They were the kids with potential in Portland.

Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers all starred at Hadlock Field for the Portland Sea Dogs.

They’ve been on the bigger stage at Fenway for some time.

And now, when the spotlight is at its brightest, the trio shined for the Boston Red Sox in their 7-5 win over Houston, evening their AL Championship Series at 1-1.

Bradley showed his improved approach at the plate, doubling in three runs in the third, giving Boston a lead it would not yield.

Betts, the American League MVP candidate who has struggled this postseason, doubled twice, scored two runs and knocked in another.

“I saw Mookie smiling (during the game),” Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said. “When Mookie is smiling, good things are happening.”

Devers, who had been benched in favor of veteran Eduardo Nunez, got the start at third and will likely stay there. He went 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI while making superb plays at third base.

This was a night of high drama at Fenway, fueled by the presence of starting pitcher David Price, winless in his history of postseason starts.

Price is still winless, but that was hardly the storyline from Sunday night.

“He gave us a chance to win,” Cora said. “He threw the ball well, actually. Good velocity. Started mixing in his change-up later in the outing.”

Price pitched only 4 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs – “not the line I dreamed of having tonight,” he said.

When Price left, Boston led 5-4, and the Fenway crowd stood, applauding.

“It was definitely appreciated,” Price said.

Houston starter Gerrit Cole lasted six innings but took the loss. Cole came out with his 97 mph fastballand Boston pounced. Betts worked a 3-1 count and clocked a fastball off the center-field wall for a lead-off double.

For Betts, who was batting .200 in the postseason, his launch was a good sign.

“I don’t think he’s pressing,” Cora said before the game. “I think he’s just not hitting the ball in the air. … Hopefully he can make an adjustment, hit a few in the air.”

Houston Manager A.J. Hinch called Betts “a ticking time bomb, (ready) to do some damage.”

He did.

Andrew Benintendi followed Betts and swung at the next pitch, singling Betts home.

“Swinging at fastballs in the zone,” Cora said. “We did a good job of attacking him right away.”

After Cole made a throwing error and Steve Pearce walked, Devers came up.

Cole quickly went up 0-2. Devers took a ball in the dirt, then stayed off a 99 mph inside fastball just off the plate. Devers then went the other way with another 99 mph fastball, singling to left field, scoring Benintendi for a 2-0 lead.

Putting Devers in the lineup worked. Cora’s other move did not – replacing Brock Holt with Ian Kinsler at second base. Kinsler – 2 for 25 against Cole – followed Devers and struck out. Bradley grounded out.

That squander was huge. Houston scored two in the second. With two outs and two runners on, Price showed that his playoff problems can sometimes be bad luck. He jammed George Springer with an inside fastball, and Springer fisted a broken-bat double to shallow right field, scoring two.

In the third inning, with one on and two out, Price’s trouble this time was not luck but location. He could not put away Marwin Gonzalez and offered a fastball inside to Gonzalez’s wheelhouse. He crushed it over the Monster for a 4-2 lead.

One of the issues with Price was his pitch selection. He relied on his fastball (90-92) and cut fastball (88-90), and threw few change-ups. Price said the absence of change-ups “was a feel thing,” although he began using them more in the fourth and fifth innings.

Meanwhile, Boston took one more run at Cole, in the third inning.

With one out, Bogaerts singled and Pearce doubled. With Kinsler on deck, Cole pitched around Devers with a four-pitch walk. Kinsler struck out on three pitches, and Bradley came up again with the bases loaded and two outs.

“I just wanted to not do too much and see a pitch in the zone that I could handle,” Bradley said.

Bradley got ahead 2-0 and swung through a fastball. Cole came again with a heater at 98 mph.

There was a time when Bradley would try to pull such a pitch, roll over and ground out.

But Bradley went the other way this time and sent a fly ball down the left-field line, off the wall, for three RBI and a 5-4 lead.

In the seventh, Betts walked and came around on a wild pitch and two passed balls. Betts doubled in a run in the eighth.

“I just want to help the team win,” Betts said.

When Betts is helping, the Red Sox usually do.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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