Red Sox’ momentum halted in roller-coaster loss to Astros


This game represented a manifestation of the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the 2015 Red Sox, all tossed into one topsy-turvy game. The Red Sox scored eight runs, showing off the team’s vaunted offense, but terrible pitching both from Justin Masterson and the bullpen led to a loss as Boston allowed 12 runs in a 10-inning marathon.

With Masterson (3-2, 5.58 ERA) facing off against Dan Straily (6-6, 4.06 in Triple-A Fresno), who was making his first MLB start of the season, this hardly looked like a potential pitching duel. Still, it would’ve been tough to anticipate such a slugfest as runs were easy to find in a high-scoring affair at Fenway Park.

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The Red Sox struck first in the second inning, as they scored on a leadoff blast by Hanley Ramirez and then later on an RBI single by Mookie Betts to drive in Alejandro De Aza. That would give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in a game that actually appeared to be a pitching duel of sorts early on.

After those two runs, Boston turned the ball over to Masterson, who pitched quite well in the early going. The gigantic right-hander had worked three scoreless innings, but things weren’t quite so rosy for him in an awful fourth inning.

In that inning, the Astros would push five runs across the plate, all off which were attributed to Masterson. Houston recorded seven hits and a walk in the inning, with the key blows being an RBI single by Alex Presley, who had been recalled earlier in the day, and a two-run double by Preston Tucker. Masterson was unable to make it through the inning, turning the ball over to Tommy Layne after a brief 3.2 inning outing.

To their credit, though, the Red Sox didn’t roll over after that game-changing inning and the BoSox rallied back in the very next inning. After a quick strikeout to start the inning, a Brock Holt walk and Xander Bogaerts single set the Red Sox up to score some runs. They would do just that when David Ortiz singled to score Holt, cutting Houston’s lead to 5-3, and putting a pair of runners on base for the powerful Ramirez.

Rather than hooking one into the seats as he had done earlier in the game, though, Ramirez hit a hard groundball to shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa fired to second to nail Ortiz, but with Papi charging hard into the base, second baseman Jose Altuve actually threw the ball into Ortiz’s helmet, allowing Bogaerts to score from third and Ramirez to move up to second. The potentially inning-ending double play wound up scoring a run and the tying run in scoring position, from where Ramirez would soon score on an RBI single by Pablo Sandoval.

The game stayed deadlocked at 5-5 for an inning as neither team scored in the sixth. However, the seventh proved to be the most intense inning of the game by far. Matt Barnes opened the inning on the mound for the Red Sox and promptly allowed a leadoff double to Evan Gattis. A single by Chris Carter and a walk to Jason Castro loaded the bases with one out. Barnes was able to power past Alex Presley, punching him out to place a second out on the ledger. However, Barnes’ progress was halted when Altuve blooped a single to center field to score a pair of runs and place the Astros on top 7-5.

But once more, the Red Sox were far from finished. The Red Sox responded by immediately loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh against Astros reliever Josh Fields (who was taken in the 2013 Rule V draft from the Red Sox). Fields was replaced by lefty specialist Joe Thatcher, but Thatcher was unable to put away Sandoval, who pushed an RBI single through the left side. A well-placed grounder off the bat of De Aza was enough to avoid the double play and score another run to tie the game again at 7-7.

But of course, the game didn’t stay tied long. In fact, rookie sensation and former first overall pick Carlos Correa hit a moonshot off Craig Breslow on the very first pitch of the eighth inning. Still, the Red Sox appeared to be positioned to tie the game again when Mookie Betts reached on an error and advanced to second on a Brock Holt bunt. However, Boston hit a speed bump when Betts was thrown out on an ill-advised attempt to steal third.

Amazingly, the Red Sox were able to work around that baserunning mistake as Bogaerts worked a walk and then scored on a double off the monster by Ortiz. That tied the game at 8-8, though Betts’ mistake still hung over the Red Sox as they would have taken the lead if not for that error, and it stayed tied through the ninth inning as the game progressed into extra innings.

Unfortunately, the tenth inning would be when the Astros finally gained an insurmountable lead. Reliever Noe Ramirez made his MLB debut for the Red Sox but it didn’t go well as he allowed five of the first six hitters to reach base, including a game-altering two-run single by Jon Singleton. The Astros were able to push four runs across the plate in the inning and Luke Gregerson shut down the Red Sox with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning.

The Red Sox will look to rebound from this tough loss tomorrow at 1:35 EST, sending Clay Buchholz (6-6, 3.48 ERA) to face Colin McHugh (9-3, 4.51 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • Given Masterson’s terrible performance tonight, there’s a very real chance that his tenure with the Red Sox is finished. Though he was able to escape damage in his first start since returning from the DL, he had no such luck in this start as his control troubles resurfaced. Perhaps the Brian Johnson era is set to begin?
  • Noe Ramirez’s major league debut was downright bad as the young right-hander allowed 4 runs (2 earned) in just an inning of work.
  • Every Red Sox batter except Mike Napoli reached base tonight. It’s getting difficult to ignore his terrible performance at the plate this season.

D. . Game Ball. Justin Masterson. STARTING PITCHING

Masterson coasted through the first three innings but his luck caught up to him in the fourth as he allowed five runs and had to head to the showers before escaping the inning. Could this be the last time we see him with the Red Sox, or even starting in the majors?

RELIEF PITCHING . B+. . Game Ball.

Uehara was a bright spot on the pitching side of things tonight, recording a quick 1-2-3 ninth inning.

B+. . Game Ball. David Ortiz. OFFENSE

Ortiz provided plenty of the offense for the Red Sox tonight, reaching base in four of his five plate appearances. Big Papi also knocked a clutch two-out RBI double in the eighth inning which essentially sent the game into extras. He’s been turning things around of late and is turning in a respectable season (though not at his former heights) after all.