Final, Astros 2-0: Josh Fields strikes out the side, and the Astros leave victorious in the opener of this three-game series.
The loss spoiled a strong outing by John Lackey, who allowed two runs on eight hits while striking out 10 over six innings, but the story of the night was Houston’s rookie starter, Brett Oberholtzer.
Oberholtzer shut down the Red Sox for seven innings, allowing just two hits and walking two to complete his second consecutive scoreless outing. In two major league starts, the 24-year-old has pitched 14 innings without surrendering a run.
Boston will hope to have better fortune when it sends knuckleballer Steven Wright to the mound against Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles. We hope you join us right back here for that one, which gets underway from Minute Maid Park at 8:10 p.m.
End 8th, Astros 2-0: Craig Breslow worked a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth — albeit an unconventional one.
Jason Castro flied out to open the inning, and Chris Carter whiffed for the fourth time tonight to give Breslow two quick outs. The lefty then walked Brett Wallace, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia foiled the first baseman’s attempt to steal second to wrap up the frame.
These Astros sure do like to run. They’ve attempted eight steals tonight, swiping six bases successfully.
Jonny Gomes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew are due up for the Red Sox in the ninth.
Mid 8th, Astros 2-0: Josh Fields blows a fastball by Mike Napoli, and the Sox come up empty yet again.
Napoli’s last three at-bats have resulted in inning-ending outs.
Craig Breslow will be the new pitcher for the Red Sox in the eighth.
Top 8th, Astros 2-0: For the second straight inning, the Red Sox have put a runner on third.
Jacoby Ellsbury opened the eighth with a 10-pitch against Wesley Wright and, after a pair of flyouts, advanced to third when David Ortiz’s fly ball fell in for a hit. Brandon Barnes had been playing Ortiz incredibly deep in center field, allowing what should have been a routine out to land and extend the inning.
Josh Fields has come on to replace Wright with two outs.
End 7th, Astros 2-0: The Astros played some serious small ball in the seventh, and it paid off.
After John Lackey departed with men on first and third, Junichi Tazawa entered and immediately picked up the first out, striking out leadoff hitter Robbin Grossman.
Jonathan Villar then swiped second base without a throw, his third steal of the night, and Brandon Barnes dropped down a textbook suicide squeeze with L.J. Hoes sprinting toward home plate.
Tazawa got Jose Altuve to ground out to end the inning, but the Red Sox now find themselves in a 2-0 hole with two innings remaining. They’ll get a chance to see someone other than Brett Oberholtzer, though, as left-hander Wesley Wright comes on in relief of the Astros starter.
Oberholtzer leaves after allowing four hits over seven scoreless innings, stretching his streak of consecutive scoreless frames to 14.
Bottom 7th, Astros 1-0: John Lackey’s night is over.
The right-hander allowed a leadoff double to L.J. Hoes in the eighth, and Jonathan VIllar followed with a bunt that found a hole between the pitcher, catcher and third baseman.
With men on first and third, John Farrell will call on righty Junichi Tazawa.
Mid 7th, Astros 1-0: This kid is a rookie? Really?
Brett Oberholtzer foiled the Red Sox’ best scoring chance of the night, striking out Stephen Drew and Brandon Snyder with Jonny Gomes on third base to hold Boston scoreless for the seventh consecutive inning.
Gomes led off the inning with a double then tagged on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s flyout to right field, beating L.J. Hoes’ relay throw to third base by inches.
Oberholtzer showed composure in his first man-on-third situation of the night, striking out Drew and Snyder on seven total pitches to protect Houston’s slim lead.
John Lackey, who surpassed 100 pitches last inning, will return to the mound for the home half of the seventh.
End 6th, Astros 1-0: If not for Brett Oberholtzer’s dominant performance so far tonight, John Lackey would be the story.
In what looks to be his final inning of work, Lackey struck allowed one hit and struck out two, with the final punchout giving him double-digit K’s for just the second time this season.
Brandon Workman is ready to go in the Boston ‘pen, so it’s unlikely we’ll see Lackey come out for the seventh.
Mid 6th, Astros 1-0: Nothing doing again for the Sox, who put two runners on with two outs but again cannot solve Brett Oberholtzer.
The Astros starter opened the inning with two quick groundouts before Dustin Pedroia reached on an infield single. Pedroia is the only player on either team with multiple hits tonight.
David Ortiz then walked on six pitches, reaching base for the second time in the game, but Mike Napoli followed with a grounder that Jose Altuve scooped up and took to second base himself for the final out.
Oberholtzer’s line thus far: six innings, three hits, zero runs, two walks, 89 pitches. Not bad for your second career start.
End 5th, Astros 1-0: After a half-game on scoreless baseball, we finally have a run on the board.
After Matt Dominguez struck out to open the bottom of the fifth, three consecutive Astros batters reached base, with Robbie Grossman singling to drive in L.J. Hoes with the game’s first run.
Hoes, who was acquired from Baltimore in the deal for Bud Norris last week, singled on an 0-1 fastball with one out, stole second and came home on Grossman’s base hit to the right side.
Jonathan Villar, who walked following Hoes’ single, scampered to third on Grossman’s hit. Grossman then stole second, as well, marking Houston’s fifth successful steal in six tries.
The steal put two runners in scoring position with one out, but John Lackey struck out Brandon Barnes and Jose Altuve to keep the damage at a minimum.
The Red Sox will look to respond with the top of their order against Brett Oberholtzer in the sixth.
Mid 5th, 0-0: The Red Sox get their first extra-base hit, but no more as Brett Oberholtzer tosses another scoreless frame.
After Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both flied out to open the inning, Stephen Drew reached on a two-out double down the first base line. He would stay on second for long, though, as Brandon Snyder saw just two pitches before flying out to center field to end the inning.
End 4th, 0-0: The Astros again put a man in scoring position, but some over-eager baserunning by Jose Altuve allowed John Lackey to escape with another scoreless inning.
Altuve led off the inning with a single and promptly swiped second base, and Jason Castro worked a six-pitch walk to put two men on with nobody out.
Lackey then struck out Chris Carter swinging, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, after being victimized for three stolen bases already, caught Altuve trying to steal third for the second out.
With the scoring threat wiped off the basepaths, Lackey struck out Brett Wallace looking with a 93-mph fastball on the outside corner to retire the side.
Mid 4th, 0-0: Where has all the offense gone?
The Red Sox finally recorded their first hit of the contest — a leadoff single by Dustin Pedroia — but they again were unable to push a run across against rookie Brett Oberholtzer.
Oberholtzer, who has now completed 11 consecutive scoreless innings, got David Ortiz and Mike Napoli to fly out after surrendering the base hit, and catcher Jason Castro sniped out Pedroia attempting to steal second for the final out of the inning.
Luckily for the Red Sox, John Lackey is spinning a solid outing of his own, and the scoreboard still shows nothing but goose eggs.
End 3rd, 0-0: Astros speedster Jonathan Villar reached on a one-out single and proceeded to steal a pair of bases, but his teammates were not able to push him across.
With Villar running wild on the basepaths, John Lackey struck out Robbie Grossman and Brandon Barnes, both on 2-2 cutters, to keep this game scoreless.
It was questionable whether Lackey would return after twisting his ankle at the end of the second inning, but he showed no ill effects of the injury in the third.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: Brett Oberholtzer is dealing tonight, and the Red Sox are still without a hit.
Brandon Snyder opened the third inning with a hard line drive, but its trajectory took it straight into the glove of shortstop Jonathan Villar.
Jacoby Ellsbury then grounded out to thrid base, and Jose Altuve made a great diving catch to rob Shane Victorino of a bloop single and complete the 1-2-3 inning.
There is good news for the Red Sox, however, as John Lackey has returned to the mound for the bottom of the bottom of the third.
End 2nd, 0-0: The Astros have the first hit of the night, as Chris Wallace atones for his first-inning error by roping a two-out double to the wall in left field.
John Lackey stranded Wallace at second by getting Matt Dominguez to ground out to the mound just two pitches later, but he went down hard while fielding the bouncing ball. Lackey landed awkwardly on his ankle while turning to throw to first, and he went straight into the Red Sox clubhouse for evaluation.
It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll return for the third, but Jose De La Rosa is now warming in the Boston bullpen.
Lackey began the inning by getting Jason Castro, Houston’s lone All-Star representative, to ground out to first base and striking out Chris Carter swinging.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: Brett Oberholtzer turned in what should have been another 1-2-3 inning, but some butterfingers at first base prevented that from happening.
Second baseman Jose Altuve scooped up a leadoff grounder by David Ortiz with plenty of time to beat the lumbering DH to the base, but first baseman Brett Wallace dropped the throw, leading first base umpire Brian Knight to call Ortiz safe.
Replays showed that Wallace may have picked the ball up before Ortiz reached first, but Astros manager Bo Porter did not leave the dugout to argue. For a team that entered tonight 27 1/2 games out of first place, a questionable call must not have been worth the walk.
The error would not prove costly for the home team, though, as Oberholtzer allowed a two-out walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia but retired the other three batters he faced to strand Ortiz at second.
End 1st, 0-0: The bottom of the first inning went by as swiftly as the top, as John Lackey needed just 10 pitches to set down the Astros in order.
Leadoff man Robbie Grossman started things off by flying out to Jacoby Ellsbury in left-center field — nearly the same spot Ellsbury himself flied out to to open the game.
Brandon Barnes and Jose Altuve then grounded out consecutively to wrap up the inning.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Brett Oberholtzer made quick work of the Red Sox in the first, retiring the side in order on nine pitches.
Jacoby Ellsbury almost led the game off with a base hit to left-center field, but Brandon Barnes ranged over from center to make the grab on the warning track. Minute Maid Park has some odd outfield dimensions, which could make playing balls near the difficult for Ellsbury & Co. tonight, especially if the hill in straightaway center field comes into play.
Shane Victorino then popped out to second base, and Dustin Pedroia grounded to shortstop to end the inning.
Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and Jose Altuve will take first hacks against John Lackey in the home half of the first.
8:11 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury takes strike one from Brett Oberholtzer, and we are underway.
Oberholtzer, who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City last week to aid Houston’s wretched pitching staff, was stellar in his first major league start. The 24-year-old scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings in an 11-0 win over Baltimore last Wednesday, striking out six without walking a batter.
He’ll try to repeat that success tonight against the Red Sox, who will send Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia to the plate in the top of the first.
7:55 p.m.: It’s a scorcher in H-Town (96 degrees at this hour, according to Weather.com), but hopefully Minute Maid Park’s retractable roof will keep things cool down on the field.
First pitch from Brett Oberholtzer is coming up in just 10 minutes.
7:35 p.m.: Before we get going tonight from Houston, let’s take a quick look back at what transpired off the field earlier today.
Major League Baseball finally lowered the boom on the Biogenesis scandal, handing out a dozen 50-game suspensions and slapping Alex Rodriguez with a 211-game ban — the longest drug-related punishment in MLB history.
All 12 players given 50-game bans — a list that includes All-Stars Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz and Everth Cabrera — have chosen not to fight their sentence. Rodriguez, however, will appeal his suspension and, in a bizarre sequence of events, will make his season debut tonight in Chicago.
The appeal process is expected to take between 40 and 50 days, meaning A-Rod will almost certainly make the trip to Fenway Park with the Yankees next weekend. That shouldn’t be a circus or anything.
Real, on-the-field baseball gets started in just about 30 minutes.
6 p.m.: The Red Sox have placed Daniel Nava on the paternity leave list and activated Brandon Workman from Triple-A.
Workman, who has been impressive during his brief time with the Red Sox this season, had yet to pitch for Pawtucket since being optioned by the club on Aug. 1 to make room for Jake Peavy.
Major League Baseball’s paternity leave policy allows a player be replaced on the roster for one to three days while his child is born.
Nava hasn’t played since Friday, and he has not seen the field in seven of the team’s last 14 games.
5:25 p.m.: Shane Victorino earned himself some love from Major League Baseball after a monster week at the plate.
The right fielder, who has hit recorded multiple hits in five of his last six games, was named American League Player of the Week on Monday.
It marked the first time in his decade-long career that Victorino has earned the weekly honor (in either league), and he’ll hit out of his usual No. 2 slot as the Red Sox open up their set in Houston tonight.
Here are the full lineups for both teams:
Boston Red Sox (68-45)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Stephen Drew, SS
Brandon Snyder, 3B
John Lackey, RHP
Houston Astros (36-74)
Robbie Grossman, LF
Brandon Barnes, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jason Castro, C
Chris Carter, DH
Brett Wallace, 1B
Matt Dominguez, 3B
L.J. Hoes, RF
Jonathan Villar, SS
Brett Oberholtzer, LHP
10:30 a.m. ET: The Red Sox have a long stretch ahead of them. Boston (68-45) is playing 16 of its next 19 games on the road, starting with a 10-game road trip that begins tonight.
Luckily for the Sox, the first stop is in Houston, where Boston will face the struggling Astros (36-74). The Sox have mopped up on the American League’s newest arrivals so far this year, sweeping them in four games at Fenway in April.
One of the winners in that series was John Lackey (7-8, 3.23 ERA), who gets the ball Monday in Houston. His April 28 start against the Astros was his first after an injury layoff, but he didn’t have much trouble, giving up just five hits and one earned run while going six innings.
Brett Oberholtzer (1-0, 3.77 ERA) will try to hold the high-powered Boston offense at bay. The rookie has started just one game this year after three relief appearances, but it was a good one — he pitched seven innings against the Orioles and held that strong lineup to just three hits (no runs).
The Astros are in the Central Time Zone, so this one doesn’t start until 8:05 p.m., but we’ll have First Pitch on NESN and news and notes here before that.