The Red Sox did their best to lose this game before the second inning got underway. But a big offensive night against an Astros team that was as bad as advertised was enough to overcome the early troubles and secure the Red Sox a necessary win.
But oh, that first...
There have been more damaging innings played by the Red Sox this year, but it's hard to remember an uglier inning than the first was Tuesday night. After all, what could be uglier than a knuckleballer who can't find the zone throwing to a catcher who can't handle the knuckler? Either Ryan Lavarnway was having the most off night of his career behind the plate, or nobody had bothered to mention that, experience with Wright in Triple-A be damned, he couldn't catch the thing! Wright put men on base via walk or hit batsman, and Lavarnway let them advance all the way home with not one, two, or even three, but four passed balls in the bottom of the first. And that's without even mentioning an additional wild pitch and stolen base.
All told, before Steven Wright's one-inning start was over, the lowly Astros were up 3-0 with only one hit on the board. Ugly, pathetic, embarassing--you name the negative adjective, it fit that first inning.
Unfortunately, Brandon Workman was not much better coming out of the pen--quite possily because he was coming out of the pen given how he's performed as a starter.Just three batters into the second inning, he'd given up a two-run shot, leaving the Red Sox in a five-run hole.
But these were the Astros, meaning no hole is too deep to climb out of. And the Sox got started in the third. It would be Jacoby Ellsbury who got the Sox on the board, launching an outside fastball to deep right field to plate a pair of runs. The third-inning rally didn't end there, either, with Shane Victorino reaching base behind him and scoring on a long single from David Ortiz to make it 5-3.
The Astros would peg the Red Sox back in both the third and fourth innings, as Workman continued to leak runs, but apparently at some point between the fourth and fifth John Farrell got his team together in the dugout and started shouting "THE ASTROS" at them until they realized who they were up against and responded appropriately. Finally, in the fifth, the Red Sox started to look like the Red Sox, and oh boy did the Astros ever look like the Astros.
There was a fair bit of defensive ineptitude involved in Boston's fifth-inning rally, but the real Astros performance of the night went to manager Bo Porter. Because while Jordan Lyles allowed the first four baserunners of the frame to reach, Porter saw no need to lift his starter just yet. Sure, he would get the next two outs after a visit to the mound, but even after allowing a walk to Stephen Drew, with two men on and the Red Sox down just one run, Porter stuck with Lyles. And he rewarded him by surrendering a two-run go-ahead double to Ryan Lavarnway. Just like that, 8-7.
I say "rewarded" because, frankly, it's almost hard to imagine that wasn't tanking. It's a possibility which becomes less likely if the Astros view Lyles as a legitimate commodity, but it takes a special kind of manager to Grady Little it up that badly if, indeed, winning is the priority.
Whatever the case, the Red Sox had taken the lead, and after Brandon Workman held it in the bottom half of the inning, they piled on in the sixth. Once again the first four batters of the inning reached base, scoring another pair of runs, and with one down a pinch-hitting Jonny Gomes swatted a the second pitch he saw into the left field stands for three more, making it 13-7.
The Astros would manage to score a few more runs as the game went on, even with Drake Britton settling Boston's pitching staff down, but the Red Sox were capable of responding and keeping the game from getting too close thanks in part to Jacoby Ellsbury's second homer of the night.
There was, however, one more treat left for Red Sox fans who stayed awake for the ninth. As Tuesday turned into Wednesday, Rubby De La Rosa made his big league debut for the Red Sox, flashing high-90s heat and a changeup that sat around 90 as he mowed through the last three outs, striking out two in the process. Given his recent minor league results, it doesn't seem too likely that Rubby will play a major role in the final couple months. But for tonight, at least, we saw a preview of what's to come from him in the next few years.
More importantly, though, the Red Sox did not lose this game to the Astros, and will have a chance to win this series tomorrow.
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