By TERRY LYONS at Fenway Park
BOSTON – Boston ace Chris Sale was pitching a two-hitter but trailing 3-1 after three innings today. All signs pointed to a tough loss for the Red Sox lefty who began the year in an (0-5) slide. Sale was facing a Houston Astros team with 10 straight wins and a (31-15) mark which matched their best start in franchise history (2017).
Sale persevered and a combination of solid contributions from the top third of the Boston order (Michael Chavis, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts), a 10-strikeout outing by Sale and a very strong bullpen effort gave the Red Sox a 4-3, come-from-behind victory today at Fenway.
Chavis, leading-off because of Sox manager Alex Cora’s decision to give everyday left-filter Andrew Benintendi a day off, went 2-for-4 with a Landsdowne Street home run in the 5th inning. Also in the 5th, Betts followed Chavis with a double and shortstop Xander Bogaerts, batting third, knocked in the game-tying run with a single to right-center field.
Boston won the game from a run produced in the home half of the 7th inning when Bogaerts doubled-in Betts.
Sale finished the game after pitching 5.1 innings and allowing three runs on four hits and a season-high five walks. Sale also hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and coughed up a home run to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in the 3rd inning. It was Correa’s 11th HR of the season.
The Boston bullpen back-up Sale, however and threw 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball to save the game. Marcus Walden relieved Sale and worked him out of a bases-loaded jam in the 6th inning, including an inning ending double play ball at the cost of No. 9 hitter Jake Marisnick.
RHP Matt Barnes worked a well-pitched 8th inning before turning it over to RHP Brandon Workman who pitched the 9th and earned his first save. Previously, Workman was used in a set-up and hold role but his Major League leading (.068) opponent batting average rate and the fact he’s now faced 45 consecutive batters without allowing a hit, might earn him a look at the closing role. The Red Sox have been using the “closer by committee” system since the departure of Craig Kimbrel who is still a free agent seeking an MLB job at mega-bucks compensation.
At game’s end, Walden earned the victory and is now (6-0). LHP Framer Valdez (1-2) took the loss. The Red Sox pitching staff held the red hot Astros to four hits on the day.
For Boston, Betts went 3-for-4 with three runs scored while Bogaerts went 2-for-4 with two RBI while Chavez went 2-for-4 with the HR. The top third of the Boston order went 7-of-12 with four runs scored and three RBI. Meanwhile, catcher Christian Vazquez, batting in the No. 5 slot to reward his hot bat, went 2-for-4 for the Red Sox.
Vazquez is batting (.528) and is (19-for-36) over the last 11 games he’s played since May 4th. Chavez has eight HRs and is one of five Red Sox with at least 22 RBI through 25 MLB games, the first since Fred Lynn in 1974-75. Chavez is also one of five Sox to hit at least eight HRs in 25 games, joining George Scott – (10 in 1966); Sam Horn (9 in 1987); Bob Tillman (9 in 1962); and Rafael Devers (8 in 2017).
The game began after a 55-minute rain delay.
NOTES: The Red Sox head off to Canada this evening and face the Blue Jays in an important four-game set, Monday through Thursday. After a trip up North, the Sox head to Texas for a Memorial Weekend series against these same Houston Astros. … In Toronto on Monday, LHP David Price (1-2, 3.75 ERA) is expected to be reactivated from the IL and get the start against Toronto RHP Edwin Jackson (0-0, 3.60 ERA). … In the second of four, Boston will throw LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 4.89 ERA) while the Blue Jays go with RHP Marcus Stroman (1-6, 2.95 ERA). … The Sox have a TBD listed for G-3 of the series on May 22nd, but Toronto plans to throw RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-4, 3.88 ERA). … Vice versa, Boston’s Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.80 ERA) is set to throw on May 23rd against a Toronto pitcher to be named later.