HOUSTON – The Red Sox arrived in Houston with the best record in the American League, with the most wins in baseball, percentage points behind the Pirates for the best winning percentage in the majors.
Facing the lowly Astros, with the worst record in baseball, it would seem to be an unfair fight, Goliath paying a visit to David.
But in the first game of the three-game series the underdogs stepped up, thanks to Brett Oberholtzer, as the Astros beat the Sox, 2-0. The left-hander stifled the Sox offense over seven innings, allowing four hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Oberholtzer recorded his only two K’s of the game when the Sox had their best opportunity to score.
John Lackey took the loss, falling to 7-9 with a 3.21 ERA. He went six innings, giving up two runs on eight hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts, two shy of his season high.
Houston got a run in the fifth when L.J. Hoes singled with one out and stole second base. After Jonathan Villar walked, Robbie Grossman’s single to right field scored Hoes.
Trailing by a run in the seventh, Jonny Gomes led off with a double, taking third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s fly out to right field. But, Oberholtzer fanned Stephen Drew and Brandon Snyder to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, the Astros added another run off Lackey. Hoes led off with a double, taking third on Villar’s bunt base hit. That ended Lackey’s outing, with Junichi Tazawa entering. After striking out Grossman, Tazawa allowed a sacrifice bunt to Brandon Barnes, scoring Hoes, putting the Astros up, 2-0.
The Sox squandered another opportunity in the eighth. With Oberholtzer out of the game, left-hander Wesley Wright walked Ellsbury to open the inning. With two outs, David Ortiz singled, sending Ellsbury to third and ending Wright’s outing. Josh Fields, a Rule 5 pick by the Astros from the Red Sox in December, struck out Mike Napoli to end the Sox threat.
Fields struck out Gomes, Saltalamacchia, and Drew in the ninth – striking out all four batters he faced -- recording his first career save.
STAR OF THE GAME: Brett Oberholtzer
Making his second major league start, Oberholtzer went seven innings, allowing four hits with two walks and two strikeouts, improving to 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA.
He has now pitched seven scoreless innings in each of his first two starts.
HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Fields
Fields entered with the tying runs on base in the eighth inning, and struck out Mike Napoli to end the inning. He earned his first major league save by striking out Jonny Gomes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew in the ninth.
THE GOAT: Mike Napoli
Napoli went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He left six runners on base, including two in scoring position. He grounded out to end the sixth with two runners on and struck out to end the eighth with two runners on.
THE TURNING POINT
The Sox had the tying runs on base in the eighth inning, but Napoli struck out against Fields to end the inning.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6
The Astros had six stolen bases in the game, with one caught stealing. It was the most steals the Sox have allowed since the Rays stole seven on Sept. 16, 2011, at Fenway Park.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“It was frustrating. Just got to keep working at it, try to do it again next time. Hopefully things work out better.” – John Lackey, who fell to 7-9 with a 3.21 ERA.