BOSTON — It’s been that kind of season.
The Red Sox entered Friday’s game against the Houston Astros riding a four-game winning streak — their longest since a five-game run sandwiching the All-Star break. The good vibes came to a screeching halt in rather strange fashion, however, as the Astros benefited from a wacky play in the eighth inning en route to a 5-3, 10-inning win at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when the recently acquired Yoenis Cespedes smoked a two-run homer into the first row of Monster seats. It was Cespedes’ first home run in 10 career games at Fenway.
The Astros battled back, tying the game at 2-2 after a home run from Robbie Grossman in the seventh inning. Brock Holt recaptured the lead for Boston in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single that plated Christian Vazquez, but everything went haywire in the top of the eighth inning.
Edward Mujica started the eighth inning for the Red Sox and surrendered back-to-back singles to Chris Carter and Dexter Fowler before manager John Farrell turned to lefty Tommy Layne to face Jason Castro and Jon Singleton, both of whom are left-handed hitters. Gregorio Petit pinch-ran for Carter.
Layne struck out both Castro and Singleton. Eight of Layne’s nine major league appearances since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket — where he was an International League All-Star — have been scoreless.
Burke Badenhop entered for Layne, and that’s when madness ensued.
Matt Dominguez hit a little flair beyond the second base bag. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts was forced to field it on a tricky hop before flipping to second baseman Dustin Pedroia in an attempt to record the inning-ending forceout. Fowler runs well, though, and Bogaerts’ toss was too late.
“When he’s got to lay back on it, whether or not he’s familiar with the running speed of Fowler, you could say sitting here in hindsight, yeah, take the play across the infield for the putout at first base,” Farrell said. “But his instincts were to go the short way with a feed to Pedey.”
Petit, who had been stationed at second base when the play began, rounded third and darted toward home. Pedroia astutely fired to the plate, where Vazquez caught the ball with his momentum moving forward. Vazquez was anticipating a rundown, but Petit instead maneuvered around the catcher. Vazquez attempted to flip to Badenhop, who was covering home, but the right-hander couldn’t corral the toss.
“It was an aggressive play,” Farrell said of Vazquez. “His instincts are to run the runner back toward third base, which he was doing. This wasn’t a mental error on his part by any means. It was an aggressive, athletic play that Petit changes course and he’s got enough room to get by him.”
The Red Sox challenged the play, with the umpires reviewing A) whether Fowler was out at second base and B) whether Petit was out at home. Both of the initial calls were upheld, though, and the Astros tied the game 3-3.
“Crazy things happen,” Buchholz said. “You expect to get the guy out at second, it doesn’t happen. Pedey was heads-up and threw the ball home. I think (Vazquez) thought he was going to get in a rundown and the guy swerved and ran behind him. Baseball’s crazy. Crazy things happen.”
Sure enough, the Astros later struck for two runs in the 10th inning. Junichi Tazawa nearly escaped a jam that Craig Breslow pitched his way into, but Jake Marisnick blooped a two-out, two-run double up the right field line to seize the lead and eventually the victory for Houston.
“You can’t defend a bloop double down the line,” Farrell said.
You sure can’t. And you sure can’t draw up a more bizarre way to end a winning streak.