It was another frustrating day at Fenway Park as the Red Sox lost their second straight to the Astros on Saturday afternoon. This was similar to the first game of the series in that Boston took an early lead but couldn’t hold on, but that was where the similarities ended. The bullpen, which blew it on Friday, looked pretty good in this game, but Eduardo Rodriguez did not. He was too predictable and caught too much of the plate, and the Astros made him pay. They didn’t put up a crooked number in any inning, but after the first they had three long innings with a lot of hard contact. The offense didn’t help matters either, leaving far too many runners on base. It’s not what you want.
What was particularly frustrating about the trajectory of this game is that things looked like they’d go Boston’s way after the first, and this is the second straight night that happened. Saturday’s game flipped a lot more quickly than Friday’s but the Red Sox still got off to the hotter start.
In the top half of that first inning, Rodriguez looked every bit the part of the electric lefty. He was leaning a little too heavily on the fastball, and it wasn’t too difficult to see that coming back to bite him, but in that first inning it didn’t hold him back a bit. He struck out both George Springer and Jose Altuve to start off the game then gave up a line drive right at Ian Kinsler to Alex Bregman, completing a relatively easy 1-2-3 inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Red Sox offense got going right away against Charlie Morton, though again for the second consecutive night it felt as though they should have jumped out to a bigger lead than they ultimately did. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi (you guessed it, for the second consecutive night) started off with consecutive singles that could have paved the way for a big inning. Instead, Betts would move to third on a fly out and then score on another single from Xander Bogaerts, but that was all Boston would get in the inning. They’d have to settle for the 1-0 lead.
Not getting more would come back to bite them very quickly, as the Rodriguez that looked so effective in that first inning disappeared fairly quickly. After that initial frame, the lefty was too predictable (part of that is surely on Christian Vazquez for game-calling, but Rodriguez is also culpable in the gameplan) while also just making bad pitches. You can’t do that against this Astros team. Carlos Correa would start the rally with a one-out double, and Tyler White quickly followed that up with an RBI triple. After a well-hit sacrifice fly, Houston would take a 2-1 lead in that second inning. Rodriguez issued a walk and another single, but did leave with the deficit at just one.
Unfortuantely, the hard contact suffered in that inning didn’t turn out to be a one-inning blip. In the third, his first out was on a well-hit line drive, and that brought Bregman back to the plate. Rodriguez left a 1-0 fastball right in the star’ wheelhouse and, well, you can’t do that. Bregman smoked it out to left field and Houston’s lead was extended to two. Once again, Rodriguez did avoid more damage after that but he did allow two more baserunners before getting out of the inning.
The Red Sox had Brandon Workman warming up during that third inning, but opted to bring Rodriguez back out for the fourth. He quickly got into trouble there, catching too much of the plate with a slider to Martin Maldonado. The Astros catcher hit one out to left field, and just like that it was a 4-1 lead for Houston. Rodriguez got an out before issuing another walk, and that was the end of his night. Workman was on to try and salvage this game. He struggled right away, giving up a single and a walk to load the bases before giving up a sacrifice fly. The Astros left the top of the fourth with a 5-1 lead.
On the other side, Morton was going in the other direction, and when he did allow runners to reach the Red Sox failed to take advantage of their opportunities. They went down 1-2-3 in the second, but they did have a chance to start chipping away in the third. Trailing 3-1 at this point, Boston got a leadoff double from Betts and a two-out single from Bogaerts put runners on the corners for Mitch Moreland. The first baseman continued his extreme struggles, however, and the runners were stranded after a strikeout.
In the fourth, the Red Sox went down with two quick outs at the hands of Morton, but then a walk, a single and another walk loaded the bases for Andrew Benintendi. It felt like a real chance to flip the script of this game. Instead, Benintendi looked to get a double to drop by the wall in left-center field but Jake Marisnick made an outstanding running grab to rob potential runs and end the inning.
Finally, the fifth inning brought a little bit of action for Boston. This one wasn’t an extended rally like the other opportunities, but rather one quick punch. Bogaerts has been Boston’s hottest hitter of late, and that continued here when he blasted his 21st home run out to left-center field. Suddenly, it was back to a three-run lead for the Astros, but the Red Sox wouldn’t add any more.
The good news for the Red Sox is that they got some good pitching from their bullpen in the middle innings to keep the Astros from pulling away. Brandon Workman came back out for the fifth and allowed just a single before giving way for Bobby Poyner in the sixth. The lefty allowed the first two batters he faced to reach, but then got a strikeout, a pop out and a ground out to end the inning. He’d come right back out in the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of strikeouts.
That run of good relief seemed as though it may end in the eighth with Tyler Thornburg, though it wasn’t entirely his fault. That inning started with an infield single, and then there was a grounder hit to Rafael Devers at third. He made a nice play to stop it, but then tried to rush a throw to get the out at second. Instead, the ball ended up in the outfield and Houston had two in scoring position with nobody out. Thornburg recovered in impressive fashion, though, getting a shallow fly out, a strikeout and a pop out to keep the deficit at three runs. He’d also toss a scoreless eighth.
Unfortunately, for all of that strong work out of the bullpen, the offense couldn’t get anything going for a few innings and had one more chance in the ninth against Roberto Osuna. There, they got some runners on base again with Blake Swihart singling and Betts walking to bring Benintendi up as the potential tying run with one out. Both runners would advance to scoring position on a wild pitch, and Benintendi poked a single through to cut the deficit down to two. J.D. Martinez then came up with the tying run at first base, but he grounded into a double play and the excitement was shortlived.
The Red Sox will now have one more chance to avoid getting swept at the hands of the defending champs, and they’ll have some time to think about it. Boston and Houston play on Sunday Night Baseball tomorrow night, with Rick Porcello taking on Dallas Keuchel.
In the division, the Yankees and Mariners start their game tonight at 9:10 PM ET. Boston’s lead is currently at eight games and will move a half-game in either direction depending on the outcome of that game.