True to form, the Red Sox are losers on August 15th, victims once more of Ben Affleck's birthday curse. And as tends to be the case with this most mysterious of phenomena, it's not entirely clear how we got to this point.
For the Red Sox, this game should have been a win. Clay Buchholz was on top of his game for a second straight outing, and Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run jack. These are basically the key ingredients for a successful baseball game in Boston.
And, for much of the game, it was enough to top the Astros. Buchholz started the game with a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 first, then recovered from a quick stumble in the second with a third K and a double play ball off the bat of Matt Dominguez. A two-out double in the top of the third was not enough to break through, and in the fourth Buchholz repeated his first-inning performance. For the second straight outing, the Red Sox had the Buchholz of old on the mound, rather than the wreck they saw pitching for weeks after his nine-inning shutout.
Through the first three innings, the Red Sox had likewise been stymied by Dallas Keuchel. But a leadoff single from David Ortiz heralded a change in momentum. In the very next at bat, a slider that dipped right into Yoenis Cespedes' wheelhouse was sent rocketing into the Monster seats on a line for Cespedes' first Fenway homer with the Red Sox, giving them a 2-0 lead.
The Astros would cut that lead in half in the very next inning, getting three straight singles with two outs to make it 2-1 before Clay Buchholz rebounded with a scoreless sixth. He could not repeat the performance in the seventh, however, floating a cutter in to Robbie Grossman, who promptly knocked it into the stands past the pole in right to even the game up at two-a-side.
The seesaw action would continue in the seventh, with a quick two-out rally by Christian Vazquez and Brock Holt producing a third Boston run. But, with Buchholz out of the game and a certain curse in full effect, the lead would not survive the top of the eighth. Even with the first two batters reaching in the eighth off Edward Mujica, Tommy Layne nearly fought back to escape the inning with a pair of strikeouts. One crazy play, however, would make all the difference.
With Chris Carter at second and Dexter Fowler at first, Matt Dominguez hit a ball to second that Xander Bogaerts had to wait on. Had Bogaerts fired to first, or Dustin Pedroia been slightly quicker to cover second, the Red Sox may have had their third out. Instead, they had a close safe call at second base, with Chris Carter racing for home. Pedroia appeared to have caught him in the act, firing to Christian Vazquez well ahead of pinch-runner Gregorio Petit, but Petit managed to avoid Vazquez, who had run inside the baseline and could not connect with a covering Burke Badenhop when trying to make up for his blunder.
Three opportunities for an out, zero outs recorded, all calls upheld on replay. It was every bit an Astros play, but this time the Astros were the beneficiaries of the incompetence rather than the perpetrators.
After that madness, well, it really just felt like a matter of time. And eventually, with Koji Uehara used up in the ninth, the tenth came around and Craig Breslow with it. Breslow would load the bases before recording an out, and while the next two somehow came without a run, Jake Marisnick provided the dagger, hitting a bloop to right that jumped up into the seats well shy of the foul pole for a ground-rule double, giving the Astros a pair of runs where one would have been enough.
At least August 15th can only come once a year.