Harris Wastes Verlander's Outing
Houston Falls From First

Verlander: No decision
(c) Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle
The Astros were three innings away from taking their home series with the Boston Red Sox Saturday night before a national tv audience. Justin Verlander had held a 3-1 lead against former Detroit teammate David Price but he was beginning to run out of steam.

Xander Bogaerts drew a one-out walk, stole second and came home on a sharp single by J.D. Martinez. The former Astro and once Verlander teammate then swiped second for the first time all year. Houston nemesis Mitch Moreland then smoked a line drive which fortunately went right to Jose Altuve. Verlander fanned Eduardo Nunez to escape further trouble but he had crossed the 100-pitch total and was done for the night, still clinging to a 3-2 lead.

Enter Will Harris. So long, ballgame.

The former All-Star was hammered for a game-tying homer in the seventh by catcher Christian Vazquez then, with a runner aboard, served up a prodigious two-run bomb to Andrew Benintendi for a 5-3 Boston lead. He left after just 2/3rds of an inning. It was Harris' second blown save and eventually third loss of the season as Houston fell, 5-4.

The Astros dropped out of first place in the AL West by percentage points to Seattle which defeated Tampa Bay at home. Houston now owns a 4-12 record in one-run games.

While the sun was out, Astros fans enjoyed themselves in roof-closed comfort indoors. Boston scratched out a run in the first on a walk, a wild pitch and a Martinez single. Houston answered when Marwin Gonzalez ripped a two-out triple to plate Yuli Gurriel in the second. Alex Bregman untied it the next inning with a two-run laser into the Crawfords for that aforementioned 3-1 lead.

Altuve manufactured a run in the eighth with a walk, a steal, another steal and a single by Gurriel to draw within one against Joe Kelly but Craig Kimbrel applied the sleeper hold in the ninth for his 19th save.

The series finishes Sunday evening before ESPN cameras with Rick Porcello (7-2) starting for the 40-19 Sawx while Charlie Morton (7-0) looks to dominate for the 37-23 Astros. Boston technically leads the AL East by 1/2 game yet trails the Yankees in winning percentage so the standings do look like they need an MIT Decision Scientist to understand them. Game time is 6:35 pm Central.

- Bob Hulsey