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Morton roughed up by Sox in first loss of season

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- For the second consecutive night, the Red Sox suckerpunched the Astros.

Charlie Morton needed 28 pitches to navigate a rocky opening frame in which the American League East leaders got a two-run moonshot from Mitch Moreland. Four innings later, after Morton appeared to have settled in, Andrew Benintendi sent a solo shot into the second deck in Minute Maid Park's right field.

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HOUSTON -- For the second consecutive night, the Red Sox suckerpunched the Astros.

Charlie Morton needed 28 pitches to navigate a rocky opening frame in which the American League East leaders got a two-run moonshot from Mitch Moreland. Four innings later, after Morton appeared to have settled in, Andrew Benintendi sent a solo shot into the second deck in Minute Maid Park's right field.

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Despite George Springer's AL-best fourth leadoff home run of the season and Alex Bregman's two-run single in the seventh, the early damage against the Astros kick-started Boston's 9-3 win as Morton experienced his roughest regular-season start since he joined the Astros in 2016.

Video: BOS@HOU: Springer rips a leadoff homer to left-center

"I don't know," Morton said. "The fact that I wasn't getting ahead a lot. It was basically a two-pitch mix. I thought they did a great job getting to the heater. They were hitting the curveball hard. It was just one of those nights that I felt like my back was against the wall because they were putting together good at-bats. I wasn't locating. I wasn't getting ahead.

"The ball Moreland hit out, it just popped out of my hand. … The one that Moreland hit was just poorly located, which is bad."

In two previous starts at Minute Maid Park, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello had an unpromising 6.92 ERA. This time, the right-hander kept the Astros in check for most of his 6 1/3 innings, sacrificing his first home run to a righty batter this season with Springer's solo shot and a pair of RBIs to Bregman on a broken-bat single on Porcello's final pitch.

Video: BOS@HOU: Bregman breaks bat, drive in 2 runs

Boston mauled Morton (7-1) for six earned runs on nine hits, handing the right-hander his first loss since Sept. 9, 2017. In the span, Morton collected 10 wins in 14 starts and posted a 2.20 ERA over 86 innings.

Other than seven earned runs Morton allowed the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series in New York last fall, he hadn't allowed six runs in a start since April 7, 2016, with the Phillies.

"It wasn't a great night for him," said Astros manager AJ Hinch, who noted Morton's struggles against Boston's lefties. Left-handers batted .164 against Morton before Sunday.

With the loss, the Astros fell to 37-24. They are second in the AL West behind the Mariners (37-22), who will visit Minute Maid for a two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Video: BOS@HOU: Hinch on Morton, loss to the Red Sox

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Porcello followed Springer's walk in the third inning by striking out Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, Nos. 2-4 in Houston's order. Altuve also struck out against Porcello in the first and against Matt Barnes in the seventh, marking his first three-strikeout game of the season.

Video: BOS@HOU: Porcello strikes out 5 over 6 1/3 innings

SOUND SMART
For the ninth time in club history, the Astros have homered in 12 straight games, hitting 19 long balls in the stretch. The franchise record is 19 straight games, set last season from May 23-June 11.

HE SAID IT
"It'll be nice. It's nice to have a home off day, and we need it right now. Physically, we're a little bit tired. Mentally, we're a little bit tired and we showed that a little bit. But we'll be fine. We're a pretty resilient group that just went through a little bit of a rough travel schedule like a lot of teams do." -- Hinch, on Houston's off-day Monday following a 5-6 stretch vs. the Indians, Yankees and Red Sox

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
After Bregman's two-run single chased Porcello with one out in the seventh inning, the Astros had a chance to add on against Barnes. Altuve struck out looking and Correa grounded into the hole at short, where Xander Bogaerts gathered the ball and dove to force out Bregman at second base on a close play.

Hinch challenged, but a two-minute review proved inconclusive and the call would stand.

Video: BOS@HOU: Bogaerts' diving out survives challenge

UP NEXT
The Astros host the AL West-rival Mariners at 7:10 p.m. CT Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. A battle of lefties opens the two-game series, with Houston pitting Dallas Keuchel (3-7, 3.65 ERA) against Seattle's James Paxton (4-1, 3.13).

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Charlie Morton