BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox could not contain the Houston Astros at the plate in a 7-4 loss to finish a three-game series at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

Boston’s fifth loss in the last sixth games ties back to a problem that has gone on throughout August: A lack of deep, competitive starts from the starting rotation.

Since the start of last week’s series in Houston, a Red Sox starting pitcher completed five innings just four times in the 10-game stretch.

Kutter Crawford had one of those in a solid outing against the Dodgers, allowing just two runs in five frames. In his latest start against Houston, the Astros depleted the right-hander’s recent momentum.

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Crawford cruised through a scoreless first inning before the game took a turn in the second. Over the next two frames, the Astros pounded out seven hits and six runs, taking advantage in the strike zone against the Red Sox starter. Houston chased Crawford after just 2 2/3 innings, marking the fifth straight outing in which a Boston starting pitcher did not finish five innings.

“Stuff was down,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Velocity was down. Location was off. We tried to stretch him as much as possible, but that’s a tough one there. His stuff has been good. We’ll see how he bounces back from this one and go from there.”

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“Probably just execution,” Crawford said of his outing. “Early in the game, I struggled with my command. Luckily, they were aggressive and got themselves out. At the end of the day, I didn’t execute when I needed to.”

The Red Sox have not gotten a full series of quality starting pitching since their three-game sweep of the New York Yankees earlier this month. Brayan Bello and James Paxton each tossed six innings in winning efforts while Nick Pivetta backed up Josh Winckowski as an opener with five competitive frames.

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Since then, starting pitching has made all of the difference for Boston in a gauntlet stretch of the season.

“We didn’t pitch,” Cora said. “That’s the bottom line. After New York, the starters have been grinding through it. We’re not getting deep enough. We’ve been paying the price the last 10 days.”

Crawford took accountability for not pitching deeper in games and knows the staff must improve collectively to see results.

“It’s super frustrating,” Crawford said. “I’m probably not the only one who’s frustrated with the results. As a staff, we need to be able to pitch deeper into ballgames. I obviously wasn’t able to do that today. I’m really disappointed in myself and I feel like I let my team down.”

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In that 10-game stretch with just four five-inning starts against the Astros and Dodgers, the Red Sox went 3-7, a mark that delivers a major blow to their playoff chances as the team falls further out of the wild card picture.

Here are more notes from Wednesday’s Astros-Red Sox game:

— The Red Sox moved to 7 1/2 games behind the Astros in the American League wild-card race.

— Boston snapped a streak of hitting a home run in 18 straight games, according to Red Sox senior manager of media relations and baseball information J.P. Long. The club is now 15-27 when the offense does not hit a home run.

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— The Red Sox fell to 14-15 against teams in the American League West in 2023.

— Triston Casas recorded his first three-hit game since June 27 and has hit safely for the Red Sox in seven of his last eight games.

— With his double in the sixth inning, Adam Duvall tallied an extra-base hit for the ninth time in his last 10 games.

The Red Sox hit the road for six games, beginning Friday night to start a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET, and you can watch the game, plus an hour of pregame coverage, on NESN.

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Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images