If you’ve watched the Red Sox in recent weeks, you’ve pretty much seen this game as it combined a lot of different traits we’ve seen from this team of late. They had a chance to get to a talented pitcher early and really put a dent in the game, but instead letting them off the hook only to be dominated the rest of the night. They saw a Houston pitcher totally shut them down for the third straight game. And they got a strong performance from their starting pitcher despite it not always looking pretty. So there were some good things here in this game, but ultimately it was a third straight loss and not the start to a very important month of June they were looking for.
The Red Sox have had a tough start to this four-game series in Houston, and in particular it’s been their offense that has plagued them in these last two games. Now they needed a bounce back to at least give themselves a chance to salvage a split from this set against the Astros. And the lineup really had a chance to get things going early and put their mark on this game. As we’ve been seeing all too often over these last two or three weeks, though, they are not taking advantage of early scoring chances, and coming to regret that fact later.
This time around they were going up against Framber Valdez, a young lefty who virtually no one in this Red Sox lineup had seen. He’s got real talent, but he struggled mightily with control in this start. The southpaw did get a pair of quick outs to start off the top half of the first inning, but J.D. Martinez kept the inning alive with a base hit. Xander Bogaerts then followed that up with a walk before Rafael Devers ripped a base hit of his own, loading up the bases for Boston with Valdez really having trouble to hit the zone. Those issues continued in the next at bat with Hunter Renfroe drawing a walk to give Boston the 1-0 lead.
They had the Houston starter on the ropes, and they had Bobby Dalbec at the plate. It’s been a tough stretch for the rookie slugger, but he has been able to do some damage against lefties. The Red Sox really needed that here, but they didn’t get it. Instead, Dalbec hit a ground ball over to shortstop, and the bases were left full with the offense settling for only one run.
Things would go pretty similarly on the other side, with Nick Pivetta also struggling with his consistency. He’s fallen into some old traps over his last few starts, and it looked like it might be another night in which he was hit around. Like Valdez, he would see the bases load up, but he didn’t record two quick outs first. Instead, he issued a walk, allowed a double, got a strikeout and then hit a batter to fill the bases with Astros.
Like Boston in the top of the inning, Houston had their opponent on the ropes and were looking for a big inning. They didn’t do it, instead following the lead of the road team. They got one in on a sacrifice fly, and even re-loaded the bases on a base hit, but Pivetta was able to get a huge strikeout to end the inning there. So after one, both teams scored a run and both offenses were kicking themselves for not getting more.
To make matters even worse, both pitchers settled in pretty well from there. Against Valdez, the Red Sox offense went down in order in each of the second, third and fourth innings, finally breaking up that streak with a single from Christian Arroyo in the fifth. That was all they’d get, though, and they were still sitting at just one run through five innings.
Over on the other side, Houston was having a little better time against Pivetta, but it wasn’t by a whole hell of a lot. In the second and third innings, they managed just one walk, but they got a little more pressure on in the fourth. Kyle Tucker, who has had a big series against Boston, started the inning with a double before quickly moving over on a wild pitch. It didn’t take a lot to get him home, but Myles Straw hit a tapper to the left side and that was enough. Tucker came in to score, and Houston had the 2-1 lead.
Pivetta would also come back out for the sixth, which was a bit surprising with the middle of the order coming up and 98 pitches under his belt. It didn’t matter, because he came through with a perfect inning to end what was a surprisingly good night despite the way it started.
Now, the offense needed to give him the support they deserved, which they hadn’t since that first inning when they disappointingly just got the one run across. The seventh wouldn't be the place for that to happen, with Valdez still dealing and working around a two-out single for yet another scoreless inning.
The pitching was able to keep pace for the Red Sox, with Darwinzon Hernandez coming through with a perfect seventh, but the offense followed that up with a 1-2-3 inning of their own, keeping the deficit at one heading into the bottom of the eighth.
It was still only one run to tie the game heading into the ninth after a scoreless inning from Hirokazu Sawamura and Josh Taylor (with Christian Vázquez getting a successful back pick at second base to end the inning), and Boston had one more chance with Devers leading off. He quickly made the first out, but Hunter Renfroe put the tying run on base with a base hit. That brought Danny Santana to the plate as a pinch hitter. He failed to put the ball into play, striking out for the second out of the inning, but Vázquez kept the inning alive with a base hit of his own.
Suddenly the tying run was standing at second base, and it was up to Christian Arroyo to at least keep the inning going. That’s not what happened, with Arroyo popping up to finish out the loss. The 2-1 game dropped Boston’s record to 32-23.
The Red Sox will now look to avoid a sweep with some afternoon baseball on Wednesday. They have Martín Pérez taking the mound with Jake Odorizzi set to go for Houston, with first pitch coming at 2:10 PM ET.