The Red Sox are... playing good baseball? Boston is coming off taking two of three from the Rangers over the weekend, and now they’ve taken the first of three against the Astros by outlasting Houston through a long rain delay to win a close one. Boston’s offense was shut down early, but they put some runs on the board in the middle innings while Houston was staying right with them run for run. But Boston had the last laugh, with Matt Strahm coming through in the bullpen and giving the offense some time to open up a three-run lead that would be held in the ninth for the win.
More robust game notes below.
After the Red Sox offense finally broke out in a big way for the first two games of their series down in Arlington against the Rangers, they were quieted back down in the finale on Sunday. Facing old friend Martín Pérez, they got some chances with runners on base, but pushing runs across the plate proved to be a challenge. On Monday, they were back at home and looking to get back on track and not make that Sunday performance into a habit. Jake Odorizzi had other ideas, at least early on.
In fact, the Astros righty would be perfect the first time through the lineup, and in frustrating fashion from a Red Sox fan perspective. It wasn’t just that they weren’t getting anybody on base, but they also were making life easy for Odorizzi with a whole lot of quick at bats. None of his first three innings required more than 11 pitches as he only had 32 tallied by the time those innings were up.
On the other side, Garrett Whitlock was back for another start despite the argument that the team would be better served as a reliever. He’s coming off the shakiest outing of the season, and possibly his career, last time out, and it looked like he may fall into the same trap on Monday early on with some command issues. What was worse was getting ahead only to beat himself like he did with José Altuve in the leadoff spot, hitting him in the wrist on a 1-2 count. Whitlock actually allowed the first two runners to reach base, but was able to come back with two huge strikeouts after that and ultimately get out of the inning without any runs coming across.
Fortunately, he was able to get back under control after that first inning, getting some help from his defense as well. The second included a walk (after getting ahead 0-2, no less), but ended on a phenomenal diving play by Trevor Story in the hole. And then in the third, he got some help from both Franchy Cordero on a stung ground ball as well as Rafael Devers, who covered some ground to get a potential bloop in shallow left field. All of it worked together to keep this game scoreless despite Houston getting the much better pitching to that point.
In the fourth, the Red Sox quickly ended the perfect game bid with a solid base hit from Enrique Hernández, who moved up to second on a J.D. Martinez single and then third when Xander Bogaerts loaded the bases with a walk. It seemed like a big chance to put up a crooked number, but Boston would settle for just one, and on a weird play at that. Alex Verdugo blooped one into center field that fell in just in front of a diving Chas McCormick. Hernández came in to score, but Martinez didn’t move very far off of third base — it sure looked to me like he could have gotten farther down the line — and was cut down on third base, officially making it a fielder’s choice.
The 1-0 lead wouldn’t last long, unfortunately. McCormick led off the top half of the fifth, and Whitlock made his biggest mistake of the game, leaving a hanging slider up in the zone and right over the plate. McCormick jumped all over it, sending it 408 feet out to center field for a solo homer and tying the game just two pitches into the inning. The good news is Whitlock didn’t let that snowball and retired the next three batters he faced.
The better news is the Red Sox then got that run right back, in large part thanks to Franchy Cordero. He showed off his hard contact skills to start the inning, putting a bullet off the Monster for a leadoff double. A couple batters later, he’d make an impressive read on a ground ball to move up to third before coming in when a pitch from Odorizzi got to the backstop, putting Boston back out in front by a run. The inning then ended on a pretty routine ground ball, but as Odorizzi went to potentially cover first base he just collapsed and had to be taken out on a stretcher due to what looked like some kind of leg injury. As of this writing it’s not entirely clear what happened, but it didn’t look great.
Also not looking great was the Red Sox pitching in the sixth with rain starting to come down at Fenway. Whitlock started the inning and allowed the first two batters to reach before Alex Cora called upon Jake Diekman to try and keep the lead. It wasn’t a great start for the southpaw, who walked the first batter he saw to load the bases. He did follow it up with the first out of the inning, but it came on a fly ball plenty deep enough to get a run across and tie the game. That was all Houston got, though, as Diekman got another fly ball for the second out before John Schreiber came on for a big strikeout to end the inning with the score tied at two apiece.
That rain picked up as the inning went along, and we went into a rain delay that’d last more than 90 minutes before picking things back up in the bottom of the sixth with Rafael Devers ripping a single into left field. Unfortunately, Martinez followed that up with another hard-hit ball, but one hit right at Alex Bregman at third. Not only was Martinez out, but Devers was doubled up at first base to quickly wipe out his single.
With Matt Barnes coming on for the seventh, things didn’t go well. That inning started with a double on a relatively weak fly ball to left field that got by a sliding Verdugo, and then the runner was moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt. That brought José Altuve to the plate, who quickly shot one back up the middle for a base hit, giving Houston the 3-2 lead. Altuve was the last batter Barnes faced, with Matt Strahm coming on and hitting the first batter he faced. Fortunately, that was the only trouble he found with two big strikeouts after that to end the inning.
And as this game had been going before the rain, the two sides continued to exchange blows. This time it was the long ball for Boston, with Story hitting his first Fenway homer of his Red Sox career. He got a slider that caught too much of the plate and he sent it over everything in left field for a solo shot, and we were again all tied up.
Strahm then came back out to work around a two-out double for a scoreless eighth before Hernández set the Red Sox up in the bottom half with a leadoff double ahead of the meat of the order. Devers couldn’t get the run home, but Martinez picked him up by smacking a double into the left-center field gap to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. Bogaerts then added some much-needed insurance considering how this bullpen has performed late in one-run games this year, smashing a two-run shot to extend the lead to three.
Now it was just up to Hansel Robles to not implode. He managed to avoid that, getting through the ninth without allowing a run to close out the 6-3 win.
The Red Sox now look to make it two series wins in a row on Wednesday with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound to take on José Urquidy. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.