Final, Red Sox 6-1: The Red Sox finished off their four-game sweep of the Astros and impressive 10-game homestand in perfect fashion. Daniel Nava made a fantastic diving catch in right field to cap off a 6-1 victory.
John Lackey picked up his first victory since Aug. 23, 2011. He started off a little shaky, but he eventually settled down and went six solid innings, which was even more than he expected.
Lackey gave up one run on five hits while striking out four and walking two. He threw 81 pitches (56 strikes), and most importantly, he came away healthy.
David Ortiz, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp each collected two hits as part of the Red Sox’ offensive attack. Ortiz drove in two runs, while Stephen Drew added two RBIs with a two-run triple.
The Red Sox finish their season-long 10-game homestand with a 7-3 record. Their overall record now stands at an MLB-best 18-7, and they’ll head to Toronto riding a five-game winning streak.
End 8th, Red Sox 6-1: The Red Sox went down in order in the eighth inning, and Andrew Bailey is coming on to try and close this one out.
It won’t be a save situation with the Red Sox holding a five-run lead, but Bailey hasn’t worked since Wednesday night.
4:24 p.m.: A new streak could be starting. Sunday’s game has been deemed a sell-out.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-1: Koji Uehara was himself in the eighth.
Uehara gave up a single but was otherwise very effective. The Red Sox are now three outs away from a four-game sweep of the Astros and their fifth straight win overall.
End 7th, Red Sox 6-1: David Ortiz has been simply amazing. Then again, so has Daniel Nava, so it makes sense the two combined to put up another run in the seventh.
Nava led off the inning with a single into center field, and he advanced on a balk by pitcher Jose Cisnero.
Dustin Pedroia nearly connected on a two-run jack to left, but it traveled just foul to the left of the pole. Pedroia then lined out to third.
Ortiz came through by smacking an RBI double down the right-field line. It’s his fifth double of the season, and he’s now hitting .516 with his two-hit performance in this game.
Koji Uehara will pitch the eighth inning for Boston. Jonny Gomes, who has showed off some surprisingly stellar defense the past two games, replaces Mike Carp in left field.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 5-1: Clayton Mortensen was charged with an error in his first inning, but he made up for it with his work on the hill.
Rick Ankiel popped out to begin the seventh inning. Marwin Gonzalez then grounded back to the mound, and Mortensen was unable to handle it.
No sweat. Mortensen got Robbie Grossman to ground into a force out, and he got Jose Altuve to ground to second base to end the inning.
End 6th, Red Sox 5-1: Bud Norris bounced back from a shaky fifth inning to breeze through the sixth.
Will Middlebrooks lined out on a hot shot to third base, and Stephen Drew — who connected on a two-run triple to break a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning — popped out in foul territory along the third-base line. Jacoby Ellsbury ended the inning by striking out.
Clayton Mortensen is coming in to pitch for Boston, which means John Lackey’s day is done. The veteran turned in a very good performance, all things considered.
Lackey gave up one run on five hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out four while throwing 81 pitches (56 strikes).
The only run Lackey gave up came in the first inning, and he enjoyed a stretch in which he retired 13 in a row before running into some brief trouble in the sixth. Lackey managed to escape the sixth-inning jam unscathed, though, and he’ll depart having done an excellent job in his first start back.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-1: John Lackey found himself in trouble for the first time since the first inning. He responded in a big way.
Lackey got Jose Altuve to ground out to begin the inning, making it 13 in a row retired by the right-hander, but trouble started to creep in soon after.
Jason Castro and Carlos Pena each singled, which led to a mound visit. Lackey then got two quick strikes on Ronny Cedeno, but Cedeno shot a 1-2 offering into right field to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate.
Lackey was not to be denied, though. He struck out Fernando Martinez swinging, and he then got Matt Dominguez to ground into a 6-4 force out to end the inning.
Manager John Farrell said before the game that he’d be happy if Lackey gave the Red Sox five innings. Lackey gave them six solid frames.
End 5th, Red Sox 5-1: Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez started the bottom of the fifth off with an ugly sequence, and the Red Sox used two doubles to extend their lead.
Daniel Nava led off the inning with a ground ball to short. Gonzalez struggled to control it, and once he did, things only got worse. Gonzalez fired the ball into the seats above the Red Sox’ dugout, resulting in two errors for the Houston shortstop.
Dustin Pedroia knocked in Nava by lacing a ball down the left-field line past the dive of third baseman Matt Dominguez. Pedroia, who was hustling out of the box, dove to the outside of the second base bag to beat Fernando Martinez’s throw and pick up a double.
Pedroia scored when Mike Carp plunked a two-out double off the Green Monster. Carp, who has two hits in this game, continues to make the most of his opportunities. He’s hitting .476 for the season.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 3-1: Make it 12 in a row for John Lackey.
Lackey put together another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. All three outs were ground-ball outs, with Lackey covering the bag for Mike Napoli on two of them.
Lackey is keeping the ball down in the zone and locating all of his pitches, and it’s yielding positive results thus far.
End 4th, Red Sox 3-1: The bottom of the Red Sox’ order is heating up. Will Middlebrooks has had better at-bats over the past few games, and Stephen Drew came up with a big hit in the fourth inning.
Mike Napoli led off with a blooper down the right-field line. First baseman Carlos Pena, second baseman Jose Altuve and right fielder Rick Ankiel all gave chase, but the ball dropped in as Pena went into the slide. Fortunately for the Astros, Napoli was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each singled, setting up runners at first and third. Will Middlebrooks struck out swinging, but Stephen Drew lined a two-run triple down the right-field line.
Drew entered the game hitting .136, so the Red Sox will welcome any offensive strides. It never hurts to break out of a slump with a couple of runners on in a tie game, though.
Mid 4th, 1-1: John Lackey has now retired nine in a row following another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth.
He needed just eight pitches to get through the inning. A pair of fly outs sandwiched his third strikeout of the contest.
Lackey, whose first two K’s came on the cutter, went with a curveball in a 1-2 count, but Fernando Martinez fouled it off. Martinez had no such luck against Lackey’s slider, though, as the righty picked up the strikeout on the next pitch.
End 3rd, 1-1: That was a lightning quick third inning.
Bud Norris followed up John Lackey’s 1-2-3 inning with a perfect frame of his own, and we’re still deadlocked after three.
Daniel Nava struck out swinging, and both Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz flew out.
Mid 3rd, 1-1: John Lackey improved even more in the third inning.
Lackey enjoyed a very quick 1-2-3 inning. He retired Jose Altuve, Jason Castro and Carlos Pena in order.
Altuve and Castro each grounded out, and Pena went down hacking at a cutter. The strikeout was Lackey’s second of the game, and both have come on the cutter.
End 2nd, 1-1: Will Middlebrooks is beginning to string together some good at-bats.
Middlebrooks entered the game on the heels of back-to-back two-hit performances, and he is already on the right track in this one. Middlebrooks lined a base hit into center field to begin the second inning.
The Red Sox couldn’t take advantage of putting the leadoff man on, though. Stephen Drew struck out, and Jacoby Ellsbury nearly grounded into a double play but beat out the throw at first.
Ellsbury, who had been a perfect 11-for-11 on stolen base attempts, was gunned down trying to swipe second by catcher Jason Castro.
Mid 2nd, 1-1: John Lackey gave up a leadoff single to Matt Dominguez, but his control was much better in the second inning, and he was able to keep the Astros off the scoreboard as a result.
Rick Ankiel flew out to right field after Dominguez’s single, and Marwin Gonzalez bounced to Will Middlebrooks at third base. Middlebrooks backed up and played it on a high hop. He looked to second, but he then decided to fire to first for the sure out.
Daniel Nava, who already came through at the plate, made a rather interesting play to end the inning. Robbie Grossman got a good piece of one to right field, and Nava made a basket catch while running back toward the warning track.
End 1st, 1-1: David Ortiz is locked in right now.
Daniel Nava got things started in the first inning with a one-out double. The ball landed just out of the reach of left fielder Fernando Martinez and kicked up off the wall. Nava has now reached safely in 18 of his 21 games this season.
Dustin Pedroia then worked a walk to set up first and second for Ortiz, and Big Papi once again delivered. Ortiz, who entered the game hitting .519 since returning to the lineup, shot a base hit into left-center field. It plated Nava with Boston’s first run, and Ortiz now has a 20-game hitting streak dating back to last season — a new career high.
Bud Norris struck out Mike Napoli after the Red Sox’ RBI leader ran the count full, and he got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to ground out softly to first base after issuing a two-out walk to Mike Carp. The Red Sox managed to tie the game, but they were certainly hoping for more out of that early threat.
Mid 1st, Astros 1-0: John Lackey retired the first two batters he faced rather quickly, but the right-hander ran into some two-out trouble.
Lackey struck out Robbie Grossman to lead off the game. The velocity on Lackey’s fastball sat around 90-91 mph, and he eventually got Grossman to waive at a 3-2 cutter.
Lackey got the next out on his cutter as well. Jose Altuve grounded out harmlessly to Stephen Drew at short.
A pair of two-out walks kept the inning going, though, and Ronny Cedeno came through with an RBI single.
1:34 p.m.: John Lackey is back, and his first pitch is a strike.
1:30 p.m.: This game obviously marks a huge start for John Lackey, but it helps when you come back and join a team that’s rolling.
The Red Sox are off to their best start since 2002, when they went 18-7 through their first 25 games.
Boston’s 17-7 start is the best by a team that won 69 or fewer games the previous season since the 2003 Kansas City Royals, who went 17-7 after going 62-100 in 2002.
1 p.m.: In order to make room for John Lackey on the roster, the Red Sox optioned catcher Ryan Lavarnway to Triple-A Pawtucket. It’s unsurprising, but it’s worth noting.
11:45 a.m.: The Red Sox’ lineup card has been posted, and Shane Victorino will miss his fourth straight game with a back issue.
Manager John Farrell said while speaking with the media that Victorino is improving, and that the outfielder remains day-to-day. Farrell said that with the off-day before opening up a series in Toronto on Tuesday, it made sense to hold Victorino out on Sunday.
Daniel Nava will once again man right field in Victorino’s place, while Mike Carp will get the nod in left. Nava and Carp will bat second and sixth, respectively.
Sunday’s complete lineups are below.
Red Sox (17-7)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Mike Carp, LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS
John Lackey (0-1, 4.15 ERA)
Robbie Grossman, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jason Castro, C
Carlos Pena, 1B
Ronny Cedeno, DH
Fernando Martinez, LF
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Rick Ankiel, RF
Marwin Gonzalez, SS
Bud Norris (3-2, 4.13 ERA)
8 a.m. ET: John Lackey hasn’t pitched at Fenway Park since Sept. 19, 2011. He’ll toe the rubber on Sunday.
Lackey suffered a biceps strain in his first start of the season in Toronto on April 6. It was his first regular season start since undergoing Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him for all of 2012. The hope now is that the right-hander can finally build some momentum and remain healthy for the remainder of the season.
Lackey was impressive in 4 1/3 innings before exiting his start against the Blue Jays. He allowed two runs on five hits, but he also struck out eight and appeared to have his stuff working. In fact, it was the best he’s looked since joining the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season.
While Lackey looks to turn the page on his injury, the Red Sox will be looking to cap off a four-game sweep of the Astros. Good teams know how to take advantage of their opportunities, and the Sox have taken advantage of facing a weak Astros team thus far.
With a victory on Sunday, the Red Sox — who are currently the best team in baseball — will find themselves in the midst of a five-game winning streak. Tune in on NESN, and follow along with NESN.com’s live blog to see if they can get the job done.
Sunday’s first pitch is scheduled to be delivered at 1:35 p.m.