Red Sox Notes: Houston Again A Problem For Justin Masterson In Relief

During the NESN postgame show “Red Sox Extra Innings LIVE” on Tuesday, Dennis Eckersley gave Justin Masterson just about the worst insult you can give a pitcher.

“This is Daniel Bard stuff,” the Red Sox legend cried.

Anyone who watched Bard’s fall from dominant reliever to guy who couldn’t even get outs in Single-A knows the former Red Sox prospect is not someone anyone wants to be compared to.

Unfortunately for Masterson, however, Eckersley’s harsh critique also was an accurate one.

Eckersley and the rest of Red Sox Nation a few hours earlier had watched Masterson implode in his latest appearance out of the bullpen, allowing three runs in 1 2/3 innings in an eventual 8-3 loss to the Houston Astros.

The Bard-like quality Eck was referring to was Masterson’s glaring lack of command. During his brief outing, the big right-hander uncorked a wild pitch to the backstop and hit Astros first baseman Marwin Gonzalez twice, both times around the ankles. He also surrendered a two-run home run to designated hitter Chris Carter that gave Houston a commanding 7-3 lead.

Masterson’s nine hit-by-pitches this season is tied for third-most in the majors despite the fact he’s thrown more than 100 fewer innings (230) than any other pitcher in the top five.

Perhaps the most disconcerting detail about Masterson’s latest dud was that it came just three days after an excellent performance in Los Angeles, during which he allowed one hit and did not walk a batter in three scoreless innings.

“You think that as he converts back to the bullpen, you’re expecting to see strikes as he threw the other night,” manager John Farrell told reporters Tuesday. “And he was so good the other night, with three quick and efficient innings of work. (He) pulled a number of fastballs to his glove side, obviously, with the two hit-by-pitch(es) with Gonzalez. It was not consistent with the other night.”

Though much of Masterson’s first season back in Boston has been a struggle, Houston has been an especially prickly opponent for him. In two appearances (one start, one in relief) against the Astros this month, Masterson has allowed eight runs on 12 hits in just 5 1/3 innings — good for an ERA of 12.27.

Some additional notes from Tuesday’s action:

— Second basebman Dustin Pedroia was announced Tuesday as the Red Sox’s recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, given annually by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

The award “honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game,” per MLB.com. Few would argue Pedroia doesn’t possess those qualities in spades.

— On a less uplifting note for Red Sox fans, Pedroia has struggled mightily at the plate since returning from the disabled list. He went 0-for-4 Tuesday and now is 0-for-18 in five games since the All-Star break.

— Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick, whose steal of second base in the fifth inning was a turning point in the game, also made an excellent catch in center field in the top of the ninth to rob David Ortiz of extra bases.

The over-the-shoulder grab, which can be seen here, earned Marisnick a respectful round of applause from Ortiz.

Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images 

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