All the right moves: Sox stage huge rally vs. Astros
Lavarnway hits clutch double, Papi gets four hits, Ellsbury homers twice
HOUSTON -- The Red Sox gave away three runs in the first inning Tuesday night and the Houston Astros scored two more in the second for a five-run lead.
It didn't bother manager John Farrell one bit.
"We still had seven at-bats to get through," Farrell said. "Once we put the three on the board [in the third inning] and got back within two, little by little we felt we could get some things done."
And the Red Sox got a lot of things done. They pounded out 15 hits, scored their second highest run total of the season and overtook the Astros, 15-10, at Minute Maid Park.
Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury ignited the Boston offense with a two-run homer in the third inning and Ryan Lavarnway contributed a two-run double in the fifth that put the Red Sox ahead to stay at 8-7.
Then Jonny Gomes ripped a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the sixth and the Sox turned it into a runaway. For Gomes, it was his fourth pinch-hit homer of the season, leaving him one short of the club record set by Joe Cronin in 1943.
"Anytime you have an opportunity to share a record book with somebody pretty special, it's cool," Gomes said. "The season's not over."
Gomes is 6-for-16 as a pinch-hitter with seven RBIs.
"He prepares for the role," Farrell said. "I gave him a heads up four or five hitters beforehand. He's accustomed to it. He's got a quick bat and a compact swing. Even with inactivity, he gets a bat on the ball."
Gomes said there is no secret to his outstanding pinch-hitting.
"Your standard preparation," he said. "Stay in tune with the game. Watch what the catcher's been calling. Watch what the catcher's been calling with runners in scoring position."
"Let's remember, there's a reason why Boston's a really good team," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "They have disciplined hitters, they work counts, they get themselves into predictable counts until they get their pitch."
Lavarnway showed he was able to come back personally as well as his team. He tied a Major League record in the first inning with four passed balls attempting to catch knuckleballer Steven Wright, making his first Major League start.
"Definitely, it's a tough pitch," Wright said. "Usually I can keep it in a certain area of the strike zone. He's caught me before and done a really good job. Today it was all over the place. He did a good job of staying in there and taking the punches with me."
Lavarnway struck out in his first two at-bats against Houston starter Jordan Lyles with runners on and Boston trailing.
"I don't think that's how anybody would have drawn it up, but sometimes that's how it goes," said the backup catcher, who started because he had experience catching Wright. "At any minute he could have started throwing it over the plate where I could have caught it."
But his key hit made the night worthwhile.
"The first at-bat he stayed away," Lavarnway said of Lyles. "The second at-bat he came in. The third time I was looking in and he came in."
"It was a key swing in the game," Farrell said.
Ellsbury reached base four times in a row with two homers and two walks. So did Shane Victorino with three hits and a walk. David Ortiz tied his career high with four hits, all line-drive singles.
Boston, which moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay in the American League East, equaled its win total of last season with 69.
"I hope we pass last year," joked Farrell.
Ortiz said Tuesday night was a game last year's Red Sox would not have won, falling behind 5-0 so early.
"Last year, a lot of things were going on and I don't think guys were focused on what we need to do," he said.
"We kept on playing through it [tonight]. We've got guys coming in here hungry every day that make things happen. The past week we've had three or four wins coming from behind. We're going to come back and make things happen."
"That's what this team has done a great job of, is erasing some of the negative things that happen early in a game," added Gomes. "That's just picking each other up."