BOSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve hit a tying home run in the eighth inning and the Houston offense awakened with seven runs in the ninth on Tuesday night as the Astros came back to beat the Boston Red Sox 9-2, evening the AL Championship Series at two games apiece.
Six outs from falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and facing a Game 5 in Fenway Park — where Boston hadn’t lost all postseason — the AL West champions instead guaranteed themselves at least one game back in Houston.
“Now it’s down to a three-game series with two games at home,” Altuve said.
In a series that had been dominated by offense — especially Boston’s — the teams traded first-inning homers and then both pitching staffs put up six straight zeros on the Fenway scoreboard before Altuve’s leadoff shot in the eighth.
Carlos Correa doubled and scored the go-ahead run on Jason Castro’s two-out single in the ninth. But that was just the beginning for Houston, which had seen Boston bully its pitchers for 10 homers in the series, including a record-setting three grand slams that turned Games 2 and 3 into routs.
“That’s what they’ve been doing to us this whole series,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re capable of doing that as well.”
After Alex Bregman hit a solo homer into the Green Monster seats in the first, Xander Bogaerts topped it with a towering, two-run drive onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom half to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Then, the pitchers took over.
It was still 2-1 when Altuve homered against Garrett Whitlock. Game 2 winner Nathan Eovaldi, making his first relief appearance since he was coming back from an injury in 2019, came on for the ninth and gave up Correa’s leadoff double.
With two outs and two on, Castro singled in Correa to give Houston the lead.
And the Astros just kept on scoring.
Michael Brantley hit a three-run double off Martín Pérez. Yordan Alvarez added an RBI single. Pérez’s throwing error on Correa’s infield single allowed a run to score, and Kyle Tucker singled in another run.
“We knew with this team that you’re playing, we wanted to pad the lead,” Baker said. “And pad the lead we did.”
The Red Sox thought they were out of the inning when Eovaldi’s 1-2 breaking ball appeared to catch the plate for strike three on Castro, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
“Yeah, a lot of people thought it was a strike,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “It was a good game until the end, right? We were one pitch away from ending that inning, and it didn’t happen, and then they scored seven.”
Houston has scored 36 runs with two outs in the postseason, including 18 of its 22 in this series
The Red Sox, who were the first team in major league history to have double digits in hits six straight times in a single postseason, had just five on Tuesday — two of them when trailing by seven in the ninth.
Eovaldi took the loss, allowing four runs while getting just two outs. Kendall Graveman, the fifth Houston pitcher, threw two scoreless innings for the win, and the Astros had special praise for Cristian Javier, who pitched three scoreless innings to get them through five as Houston’s bullpen delivered 7 2/3 shutout innings.
“What the relievers did today was amazing,” Altuve said.
Bogaerts followed Bregman’s 354-foot homer into the Green Monster seats in the top of the first with a 403-foot shot in the bottom half that cleared the Wall, the seats and the billboards above them.
Nick Pivetta allowed just one more hit after Bregman’s homer before leaving with a 2-1 lead through five innings.
It was the third straight game the Red Sox got five or more innings from a starter, and the third straight that the Houston starter didn’t make it out of the second inning; Zack Greinke got just four outs on Tuesday.
Pivetta was charged with one run on two hits and two walks, striking out three. He got Altuve to end the fifth on a hard grounder to Rafael Devers at third. First baseman Kyle Schwarber made a nice play to scoop the throw; replays showed he pulled his foot off the bag, but the Astros did not challenge the call.
HOME RUN HISTORY
Altuve has 21 career postseason home runs, breaking a tie with Derek Jeter for third-most in baseball history. Manny Ramirez is the leader with 29, and Bernie Williams hit 22.
COMING IN HOT
Cora had to be pulled back by third base coach Carlos Febles after J.D. Martinez was called out on strikes for the second out of the third inning.
With Alex Verdugo stealing second on the 3-2 pitch, umpire Laz Diaz called Martinez out on a pitch that appeared to be off the plate. Martinez said a few words, then Cora came out of the dugout and Febles and on-deck hitter Christian Vázquez held him back.
Baker also came out, apparently to point out Martinez had interfered with catcher Martín Maldonado as he tried to throw out Verdugo. Diaz left Verdugo at second, and Hunter Renfroe struck out to end the inning.
Astros: CF Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in the Division Series clincher, was originally listed in the starting lineup but “wasn’t quite ready yet,” Baker said. Chas McCormick started in center instead.
Red Sox: Schwarber appeared to tweak his left hamstring on a swing in the fourth inning. He limped out a groundout and remained in the game.
Game 5 is Wednesday at 5:08 p.m. Chris Sale will start for the Red Sox after allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in Game 1. Framber Valdez goes for Houston. He gave up two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings during the series opener.