The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.
Our Fake Sox are in a bit of a rut right now, something that has not really been helped by having to play six games against the Astros over the course of ten days. They won just one of the first four, with the Houston offense destroying Red Sox pitching in all of the games. They were looking to get back in the win column on Saturday, but had a tough uphill challenge just based on the pitching matchup with Bryan Mata on the mound against Lance McCullers.
Mata was making his third career start for the Red Sox and coming off a terrible outing in his second which happened to come against this same Astros lineup. There was a good chance of things going sideways here, but just like in his first career outing he worked his way out of trouble multiple times. In the first, for example, after a leadoff strikeout he gave up two singles and issued a walk to load the bases, but ended up getting out of it with a ground ball that cut down the runner going home and then another ground ball to end the inning without any runs coming across.
He’d then come back with a perfect inning in the second before finding himself in more trouble in the third when he issued a walk then gave up a single to put runners on the corners with no outs. José Altuve got a little aggressive and was caught stealing second for a big first out, and then Mata got a huge strikeout and a ground ball to once again strand a runner at third base. He’d come back after that facing the minimum in the next two innings to keep the shutout going through five.
Unfortunately, McCullers had the Red Sox number on the other side. The righty has been huge for the Astros all year, and in fact has been good enough that they felt comfortable trading Zack Greinke last week. McCullers lived up to it in this one, to say the least. While Mata kept the Astros scoreless through five, McCullers did the same to Boston. The Red Sox had their first real chance in the second when they got runners on the corners and one out, but Mitch Moreland and Michael Chavis both went down swinging to end the inning.
They’d get another runner in scoring position in the third when Andrew Benintendi smacked a one-out double, and not only did the run not score but Benintendi had to leave with a knee injury. The good news is it was extremely mild and he’ll be 100% for Sunday, but the top of the lineup now had Tzu-Wei Lin instead of Benintendi. McCullers then came back and allowed just a walk over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
So, with the score still tied at zero heading into the bottom of the sixth, Mata found himself in trouble once again. He issued two straight walks to start off the inning to put two on with nobody out. A fly ball then moved the lead runner to third, and they would then come in to break the tie on an Yuli Gurriel single to make it 1-0. That ended the day for Mata, as Kevin Shackelford came in with runners on the corners and just one out. Gurriel quickly stole second base to make the situation even more tense, but Shackelford got out of it with a ground out that held the runner at third and then a strikeout to keep the deficit at 1-0.
Unfortunatley, McCullers was just getting into a groove, and the Red Sox had nothing the rest of the way. They went down in order in the seventh to keep the momentum on Houston’s side, then managed just a single off McCullers in the eighth. With Shackelford and Parker Markel combining for a couple of scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, it was still only 1-0 heading into the ninth, and McCullers was out of the game. Ryan Pressly was on for the save and Boston had J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts due up. It didn’t matter. They managed just a two-out single in the inning, and that was that.
The frustrating 1-0 loss dropped the Red Sox record down to 31-27 and made them losers in seven of their last 11. The good news is the Yankees are struggling mightily of late as well, dropping another one themselves on Saturday to hand them their sixth loss in seven days. So, the Red Sox still only trail by a game and a half in the division. Around the league, or actually sticking in Houston, George Springer followed up the win with a contract extension, signing for four years and $97.2 million. Down on the farm, Mike Shawaryn allowed just one hit in 6 1⁄3 scoreless innings in a win for the PawSox, Jarren Duran smacked his 11th double of the year in a loss for the SeaDogs, Salem exploded for 19 runs in a win, and Greenville came from behind for a victory.