BOSTON -- The electricity that Mookie Betts has added all season long finally carried over into the postseason and Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered arguably the most important hit of his young career, marking two of the biggest reasons why the Red Sox are flying to Houston with an even American
BOSTON -- The electricity that Mookie Betts has added all season long finally carried over into the postseason and Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered arguably the most important hit of his young career, marking two of the biggest reasons why the Red Sox are flying to Houston with an even American League Championship Series.
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Betts' leadoff hit sparked a two-run first inning and Bradley took advantage of Fenway Park's quirks with a three-run double that restored Boston's lead in the third, a pair of pivotal knocks in a 7-5 Red Sox victory over the Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS. Betts was showered with chants of "M-V-P!" after adding a run-scoring double in the eighth.
"I just try to go out and do what I can to help the team win, try and be consistent in having some good at-bats and getting some timely hits and whatnot," Betts said. "But it's not just me. We've got 25 guys out here to win."
• Betts shimmies way to standout game
The Astros knew they'd need to proceed cautiously with Betts, who led the Majors with a .346 batting average and a .640 slugging percentage during the regular season but was 4-for-20 through five postseason games. Hours after Houston manager AJ Hinch called Betts "a ticking time bomb," Betts doubled to deep center and scored on an Andrew Benintendi single.
"I saw him smiling today, which is always good," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "When Mookie's smiling, good things are happening."
"He's Mookie Betts," Game 2 starter David Price added. "He's the MVP of our team. He's the MVP of baseball. So he means a great deal for us. But he knows if he's not swinging the bat as well as he thinks he should be, his defense in right field makes up for that."
Boston was 74-15 when scoring first during the regular season and is now 4-0 when scoring first in the postseason -- a welcome turn of events after the Red Sox were handcuffed by Justin Verlander and the Astros' bullpen in the Game 1 defeat.
"It's unfortunate that it happened in the playoffs, only getting [three hits in Game 1], but it's just one of those days," said Betts, who finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk in Game 2. "So I knew we've been really good at turning the page and there's no sense in stopping, and we went out and did our thing today."
Bradley had grounded out with the bases loaded to end the first inning. Given the same opportunity in the third, the center fielder delivered against Houston starter Gerrit Cole, who'd limited left-handed hitters to a .162 batting average and a .519 OPS during the regular season.
"The first at-bat, I think it kind of starts back with that," Bradley said. "I saw a lot of offspeed pitches with the bases loaded. Second at-bat, I got started off with a fastball and saw another offspeed pitch, and I was in a hitter's count. So I just wanted to not do too much, see a pitch in the zone that I could handle and I got it on the 2-1 count."
Rewarded for his opposite-field approach, Bradley connected for a drive that banged off the Green Monster, then made two bizarre bounces atop the padding that rests along the wall in foul territory in left field. Astros outfielder Marwin Gonzalez stumbled in pursuit of the ball as Xander Bogaerts, Steve Pearce and Rafael Devers were all waved home.
• Bradley's big double takes peculiar bounces
"I've never seen it ride the top of that little edge like that before. It's pretty unique," Bradley said.
Boston can only hope that those bounces keep going its way down in Texas.
"We're excited to get there," Bradley said. "We're ready to compete. I think everybody is going to enjoy themselves, and we're going to just keep continuing to take it one game at a time."
Bryan Hoch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.