Boston fans are unlikely to see Josh James on the Astros' postseason roster. The rookie call-up followed up an exciting debut with 2-2/3rd innings of one-hit pitching in relief of Charlie Morton as Houston flattened the Red Sox, 5-3, Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park. Morton danced around seven hits and two walks over five innings for his 14th win, tying his output from last year. Meanwhile, Alex Bregnan went deep again (his 30th of the year and fifth this month) and Martin Maldonado later crushed his ninth homer of the season to pace the offense.
Morton: Back in the saddle
(c) Associated Press
The victory kept Houston 3-1/2 games in front of Oakland in the AL West race. The Astros now have won seven in a row to open the month and have 20 games left in the regular season.
Morton had a shaky start when two singles led off Boston's half of the first then Xander Bogaerts punched a base hit to right that plated Mookie Betts for a 1-0 early lead.
The next five runs were all Houston's. With Carlos Correa on second, Tyler White ripped a drive high off the Monstah in left center in the second inning against Eduardo Rodriguez to tie the score. A sacrifice fly by Jake Marisnick scored White for a 2-1 edge.
Bregman golfed a homer into the seats above the Monstah to add some cushion for Morton. Maldonado did the same in the fourth. Later that inning, George Springer walked and eventually came home on a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel.
Bogaerts closed the gap with a solo shot in the fifth to make it 5-2, Houston. Then came Mr. James. The righthander fanned four of the eight outs he earned and it would seem he is making himself a rotation candidate for 2019. Ryan Pressly ended the eighth with a strikeout.
Roberto Osuna closed it out in dramatic fashion. Pinch-hitter Blake Swihart poked a lead-off single and, one out later, Betts walked. Andrew Benintendi stroked a base hit to left that brought Swihart home and the league's top RBI man, J.D. Martinez, came up with a chance to put Boston ahead. Instead, he rolled an 0-2 pitch to Jose Altuve for a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
The series finale will take place Sunday night at 7:05 pm Central time in a game that will be carried by ESPN. Dallas Keuchel (11-10) will toe the rubber against Rick Porcello (16-7) in a game that matches the 2015 and 2016 American League Cy Young Award winners.
Whether the Astros win or not, they have accomplished everything they've set out to do this series. They've put the rest of the A.L. on notice that they can march into any town in the league and win the series. They have a stronger rotation than last year (Cole), a deeper bullpen (Osuna, Rondon, Pressly, Smith) and have built a lineup of new stars (Bregman, White, Kemp) even as last year's (Springer, Altuve, Correa, McCann) have had down years yet all are healthy enough now to make an impact in the playoffs just like last season.
They may not set the club record for wins but they might be the scariest squad this franchise has ever put together.
- Bob Hulsey