HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers had a new catcher on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park, and the duo didn't have much time to prepare for the best team in baseball together. With Tim Federowicz as his batterymate, McCullers kicked off a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox,
HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers had a new catcher on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park, and the duo didn't have much time to prepare for the best team in baseball together. With Tim Federowicz as his batterymate, McCullers kicked off a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox, and a hug and a handshake from manager AJ Hinch followed six innings later.
In his 12th start of the season, McCullers tossed six solid innings of two-run ball, steering the Astros to a 4-2 win over the Red Sox. The two runs he allowed came around to score in the third, when Xander Bogaerts shot a double over the head of 5-foot-6 left fielder Tony Kemp.
"Six innings and gave my team a chance to win against a really good lineup," McCullers said. "No complaint about that."
Carlos Correa supported McCullers with a laser home run to left field in the first inning, scoring Alex Bregman and sending Houston to a 2-0 lead while quickly placing Red Sox starter Thomas Pomeranz in a hole. The Astros tagged Pomeranz with two more runs in the fourth on a pair of RBIs on balls that didn't leave the infield from Kemp and Jake Marisnick.
For the Astros (36-22) to take the first of four games against the MLB-leading Red Sox (39-18), Houston's bullpen -- the bunch that struggled mightily through the club's seven-game, four-loss road trip vs. the Indians and the Yankees -- earned nine outs without allowing a run.
Will Harris, who allowed one hit, and Hector Rondon worked the seventh and eighth innings with 21 total pitches. Astros closer Ken Giles allowed a single and a walk in the ninth inning before securing his 10th save.
"We have a really good bullpen," Hinch said. "We went into last week with one of the top five bullpens in baseball. So after, you know, getting punched in the mouth a little bit, those guys take it personal. They take it home with them. They want to finish games we're supposed to win."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Things got dicey in the eighth inning when the Red Sox got a leadoff single from Andrew Benintendi. After Harris recorded two outs, Hinch replaced him with Rondon to face J.D. Martinez, the Major League leader for home runs in May (13). Rondon forced the slugger to ground out to Correa to end the threat.
"Hector Rondon today comes up, and J.D. Martinez is the best player on Earth right now," Hinch said. "That's a big at-bat for him to step up."
Correa rifled a 96.3-mph relay throw to home plate in the third inning, nearly throwing out Benintendi on Bogaerts' two-run double. Correa's throw was the hardest by an infielder ever tracked by Statcast™.
"No way," Correa said, shocked. "That was good."
MITEL REPLAYS OF THE DAY
Correa's relay throw home in the third actually beat Benintendi to the plate, but Federowicz's tag was a touch late on the bang-bang play. The Astros challenged the ruling of safe on the field, but after a replay review, it was determined the call would stand.
An inning later, the Astros scored a run on Kemp's infield single to first baseman Mitch Moreland. The Red Sox challenged that catcher Sandy Leon tagged J.D. Davis before he touched home, but after a replay review, it was determined the safe call would stand.
The Astros will send Gerrit Cole to the mound for Friday's 7:10 p.m. CT contest against the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park. Cole, who's 5-1 with a 2.05 ERA, will square off against Red Sox ace Chris Sale (5-2, 2.76 ERA) in a premier matchup. Cole leads the American League in strikeouts with 109, just five in front of Sale's 104.
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.