Sox Get Series Split After 9-3 Pounding

Kemp: Goes airborne to score
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Let's stop for a moment and admire what an incredible run Charlie Morton has given the Astros. Clearly tabbed as the fifth starter in the rotation even after his postseason performance, Morton went undefeated for the first two months of this season with a 7-0 record, a 2.26 ERA, an 11.3 strikeout per nine innings ratio and an ERA+ of 171. That's no illusion. He has clearly been on a roll, overshadowed by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

The balloon finally burst Sunday night against the Boston Red Sox in a 9-3 defeat where Morton was tagged for six earned runs in 5-1/3rd innings. Mitch Moreland smacked a two-run homer in the first then Andrew Beintendi cracked a solo shot just inside the right field foul pole for a 3-1 lead after five frames.

Then the roof caved in during the sixth when Brock Holt drilled a two-run triple and scored on a single from Blake Swihart.

So you can't blame this loss on the bullpen, yet they added to the bitter aftertaste. Collin McHugh allowed a run in the eighth and Ken Giles, proving he has other talents besides blowing leads, gave up a two-run single in the ninth.

On offense, the Astros finished the final two games of the series with a total of 11 hits, despite scoring seven runs in the pair of losses. George Springer hit a leadoff homer against Rick Porcello and Alex Bregman struck a two-run single in the seventh for all of Houston's scoring. The Astros were an impressive 1-for-14 with men in scoring position.

The defeat, coupled with Seattle's win, dropped the Astros a full game behind the Mariners in the AL West standings. Oh, and look who's flying into town for a short two-game series to close the homestand? Why, it's those surprising M's with a pair of lefties slated to begin Tuesday's opener. James Paxton (4-1) opens for 37-22 Seattle in a 7:10 pm Central contest. Paxton is 4-3 with a 3.16 ERA in nine career starts vs. Houston.

Hard-luck lefty Dallas Keuchel (3-7) gives it another try for the 37-24 Astros. The Beard is 8-6 with a 2.67 ERA in 16 appearances against the Mariners. The Astros have won three-of-four in their season series thus far.

On Tuesday, the Champs will also take part in the annual free agent draft. This time, the Astros will be choosing from the 28th position in the first round so we'll find out if the Decision Scientists can spot talent that's not in the top five picks.

- Bob Hulsey