The performance the Red Sox have gotten from their rotation this season has been a big surprise and a huge reason why they are hanging around near the top of the division two months into the season. And among the rotation members, it’s been Martín Pérez leading the way in terms of both performance and surprise factor. On Thursday he provided his best outing of the season, tossing 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings, when his team needed it most. His performance helped catapult the Red Sox to a big victory, avoiding a sweep in Houston and giving them a little momentum as they head to the Bronx for their first meeting with the Yankees in 2021.
The Red Sox entered Thursday’s getaway day in Houston in a tough spot, having been struggling mightily for the first three games of the series offensively and staring down the barrel at a four-game sweep. When teams find themselves in these situations, they tend to look toward their “stopper” in the rotation hoping to take them out of their slump. The Red Sox were looking to their stopper here on Thursday. The weird thing is that stopper was Martín Pérez, who has been shockingly, and consistently, good for pretty much this entire season.
It was a legitimate question as to whether or not that could keep up against a very tough Astros lineup, but he just continued to deal. To be fair, Houston provided a bit of an assist by sitting both Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker, but the Red Sox southpaw did what he had to do against the lineup thrown out there against him.
The Astros did get themselves a chance in the first inning, however, with Aledmys Díaz smacking a one-out double out to left-center field. That gave Houston an early runner in scoring position, but they quickly recorded the second out before Díaz tried to time up Pérez and steal third. Instead, Pérez was able to get Díaz himself on the steal attempt — though there was some confusion on the broadcast about whether or not it was a balk because someone on the field yelled it — and end the inning.
From there, Pérez just started to deal, and deal quickly. The Astros were trying to jump on some early pitches, but they weren’t able to square it up for any sort of hard contact. As a result, they went down in order in both the second and third innings, and then they managed just a single in the fourth. All together, Houston still had nothing on the scoreboard through four innings.
The Red Sox had already gotten some good pitching in this series, though. The real question was whether or not the offense would be able to get anything going against Jake Odorizzi after struggling mightily in each of the first three games down in Houston. The first inning didn’t provide much, as they got just a single in the frame.
But the second was much better, starting with Rafael Devers. The Red Sox third baseman had been fed all fastballs by Houston pitchers all week, and he was being beaten by them. So it was nice to see him jump on a fastball in his first at bat and send it out to left-center field. It almost left the yard, but he’d settle for a double high off the wall to lead off the inning. Hunter Renfroe followed that up with a walk, bringing Christian Arroyo to the plate with two on and nobody out. He worked a tough at bat, and then when he got a cutter down the heart of the plate in a full count, he sent it out into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a three-run shot. The Red Sox finally had a little life, and they also had a 3-0 lead.
That didn’t result in any sort of explosion of runs, however. They got just a walk the rest of the inning, though they did threaten again in the third. There, they followed two quick outs with a walk and a base hit to put runners on the corners. In an odd shift of strategy, they tried to force the issue with a double steal, and Devers was thrown out at home to end the inning with Arroyo at the plate.
After drawing a walk but getting nothing more in the fourth, Boston had another chance in the fifth. This time they got things started right away with an Alex Verdugo walk and a J.D. Martinez base hit. Xander Bogaerts continued his brutal slump with a strikeout looking at a questionable pitch, and then Houston walked Devers intentionally to load up the bases. The Red Sox bats again failed to extend their lead, striking out two more times to leave them full and keep the score at 3-0.
Pérez, meanwhile, hit his first bit of trouble since the first when he came back out for the fifth inning, starting with a leadoff base hit. The Astros got another single with one out to put two men on base, but Pérez got a big pop up for the second out of the inning. It looked like the shutout may be broken up on the next ball in play when Garrett Stubbs went the other way with a ground ball. Bobby Dalbec came through with a big defensive play though, making a diving stop and making the feed to Pérez running to the first base bag to get the out and end the inning. Pérez came back strong for the sixth as well, tossing a 1-2-3 inning to keep his shutout alive with just 57 pitches under his belt to boot.
In the top half of the seventh, the offense was once again looking to add to their lead, and they again had themselves a chance. Verdugo started the inning off with a walk before Martinez hit his second straight double to put two in scoring position with nobody out. That brought Bogaerts to the plate carrying an 0-24 slump, but he finally broke out of it. The shortstop smacked a double into the left-field corner, and just like that it was a 5-0 game.
With the insurance in hand, Pérez just continued to cruise. The southpaw tossed another scoreless inning that took only 10 pitches. That put him at just 67 pitches on the day when he went back out there for the eighth with his team still up five. This inning was a bit more of a challenge for the lefty, as he gave up a single and issued a walk while recording just two outs. The Red Sox decided that was enough, and Adam Ottavino came in with two on, two out and Alex Bregman at the plate. Bregman got a good piece of it, but hit it to the deep part of the ballpark for a fly out to end the inning and keep the shutout intact.
After the offense got a Bogaerts single and nothing else in the top half of the ninth, Brandon Workman (who was just added to the roster prior to the game) came out to try and finish the game off. Things weren’t perfect in his return to Boston, as he gave up a solo shot to Yuli Gurriel on a hanging curveball. But that was all he gave up, and that was the end of the game. The 5-1 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 33-23.
The Red Sox now head to New York to start a three-game set against the Yankees starting on Friday. They’ll have Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for the first game with Michael King going for New York. First pitch is set for 7:05 PM ET.