Boston at Houston Astros
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
HOUSTON – J.D. Martinez was the big-ticket offseason signing for the Boston Red Sox, who are assured of entering the month of June with the best record in the majors. The surging Red Sox have won three in a row and 11 of 14 as they prepare to open a four-game series at the Houston Astros on Thursday night in a rematch of last year’s American League Division Series.
Despite the absence of star outfield Mookie Betts, who has missed the past four games, Boston completed a three-game sweep of Toronto as Martinez homered twice and had five RBIs in the series. “J.D., what he’s doing now, what he’s done this month is pretty awesome,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters. “Working his craft, working his swing. It’s fun to see what he’s doing.” The Astros lost the final two of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium to wrap up a 3-4 road trip, blowing a two-run lead in the ninth on Tuesday before dropping a 5-3 decision Wednesday. The Red Sox indicated that Betts would play in Houston but he was not listed amongst the starters on Thursday evening.
Reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve was hitless in five at-bats in the opener of the road trip before going 15-for-27 with two homers and seven RBIs in the next six games.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, NESN (Boston), AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox LH Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 6.75 ERA) vs. Astros RH Lance McCullers Jr. (6-3, 3.98)
Pomeranz looks nothing like the pitcher who won 17 games a year ago, lasting only 3 1/3 innings and allowing five runs on six hits in a no-decision against Atlanta on Saturday. It marked the third straight start that he failed to pitch beyond four innings – a span in which he has walked 11 batters in 11 1/3 innings. Altuve is 7-for-17 against Pomeranz, who was 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts versus Houston in 2017.
McCullers is coming off a rare dud when he was hammered for seven runs and served up three homers over 4 1/3 innings at Cleveland. That came six days after he blanked the Indians on one hit over seven innings – the eighth time in 11 starts he has permitted two earned runs or fewer. Betts and Xander Bogaerts are 4-for-9 and 4-for-12, respectively, against McCullers, who is 0-1 with a 6.16 ERA in four appearances against Boston.
1. Martinez has 13 homers in May, one shy of the franchise record for a month set by David Ortiz (July 2006).
2. Astros C Max Stassi, playing in place of Brian McCann (knee), homered, doubled and had three RBIs Wednesday.
3. Cora, who was a bench coach with Houston last season, will receive his World Series ring before Thursday’s game.