Red Sox flex muscles, power past Rays 14-6 to even ALDS 1-1

Alex Verdugo of the Boston Red Sox pumps his fist after hitting a third-inning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game 2 of their AL Division Series matchup Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — J.D. Martinez hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in his return to the lineup and the Boston Red Sox backed Tanner Houck’s clutch relief effort with a franchise postseason record five home runs, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 14-6 Friday night to even their AL Division Series at a game each.

Kiké Hernandez had five of Boston’s 20 hits, including a homer and three doubles, becoming Boston’s first player with four extra-base hits in a postseason game.

Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo and Rafael Devers also connected for the Red Sox, who rallied for a blowout win after ace Chris Sale allowed a first-inning grand slam to Jordan Luplow and was pulled following just three outs.

Hernández’s leadoff homer in the fifth off Collin McHugh tied it before Martinez went deep against Matt Wisler (0-1) four batters later.

Houck (1-0) kept Boston in the game after Sale was rocked for five runs in the first inning. The rookie right-hander came out of the bullpen to start the second inning and allowed one run and two hits over five frames, retiring his first 11 batters before yielding a two-out single to Wander Franco in the fifth.

Ji-Man Choi entered as a defensive replacement for Luplow and had the only other hit off Houck, a two-out solo homer in the sixth. Houck struck out five.

Martinez had four hits after missing Tuesday night’s wild-card victory over the New York Yankees and Game 1 of the ALDS with a sprained left ankle. He was injured stumbling over second base while heading to the outfield during last weekend’s regular-season finale at Washington.

“It felt all right hitting,” Martinez said. “Didn’t feel good running, but felt all right hitting.”

Bogaerts, Verdugo and Hernández had solo shots to steady the staggering Red Sox, who lost the opener 5-0 Thursday night. Martinez then delivered the lead.

Devers’ two-run homer off Michael Wacha hiked Boston’s advantage to 11-6 in the eighth. Christian Vazquez had an RBI infield single in the ninth, which Hernández followed with a two-run single. Bogaerts, Verdugo and Vazquez had three hits each.

The Rays hadn’t allowed 14 runs in a game since Boston beat them 20-6 on Aug. 11.

Verdugo also stole an out in left field, leaning over the short wall in foul territory in the sixth inning to catch Nelson Cruz’s popup.

A night after Randy Arozarena became the first player in major league history to homer and steal home in a postseason game, the Rays got off to another fast start that whipped a yellow towel-waving crowd of 37,616 — up from 27,419 for Game 1 — into a frenzy.

Rays rookie left-hander Shane Baz became the second pitcher in big league history to start a playoff game with three or fewer career regular-season appearances. Matt Moore was the other, doing it with the Rays in Game 1 of the 2011 ALDS at Texas.

In using Baz and Game 1 winner Shane McClanahan to begin the series, AL East-winning Tampa Bay joined Oakland as the only teams to start rookie pitchers in the first two games of a playoff series. The Athletics began the 2012 ALDS at Detroit with Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone.

Boston, meanwhile, has only gotten 2 1/3 innings combined out of its starting pitchers through two games. Sale, who returned from Tommy John surgery in August to make nine starts down the stretch, was pulled after giving up five runs and four hits in the first inning. That followed an abbreviated outing by Eduardo Rodriguez on Thursday.

Luplow’s grand slam was the sixth homer Sale has allowed in 26 career postseason innings.

ASTROS 2, WHITE SOX 0

HOUSTON — Carlos Correa and the Astros are relentless at the plate and in the field.

That’s why they are so tough to beat in the playoffs.

Correa hit a two-run double during Houston’s five-run seventh inning, and the Astros beat the White Sox for a 2-0 lead in their AL Division Series.

Kyle Tucker homered and drove in three runs for the Astros, who moved within one win of their fifth straight appearance in the AL Championship Series. Alex Bregman had two hits and scored twice, and Jose Altuve made a couple of big plays.

Game 3 of the best-of-five series is Sunday night in Chicago.

The Astros grabbed the lead for good on Yordan Alvarez’s tiebreaking RBI single off Aaron Bummer (0-1) with one out in the seventh. Craig Kimbrel then took over and retired Yuli Gurriel before Correa’s drive to right sailed just past a sprinting Leury García.

Correa screamed and gestured to the crowd to yell with him as he reached second. The star shortstop is eligible for free agency after this season, and it’s going to be quite costly for the AL West champion Astros to keep him.

Tucker then punctuated the inning with his drive to the seats in left, lifting Houston to a 9-4 lead.

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