Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston
HOUSTON — Houston Astros setup man Will Harris had no real quarrel with the quality of the pitch that yielded the decisive run on Friday night, opting instead to sincerely acknowledge the talent of Mookie Betts, who crushed the pitched over the fence.
Betts homered on the first pitch of the eighth inning as the Boston Red Sox claimed a tense, 2-1 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Betts belted his 12th homer after Brian McCann hit the first pitch he saw from Boston starter Drew Pomeranz out to right field with one out in the seventh.
Betts, who drilled the Harris (2-2) offering 394 feet into the Crawford Boxes in left field, also scored the first run for Boston (38-29) in the third inning, coming home on a two-out single by Mitch Moreland off Astros right-hander Mike Fiers.
“I think it’s huge anytime you come in and win game one, especially in a fashion like that,” Betts said. “It was a low-scoring game. It kind of shows that you can play with them even though they’re good. We’re good, too.”
Fiers was terrific but so too was Pomeranz, who carried a three-hit shutout into the seventh before McCann parked his 10th homer. That closed the book on Pomeranz, who allowed one run on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings, only the second time this season he’s recorded 19-plus outs.
“I think he did a good job of hanging out on the outer part of the strike zone,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Pomeranz. “We chased a little bit, got a few calls to go his way and he continued to execute his pitches and his game plan. He’s got a pretty good breaking ball; he’s got a good arm. He cuts the ball on occasion and right up to the very end he did a good job. We couldn’t solve him.”
The Astros (45-23) had ample opportunity to make inroads down the stretch.
George Springer was erased at the plate for the final out of the sixth inning, unwisely trying to score on a sharp Carlos Correa single to Betts in right field.
“He cuts down a run to finish the sixth, then the first pitch thrown in eighth, he gives us the lead,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Just in a small snapshot, there’s Mookie’s skill set on both sides of the ball. He’s a dynamic player. Those throws aren’t just by coincidence. The work he puts in, he throws a strike from right field at a key point in the game right there.”
With two runners in scoring position in the seventh, pinch-hitter Nori Aoki ended a splendid at-bat against Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly (3-0) with a lineout to third base. In the eighth, with Jose Altuve at third base representing the tying run, Evan Gattis rolled into an inning-ending double play against righty Matt Barnes.
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel worked a perfect ninth inning for his 19th save.
Fiers stranded runners in scoring position in the first (Dustin Pedroia) and second (Jackie Bradley Jr.) before bending in the third on the Moreland RBI single. But when Fiers induced a double-play ground ball from Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez, it allowed him to erase Josh Rutledge, who singled, and cap the fourth.
Fiers then retired the Red Sox in order in each of his final three innings.
“I was locked in all game; I felt really good,” Fiers said. “Just another game of getting ahead in the count and being the aggressor. Not letting these guys get in too many hitters’ counts and putting them away as early as you can and not try to go deep into the at-bat.”
NOTES: Red Sox RHP Carson Smith had his scheduled rehab assignment for Sunday pushed back due to shoulder inflammation. Smith tossed a simulated inning earlier this week and was set to report to Triple-A Pawtucket for his first game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. … A pair of Astros starters, LHP Dallas Keuchel and RHP Lance McCullers, appear poised to begin throwing programs in the coming days. Keuchel has been on the 10-day disabled list since June 5 with neck discomfort; McCullers since June 9 with lower back discomfort. … Seeking a superior defensive option for fast playing surface against an Astros team that puts the ball in play, Red Sox manager John Farrell started 3B Josh Rutledge over Pablo Sandoval, who has a June slash line of .129/.206/.258.