We’ve heard all about this run to start June for the Red Sox, and it is a brutal stretch on their schedule for the next couple of weeks. The start to the 17-game stretch has not been good, with another loss coming in Houston on Tuesday. The pitching wasn’t great in this game from Garrett Richards, but he worked his way out of trouble all night long to keep the team in the game. The offense just couldn’t get it going, though. They struggled for a second straight game against a young pitcher, with the middle of the lineup having a particularly tough night. J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers combined to go 0-11 with six strikeouts. It’s not what you want.
Garrett Richards was one of the big reasons the Red Sox were able to get through May at or near the top of the division, recovering from a tough start to become arguably the best starter on the roster for a stretch. The results have still been good of late, though some of those control problems that plagued the righty early in his career have come back of late, making for a tightrope act that has needed to be performed. We saw that act in full force on Tuesday against the Astros, as he worked to stay out of trouble against a very dangerous lineup.
The bad news is it took no time at all for the Astros to get their first bit of real damage off of him, with José Altuve leading off the game for Houston. On Monday, Altuve had benefited from his park, getting a pop up to get up and over the wall in left field for one of the weakest homers you’ll ever see. He’d hit another homer in the first inning of this game, but this was no cheapie. Instead, Altuve got a fastball up in the zone and was all over it for a no-doubt shot out to the power alley in left field.
So that was the bad news. The good news is that while Richards continued to allow baserunners, there wasn’t a whole lot more damage beyond that. He’d record three straight outs after the homer to get out of the first, and then got some help from the Astros in the second when Kyle Tucker was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. He had no business trying, but he also should have made it because Hunter Renfroe’s throw back in was terrible. Despite that, Tucker was taking it easy on his run to third, and he was just barely out. It was a bizarre play, and a break for Richards to get out of the inning without a run.
He’d wiggle his way out of the third as well despite walking the first two batters he saw in the inning. It was a big spot for Carlos Correa, but Richards got a double play to ease the pressure and eventually escaped without a run. Houston had a chance at a big inning in the fourth yet again, this time thanks to a leadoff double that was followed by a walk. They did get one run out of this opportunity after a ground ball and a sacrifice fly, but it still felt like a win for Richards.
Unfortunately, while their starter only gave up two runs despite consistently finding himself in some trouble, for a second straight night the Red Sox were having issues against a young Astros starter. This time it was Luis Garcia, and Boston struggled to figure him out early on. They did get a runner over to third in the first inning thanks to a one-out single from Alex Verdugo, who would later steal second with two outs and make it to third thanks to an error on the throw down. He’d be stranded there, however, and that would also be the only Red Sox hit over the first four innings and the only runner to go beyond first base.
That meant it was a 2-0 game as we headed into the fifth, and finally there was a little bit of life from Boston’s bats. Hunter Renfroe, looking to keep a hot May going in June, got things going in with a leadoff double, and Danny Santana followed that up with a base hit to put runners on the corners with nobody out. It was a big chance for them, but Christian Vázquez failed to come through, popping out to shortstop. That brought a scuffling Marwin Gonzalez to the plate, and he at least brought the run home on a slow roller to the right side. That was all they’d get, though, and they settled for the one-run deficit.
After Richards finally had a clean inning in the bottom of the fifth, Verdugo led off the sixth with a base hit. They had a couple of fly balls reach the warning track in right field, but ultimately couldn’t move Verdugo beyond first base as they stayed behind by a run. Richards was able to hang tough for one more inning, though, getting another double play to help ensure a three-batter inning in the sixth.
The Red Sox offense was now starting to run out of time, but they still couldn’t get anything going off Garcia into the seventh inning with his pitch count approaching double digits. Boston did get a base hit in the inning, but that was it as the score stayed 2-1 in favor of the Astros heading into the bottom of the seventh.
It was here that the bullpen came in for Richards, and the streak of getting out of trouble ended. Hirokazu Sawamura took a big step forward in the month of May, but his June got off to a rocky start here, though he didn’t get much help from his defense. The righty gave up a base hit to start off the inning, and then Rafael Devers made an error at second to put the first two men on. It looked like Sawamura got a big double play ball after that, but Gonzalez’s throw to first was way off the mark, and things snowballed from there.
One run scored on the error to make it a 3-1 game, and then Sawamura issued a walk, threw a wild pitch, fell behind 3-0 and then decided to hand out an intentional walk. That brought Correa to the plate, and it brought Garrett Whitlock in with the bases loaded and just one out. It was a tough spot, and he threw four straight balls to start his appearance, walking in one to make it 4-1. He came back with a big strikeout, but Houston managed one more on a slow rolling infield single, and it was a four-run game as we entered the eighth.
The Red Sox offense had a chance to answer back in that inning with the top of the order coming up, but instead they went down in order, leaving themselves only three more outs. It was still a 5-1 game as we entered the ninth after Whitlock loaded the bases but worked around it in the back half of the eighth. The Red Sox offense was once again punchless, going down in order in the ninth to end the game and give them their second straight loss. The 5-1 defeat dropped their record to 32-22.
The Red Sox will look to keep a split in play on Wednesday with the third game of this series. They’ll have Nick Pivetta on the mound while Framber Valdez gets the ball for the Astros. First pitch is set for 8:10 PM ET.