After the Astros’ three game skid, I have to admit to feeling a little despondent about the Astros’ playoff chances this year. Tonight I feel a little better.
This despondency isn’t nuts. It was largely attributable to the Astros having had terrible starting pitching, a problem that has plagued the team for weeks now.
Yet, the Astros remain in the thick of the AL playoff race. Sometimes they win because the bats have managed to pick up the pitchers, and sometimes they win because the pitchers have managed to limit the run totals despite allowing traffic jams on the bases.
Tonight it was a little bit of both.
Cristian Javier’s run of luck winning games despite poor pitching continued tonight. The game started with an Alex Verdugo double, followed by a one out Masataka Yoshida single, and with two outs, an Adam Duval three-run home run put the Astros in an instant deep hole to start the game. It took Javier 32 pitches to get to three outs in the first.
Poor Boston defense allowed the Astros to take one run back in the first, and poor Astros clutch hitting limited the damage. Jose Altuve bounced a single over the head of third baseman Rafael Devers to lead off followed by a walk to Alex Bregman by Red Sox starter James Paxton. Kyle Tucker loaded the bases on a catcher’s interference followed by a sacrifice fly by Yordan Alvarez.
Chas McCormick next hit a grounder to Devers at third which he bobbled but it was inexplicably ruled a fielders’ choice. But with the bases loaded Yainer Diaz struck out and Jeremy Pena grounded out, leaving three sitting on the bases as the inning ended.
After Boston’s scoreless first half of the second, the Astros took the lead in their half of the inning. Jake Meyers led off with a bloop single to right and scored after a Martin Maldonado double and Alex Bregman single. Kyle Tucker tied the score with an RBI single, and Alvarez gave the Astros a 4-3 lead with his own one-bagger.
However, for the second straight inning the Astros left a runner on third with less than two outs. All of the first three Astros baserunners in the second got on base with base hits that were borderline playable balls.
In the fourth inning the Astros stranded two more runners. But not until after Chas McCormick wiped the bases clean with a three run homer, his 18th.
In each inning he pitched Javier allowed at least two baserunners, but escaped damage in every inning except the first. In the fifth inning Javier looked especially vulnerable to a big inning, allowing a walk and a single to the first two batters. But Javy retired the next three to get through five innings, allowing three runs on 105 pitches.
For the night, Javier allowed seven hits and three walks with only three Ks. He only managed to throw 57 strikes and only eight of those were swinging strikes. The Red Sox left eight runners on base while Javier pitched, and were 3-15 with runners in scoring position. (11 LOB and 3-18 RISP for the game)
The Red Sox scored one run in the sixth against Astros reliever Seth Martinez. After loading the bases with no outs, the Red Sox managed to score on a fielder’s choice to first baseman Yainer Diaz. But after a pop out, Martinez struck out Duvall to limit the damage and strand runners on second and third.
It took Hector Neris for the Astros pitchers to finally pitch an inning without Red Sox occupying any bases. And Bryan Abreu faced the minimum number of batters in the eighth after a double play on Rafael Devers ended the inning.
In the Astros’ eighth the Stros added two more runs on back-to-back jacks by McCormick and Diaz. Both were just barely over the fences, McCormick’s to the Crawford Boxes, Diaz’s oppo taco to right. Typically for the Red Sox tonight, if the right fielder hadn’t stumbled he would have had a good chance of catching Diaz’s homer.
It was McCormick’s and Diaz’s 19th and 18th homers respectively.
Ryan Pressly cut em down in the ninth to preserve the win in a non-save situation.
The Astros had 16 hits tonight and seven batted balls over 100 MPH.
Justin Verlander takes the mound for the Stros tomorrow. 7:10 CT.
Box score HERE.