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Grand beginning a perk for Boston

by The Associated Press | October 17, 2021 at 3:12 a.m.
Boston Red Sox's J.D. Martinez celebrates his grand slam against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

HOUSTON -- J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers helped the Red Sox have a grand old time in Houston.

Boston became the first team to slug two grand slams in a postseason game, with Martinez and Devers connecting in the first two innings of a 9-5 win over the Astros on Saturday that tied their AL Championship Series at one game apiece.

Game 3 is Monday night in Boston. It's the first of three consecutive home games for the Red Sox, back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2018 World Series after downing Houston in the ALCS.

Martinez made it 4-0 with his opposite-field shot off rookie Luis Garcia with two outs in the first. It was the first career playoff slam for the four-time All-Star, who began his career with the Astros.

"That situation, the pressure is on him, it's not on me to come through there," Martinez said. "It's the first inning. He has bases loaded. I'm trying to tell myself that, trying to stay relaxed and just looking for a pitch so I can just put a barrel on it."

Garcia exited with right knee discomfort after walking the first batter of the second inning. Jake Odorizzi took over, and shortly after a 13-minute delay while the right-hander warmed up on the field, Devers connected with one out for slam No. 2.

"J.D.'s swing was huge to get us on the board early, and then Raffy, same thing, another granny," red-hot teammate Kike Hernandez said. "Has that ever happened before?"

It has now.

Hernandez, who Boston Manager Alex Cora referred to Friday night as "en fuego" after a two-home run performance in Game 1, remained on fire Saturday. He had two hits, highlighted by a home run in the fourth inning.

Hernandez has been this postseason's hottest hitter, leading all players with 16 hits, five home runs and four doubles. His nine extra-base hits are also the most in these playoffs and tied a Red Sox postseason record with Mike Lowell (2007), Kevin Youkilis (2007) and David Ortiz (2004 & 2007). His five home runs are also tied for most in team history with Ortiz (2004, 2013) and Todd Walker (2003).

"The importance of the game is allowing me to stay focused and stay locked in," Hernandez said.

Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi permitted five hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings.

The Astros captured a 5-4 win in the series opener as they rallied behind home runs from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa before falling into the huge hole early in this one.

"That's a tough team," Cora said. "It's never comfortable with them because they're a swing away from getting back in the game."

The Red Sox were up 9-0 when Houston got on the board with an RBI double by Kyle Tucker with two outs in the fourth. The Astros cut the lead to 9-3 when Yuli Gurriel followed with single to right field that scored two more.

Gurriel and Jason Castro added home runs in the ninth off Darwinzon Hernandez before Ryan Brasier got the final out.

"At the end, it was a little too close for comfort, but we got it done," Hernández said.

Manager Dusty Baker isn't sure how long Garcia will be out, but he said that he'd been dealing with this issue "on and off" but didn't tell anyone about it.

"It wasn't bothering him enough not to pitch,'" Baker said. "We'll make a determination in a couple of days."

The injury to Garcia is another blow to a Houston team trying to reach the World Series for the second time in three years. The Astros are already reeling after an injury to staff ace Lance McCullers Jr. that kept him off the roster for this series.

They won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team's sign-stealing scandal.

When McCullers went out, Baker said the team would just have to "hit more" to absorb the loss. But now that the rotation is further depleted, it'll be an even taller task for this powerful lineup outgunning a Boston team whose offense has outpaced everyone this postseason.

So what is he asking from his offense now?

"Do some more," he said with a chuckle while shaking his head. "You don't have much choice, so we just have to do some more. That's all."

Odorizzi was left off the division series roster after a disappointing first season in Houston before getting a spot in this round after the injury to McCullers. He allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings Saturday in a performance that certainly isn't good news for a team that is running short on starters.

Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez celebrates with Rafael Devers after hitting a grand slam against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston.   (Kevin M. Cox/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)
Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez celebrates with Rafael Devers after hitting a grand slam against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (Kevin M. Cox/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)
Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers hits a grand slam home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers hits a grand slam home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers celebrates after a grand slam home run with J.D. Martinez against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers celebrates after a grand slam home run with J.D. Martinez against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Luis Garcia leaves the games with manager Dusty Baker Jr. against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Luis Garcia leaves the games with manager Dusty Baker Jr. against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers celebrates in the dugout after a grand slam home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Boston Red Sox's Rafael Devers celebrates in the dugout after a grand slam home run against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
The Boston Red Sox celebrate after their win against the Houston Astros in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The Boston Red Sox celebrate after their win against the Houston Astros in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, right, tags out Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts on the first out of a double play hit into by J.D. Martinez to end the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the baseball AL Championship Series, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (Kevin M. Cox/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, right, tags out Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts on the first out of a double play hit into by J.D. Martinez to end the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the baseball AL Championship Series, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (Kevin M. Cox/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)
Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker can't get a glove on a double by Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts during the ninth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Houston Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker can't get a glove on a double by Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts during the ninth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Series Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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