BOSTON — “Keep Dancing,” say the billboards and message boards in and around Fenway Park, imploring the Boston Red Sox to continue their drive to the World Series and a nominal nod to “Dancing On My Own,” a largely morose club track that’s become an unlikely clubhouse anthem.
It’s also wildly off base for Boston’s pursuit of the American League pennant. A slam dance is more like it.
When Kyle Schwarber punished a fastball from Houston Astros starter Jose Urquidy for a second-inning grand slam in Game 3 on Monday night, it re-wrote the record books yet again and gave the Red Sox undeniable control of this American League Championship Series.
Their 12-3 victory, which gives them a 2-1 ALCS lead, was made largely possible by Schwarber’s no-doubter into the right field seats, Boston’s third grand slam in two games.
That’s a playoff record, as were the two grand slams – in the first two innings, no less – hit by J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers in Game 2. Another mark of domination: The Red Sox took 9-0 leads in both Game 2 and 3.
Yet while the slam-tastic fun facts will make great media guide fodder and scoreboard trivia someday, they obscure, for the moment, the punishing run the Red Sox lineup is on.
Here’s a trivia answer for you: Shane McClanahan. The Tampa Bay Rays right-hander blanked the Boston Red Sox over five innings in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, a 5-0 shutout.
Since then? It’s been duck and cover.
MLB PLAYOFF SCHEDULE: Postseason march to World Series
Boston has won five of six since while averaging 8.5 runs per game, bookended by a 14-run outburst to get back in the ALDS and Monday’s 12-run uprising, which included the Schwarber slam, two-run homers from Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez and a what-the-heck opposite-field shot from Rafael Devers.
Meanwhile, over the course of two games, the Astros went from a vaunted nemesis that led this ALCS to a club, despite its 95-win pedigree, looking grossly overmatched.
With ace Lance McCullers Jr. out for this series, the Astros hoped Urquidy could provide a steadying influence – he’d started and won a crucial Game 4 in the 2019 World Series. But he could not meet the moment in a second inning in which he loaded the bases on two walks and then got no help from second baseman Jose Altuve, whose second crucial error of this ALCS turned a potential inning-ending double play into a 2-0 Red Sox lead.
Then, Schwarber. He began this playoff run with a key homer in the wild-card game against the Yankees and might have ended the Astros with his towering shot off Urquidy.
It was his third home run this postseason. Devers has four, Martinez three, Kiké Hernandez five, along with a preposterous 18 hits in 36 postseason at-bats.
Just for the heck of it, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez spun six innings of five-hit ball, the lone run coming on Kyle Tucker’s three-run homer. Rodriguez became just the third pitcher in these AL playoffs to even reach the sixth inning.
Heaven help the remaining three clubs if Boston’s pitching steadies itself. They’ve already proven unstoppable when the bats are in their hands.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Red Sox defeat Astros in ALCS Game 3 on Kyle Schwarber’s grand slam