn't do a good enough job of that today, but I can guarantee you when everyone shows up at the ballpark tomorrow, we're going to have all the confidence in the world in each other and we'll compete and lay it on the line."
Astros' proven bats kept quiet in Game 3 loss
The Red Sox led, 2-1, in the third when Keuchel walked a pair with two outs but was bailed out by Tony Kemp, who made a terrific leaping catch against the wall in left field for the final out of the inning, saving at least one run. Keuchel sent down seven of the final eight batters he faced in finishing five innings.
Kemp makes amazing grab at wall in Game 3

"The outfielders noticed today they had a couple of windows open, so there's a little draft out in the outfield today so the ball was carrying a little different," Kemp said. "I thought the ball was going to end up at the warning track, but it kept carrying. I was able to find my bearings back there and put my hand back to the wall and made a pretty good catch. Just able to save some runs right there. It felt pretty good to hold the game close."
Verlander, Betts awestruck by Kemp's catch

Bregman's on-base percentage of .714 in the playoffs is second to Boston's David Ortiz (2007) for the highest in a team's first six games of a single postseason.

"There's no pouting around here. There's no panic around here. It's just get ready for tomorrow's game. We've done a really good job of being center-focused on what the next situation is. And we expect that out of our players that have been there. We encourage that when guys get over here. And at 7:39 tomorrow night, we'll be ready to play." -- Hinch

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.