How it happened: A closer look at the Red Sox’ extra-innings victory in Game 3 of the ALDS - The Boston Globe

by 24USATVOct. 11, 2021, 2 a.m. 17
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Vázquez drilled the first pitch he saw from off Rays reliever Luis Patiño in the 13th inning to the top of the Green Monster. Hunter Renfroe, who walked, also scored.

The Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series, with Game 4 on Monday at Fenway Park.

Christian Vázquez hit a two-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to lift the Red Sox over the Rays, 6-4, in Game 3 of their American League Division Series on Sunday.

“I was watching all of the at-bat before me and knew he was throwing a lot of fastballs, he’s got a heavy fastball. I was ready,” Vázquez said in a postgame interview on Fox.

Nick Pivetta pitched four innings for the win. Pivetta had been scheduled to start Game 4, but the Red Sox will now have to make other arrangements.

“It was electric, all the pitches. He likes to compete. He’s a warrior on the mound. So he gave it his all to win this game and he deserved it,” said Vázquez, who replaced starting catcher Kevin Plawecki in the sixth inning.

Boston survived a scare in the top of the 13th inning. Kevin Keirmaier’s shot to right-center bounced off the top of the wall, then bounced off right fielder Hunter Renfroe and into the bullpen for a ground-rule double. That took a run off the board – Yandy Diaz was racing around the bases on the play – and then Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino to end the threat.

“This is October man, everything can matter here, everything can happen and we play for this, this moment. We’re very happy with it,” Vázquez said.

The Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the third inning, and increased it to 4-2 in the fifth.

Tampa Bay rallied for two runs in the eighth to tie the score at 4-4. Wander Franco homered, and Randy Arozarena doubled to drive in the tying run.

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Below are Globe reporter Alex Speier’s commentary and statistical observations posted throughout the game. Click here to refresh.

In the top of the 13th inning, Kevin Keirmaier’s shot to right-center bounced off the top of the wall, then bounced off right fielder Hunter Renfroe and into the bullpen for a ground-rule double. That took a run off the board – Yandy Diaz was racing around the bases on the play – and then Nick Pivetta struck out Mike Zunino to end the threat.

It remains tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the 13th.

Red Sox righty Nick Pivetta followed a leadoff walk by striking out three straight Rays to close out the scoreless 11th. After his curveball froze Jordan Luplow on his final pitch of the inning – and his 39th over two scoreless innings – Pivetta erupted as he marched off the mound, shaking as he unleashed a primal scream. He is the embodiment of the incredible mix of adrenaline and exhaustion that is October baseball.

Pivetta is putting on an impressive performance out of the bullpen - three scoreless innings thus far, with strikeouts of five of the last six batters he’s faced. He is pitching with completely unmasked emotions at full throttle.

After 12 innings, it remains tied at 4-4.

The crowd remains on its feet for every pitch. These are likely the most locked-in crowds for extra-inning playoff games at Fenway since 2003-04.

The Red Sox put the potential winning run on base in the form of Kyle Schwarber, but Kiké Hernández struck out and Rafael Devers grounded out in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings with the score tied, 4-4.

Righthander Nick Pivetta is on the mound for the Red Sox. Remember: No runner on second to start the inning in extra-inning games in the playoffs. Also, the Sox will need to figure out their Game 4 starter.

The Rays have already emptied most of their bench, meaning that unless Rays manager Kevin Cash uses his last bench option (switch-hitter Francisco Mejia), Pivetta enters to face four straight righties: Margot, Cruz, Diaz, and Arozarena.

Red Sox righthander Nick Pivetta is warming in the bottom of the ninth. If the game goes to extra innings, the Red Sox will be going to Plan B for their starting pitcher for Game 4.

On to the ninth — 7:33 p.m.

The Red Sox’ record this year when tied after 8 innings: 8-6.

The Rays’ record this year when tied after 8 innings: 8-17.

With a runner on third and one out, Red Sox reliever Hansel Robles worked through an eight-pitch at-bat against Yandy Diaz, striking out the corner infielder on an elevated 98 m.p.h. fastball. But Randy Arozarena, as he tends to do in October, delivered a critical hit, lining a double to center and past a diving Kiké Hernández to tie the score, 4-4. Thus ended the night for Robles, with Garrett Whitlock entering with Arozarena on second and two outs.

Robles, who was likely out of the game anyway, walked off the field with Sox trainer Brad Pearson.

The Rays put the tying run aboard when Austin Meadows doubled and moved to third on a fielder’s choice. Manuel Margot replaced Meadows on the bases, and he scored on Arozarena’s hit to left-center to make it 4-4.

Wander Franco led off the eighth with an opposite-field homer off of Hansel Robles – the first run allowed by the reliever since August – and Austin Meadows followed by banging a double off the Wall in left-center. The Rays finished second to the Sox in comeback victories this year. The rest of the game, with the Sox clinging to a 4-3 lead, is likely to be spent on a tightrope for the Boston bullpen.

Righthander Ryan Brasier entered the last weeks of September as a non-factor. The Sox optioned him to Triple-A Worcester – but summoned him anew when Garrett Whitlock landed on the injured list.

Brasier has emerged as the team’s foremost relief weapon since his return. After he struck out the side on 13 pitches in Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the ALDS, he entered with a man on and two outs in the sixth inning of Game 3. He retired Randy Arozarena to end the sixth, then made quick work of Kevin Kiermaier (strikeout on a slider) and Mike Zunino (groundout) to open the seventh.

Manager Alex Cora replaced Brasier with lefthander Austin Davis. Brasier finished his outing having thrown 11 pitches – all strikes.

The Red Sox remain on top, 4-2, after six full innings.

The Red Sox bullpen has nine outs to go. Relief pitcher Ryan Brasier seems a good candidate to return to the mound for the seventh – at least for Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino. Manager Alex Cora could then stick with him or turn to a lefty against Joey Wendle (though doing so might mean a matchup with Jordan Luplow).

While the Sox carry a 4-2 lead into the top of the seventh, the lead is far from secure. The Rays led MLB with 285 runs (an average of 1.8 per game) from the seventh through ninth innings this year – a total that was the highest in MLB by any AL team since 2009. That total is all the more remarkable given that the Rays rarely hit in the ninth inning at home given their dominance at the Trop.

Kiké Hernández belted a towering homer to open the bottom of the fifth – a 424-footer with an exit velocity of 110 m.p.h. He’s now one of 27 players with three career postseason games of at least three hits and a homer.

The exit velocity of the homer was the third highest on any homer – regular season or playoffs – of Hernández’s career. It gave the Red Sox a 4-2 lead.

Nate Eovaldi, after the two-run homer by Meadows in the first, dominated the Rays. The subsequent 14 batters went 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts and a walk.

But Rays No. 9 hitter Joey Wendle lined a one-out double to the opposite field, putting the tying run on second. Entrusted with a chance to face the top of the Rays lineup for a third time in a pivotal situation, Eovaldi didn’t buckle. He retired Brandon Lowe on a liner to center, then got Wander Franco to ground a splitter to Kyle Schwarber at first for the last out of the inning.

The inning concluded with lefthander Josh Taylor warming behind Eovaldi. Had Franco reached, Taylor likely would have been summoned to face lefthander Austin Meadows (who homered in the first inning).

As it stands, Cora must decide between having a lefthander come in for the sixth – which would likely prompt a pinch-hitter and then a matchup against Nelson Cruz, destroyer of lefties – or letting Eovaldi or a righthanded reliever face Meadows.

Kyle Schwarber can laugh at himself. One inning after the learning-on-the-fly first baseman committed an error on a 3-1 flip, he had another chance when Ji-Man Choi led off the fourth with a bouncer to first. Schwarber successfully flipped to Nate Eovaldi covering the bag, then immediately raised his arms in Rocky-like triumph before dropping a fist pump and doffing his hat to receive the amused cheers of the crowd at Fenway.

Eovaldi added another strikeout in the fourth. He has eight.

He should be back on the mound for the fifth, though Sox manager Alex Cora is likely to have action behind him in the bullpen as Eovaldi is two batters from his third trip through the Tampa Bay lineup.

Three straight Red Sox singled to open the third inning against Tampa Bay’s Drew Rasmussen, with Kiké Hernández dropping a single to shallow center after Christian Arroyo led off the inning with a single and advanced to third when Kyle Schwarber ripped a single down the right field line.

Hernández (2-for-2 through three innings) is in a great place, swinging at strikes and ignoring pitches outside of the zone while going 7-for-8 in the last two games. But the inning was set up by Arroyo, who jumped on a first-pitch slider from Rasmussen to open the inning with a single up the middle.

Arroyo sat for most of the second half with an array of injuries, COVID, and with the Sox keeping Jose Iglesias in the lineup down the stretch. But with a compact swing and simple mechanics, his timing at the plate has looked sharp in his return to everyday duty for the postseason.

Rays manager Kevin Cash has seen enough of Rasmussen. He’s done after 2-plus innings, with lefty Josh Fleming in the game for Rafael Devers.

We are very much in the wheels-constantly-turning postseason format. After Devers greeted Fleming by grounding an RBI single up the middle to put the Sox up, 3-2, Fleming bounced back with a strikeout and grounder by Alex Verdugo. With runners on second and third and two outs, Kevin Cash made his second pitching change of the inning, targeting righthander Andrew Kittredge for J.D. Martinez.

Kittredge – summoned because Martinez has struggled all year with big velocity – attacked Martinez with hard stuff, striking him out on a 96-m.p.h. sinker. The Sox managed two runs on four hits in the third to take a 3-2 lead, but one wonders if they’ll rue a missed opportunity after opening the inning with four straight singles.

Kyle Schwarber’s inexperience at first base showed when he flipped a routine 3-1 ground ball well over Nate Eovaldi’s head to let Brandon Lowe reach to lead off the third inning on an E3 in front of the heart of the Rays order.

But Eovaldi induced a fly out from Austin Meadows and struck out Nelson Cruz to escape the inning. The Rays remain on top, 2-1.

Nate Eovaldi’s All-Star season was built around his defiance of the three-true outcomes realm. He did an outstanding job of limiting homers and walks while posting a good but not great strikeout rate.

That’s not who he’s been today. Through two innings, he’s faced nine hitters, striking out six, walking one, and allowing a homer. Only one batter (Wander Franco, who singled) has had something other than a “true” outcome.

That approach has led Eovaldi to throw 39 pitches through two innings. Eovaldi has recorded all six outs by strikeout for the first time in his career. No other pitcher since at least 2008 has opened a game with six strikeouts through two innings.

Red Sox leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber poked one atop the Green Monster to immediately cut the deficit to one, 2-1, in the bottom of the first inning.

It is the fourth time a Red Sox hitter has led off the first with a homer in the postseason, and the first since Dustin Pedroia in 2007 (World Series Game 1). The others were Johnny Damon (2004, World Series Game 4) and Patsy Dougherty (1903, World Series Game 2)

I can only imagine what it was like when Dougherty led off the bottom of the first of Game 2 of the 1903 World Series at the Huntington Ave. Grounds with an inside-the-park homer to put the Americans ahead of Pittsburg (sic).

The Red Sox got just the leadoff homer from Schwarber to cut the Rays’ lead to 2-1, but they had good at-bats against Drew Rasmussen, who got just one swing-and-miss among his 19 offerings. the score at the end of the first is subject to change.

Starting pitcher Nate Eovaldi started well, striking out Brandon Lowe, but then allowed a single to Wander Franco that was followed by a two-run home run by Austin Meadows. Meadows, a lefthanded batter, turned on a 97-m.p.h. first pitch and drilled a shot to right for a 2-0 Rays lead.

The good news for Nate Eovaldi in the first inning was that he featured an impressive pitch mix - he got six swings-and-misses (his most in the first inning of any game this year), with four on a nosediving curveball, while striking out three batters. The bad news for him is that he gave up a single to prodigy Wander Franco followed by a two-run missile of a homer by Austin Meadows. For the third straight game, the Sox will play from behind.

The largest ovations of the pregame introductions were for Jason Varitek, Alex Cora, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, and … Tanner Houck?
• Among the 33 pitchers who made multiple starts against the Red Sox this year, Drew Rasmussen’s 2.30 ERA against Boston was the fifth lowest.
• Eovaldi dominated Tampa Bay at Fenway this year. In three starts, he had an 0.86 ERA and held the Rays to a .129 average. The Sox won all three games.
• Eovaldi’s 1.63 postseason ERA is the eighth lowest of the Wild Card era (1995-present) by a pitcher who has thrown at least 25 playoff innings.
• Eovaldi has pitched in all four Red Sox Game 3s in the last two postseasons. In 2018, he was 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings in Game 3, with wins in the ALDS against the Yankees and the ALCS against the Astros, and a loss – in the most memorable of all of them – out of the bullpen against the Dodgers in the World Series.
• Eovaldi was the only starter in MLB this year to throw five different pitch types (four-seamer, curveball, slider, splitter, cutter) at least 10 percent of the time. His strength is not velocity – his fastball has little movement or deception – so much as it is having precise location at the top of the zone at high-90s speed to force early swing decisions, and then using his secondary pitches to disrupt timing.
• Tampa Bay’s Nelson Cruz has a 1.048 career OPS at Fenway, fifth highest of all time by a player with at least 200 PAs. Of the rest of the top 10, 8 of 9 are Hall of Famers.
• Boston’s Kyle Schwarber had a 1.216 OPS out of the leadoff spot this year, second highest in MLB history by a batter with at least 100 PAs batting first, behind only ... Bobby Higginson? (1.318 OPS in 1996 for the Tigers team that had the worst rotation in big league history.)

Boston led the majors with 47 come-from-behind victories during the regular season, and had another in Game 2. Tampa Bay ranked second with 46.

Should we expect more of the same today?

Sox manager Alex Cora said he “finally” got a pre-game text from Patriots coach Bill Belichick last week.

“That’s like the highlight of the year,” Cora said on Sunday.

In addition to Sox-Rays, the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros are facing off in the other AL Division Series at 8:07 p.m. Here’s the full postseason schedule.

Alex Speier can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.

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