BOSTON — David Price didn’t pick up that elusive first career postseason victory as a starter. But no offense to the lefthander, that wasn’t the first priority for the Red Sox on Sunday night.
It was avoiding an 0-2 deficit heading back to Houston in this American League Championship Series, and the Red Sox reached their goal with a 7-5 victory over the Astros. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.
“Tonight was a big game,” said Matt Barnes, who relieved Price with two on and two out in the fifth and struck out Marwin Gonzalez. “Going back to Houston down 2-0 [would have been] tough. The fact we could even it out and take the momentum with us, it’s definitely big.”
Closer Craig Kimbrel made Red Sox Nation nervous again — as he did in Game 4 of the Division Series against the Yankees — allowing a run in the ninth on Jose Altuve’s two-out single. Alex Bregman sent a shiver through Fenway Park with a high fly to the warning track in left that Andrew Benintendi caught in front of the Green Monster, earning Kimbrel a shaky save.
“I’m tired of giving up runs,” he said with a smile. “But it’s good to get the win.”
Price, 0-9 in 10 postseason starts with a 6.03 ERA coming in, was far from electric on another cool night at Fenway. But he didn’t take his team out of the game early, as he did in ALDS Game 2 against the Yankees, when he lasted 1 2⁄3 innings. This time Price allowed four runs, five hits and four walks in 4 2⁄3 innings.
Price walked two in the fifth. With two outs and Gonzalez — whose two-run homer in the third gave Houston a 4-2 lead — coming to the plate, Alex Cora called for Barnes. The righthander struck out Gonzalez on four pitches to end the threat, the start of a good night from a bullpen that has been better than expected in the postseason (with Kimbrel being the exception).
“They’ve got good arms down there,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s just a matter of them executing.”
Barnes threw a scoreless 1 1⁄3 innings, Ryan Brasier added a scoreless inning, and so did Rick Porcello, a starter whom Cora summoned for an inning, as he did in the ALDS.
The Red Sox grabbed a 5-4 lead in the third on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s three-run double off Gerrit Cole, a skied fly ball that grazed the Monster.
They added a run in the seventh against Lance McCullers Jr. on a walk, a wild pitch and two passed balls to make it 6-4. Mookie Betts’ RBI double in the eighth made it 7-4.
Cole was coming off an ALDS Game 2 start against the Indians in which he allowed one run in seven innings and struck out 12. He was not sharp Sunday, allowing five runs (four earned), six hits and two walks in six innings. The righthander did recover well after Bradley’s go-ahead double, retiring the final 10 he faced.
“The line’s going to indicate a little bit tougher [night] than he pitched,” Hinch said. “I thought he found it at the end.”
Betts led off the first with a double and scored on Benintendi’s single. Xander Bogaerts followed with a trickler back to Cole, who fired wildly to first for an error. Steve Pearce walked on four pitches to load the bases for Rafael Devers, whose single to left made it 2-0.
George Springer, last year’s World Series MVP, fisted a fastball down the rightfield line for a two-run double in the second that tied it at 2.
Gonzalez’s homer momentarily quieted the fans. They quickly got back into it on Bradley’s go-ahead double and stayed that way for the rest of the bounce-back night for Boston.
“We’ve been really good at turning the page,” Betts said. “And we went out and did our thing today.”
Notes & quotes: Chris Sale, who started Game 1, was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital on Sunday afternoon after reporting “a stomach illness,” the Red Sox announced. They said Sale would be kept overnight for evaluation . . . Bregman walked three times, giving him 10 in five postseason games . . . Gonzalez’s homer made it 14 straight postseason games with a home run for Houston, breaking the record of 13 set by the 2001-03 Astros.