The Houston Astros blew a three-run lead by allowing eight late runs in a loss at Washington on Tuesday night. Red Sox manager Terry Francona takes the blame.
Moments before the Astros' bullpen lost the lead and then some, Francona had sent a congratulatory note to good friend and Houston manager Brad Mills, who was seemingly on his way to another in a slew of recent wins.
"I even screwed that up," Francona joked about sending the note too soon.
Despite that scenario, the Boston skipper remains impressed by what Mills, Boston's bench coach alongside Francona for six seasons, has accomplished in his first year at the Astros' helm. Impressed, but not surprised at all.
"I'm not amazed," Francona said when asked about Houston's turnaround after a dismal start. "I'm not [saying I] told you so. All his qualities are coming out. They started out slow. They're getting beat up. He just kept fighting. He kind of helped create a culture and they're five [games] within .500.
"They could've quit and now all of a sudden there's reason for optimism and guys are enjoying coming to the ballpark in September, and they're not even .500."
Mills lost his first eight games to start the year and the Astros were still 32-51 just before the All-Star break. The club is 41-27 since then and has an outside chance of catching St. Louis for second place in the National League Central Division. The Astros were in last place in the division well into June.
"They lost the first eight games of the year, you had some veterans that weren't happy. He did a great job," Francona said. "He's kind of included player development. That's his personality. He's got the chance to finally do it now. Good for him.
"I don't think that's a surprise at all."
What was a surprise was the final score in Washington on Tuesday night, at least to Francona. However, the result takes nothing away from the job Mills has done, firmly cementing himself in N.L. Manager of the Year discussions.