BOSTON -- The first of three games between American League division leaders set a lively tone for the weekend, as the two heavyweights exchanged late blows before Houston landed the last big strike to walk away with a 6-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night.Held
BOSTON -- The first of three games between American League division leaders set a lively tone for the weekend, as the two heavyweights exchanged late blows before Houston landed the last big strike to walk away with a 6-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Held in check for much of the evening, the Astros' offense awoke in the late innings, pushing across three in the seventh and another three in the eighth to escape with their sixth straight win.
With the victory, Houston improved to 48-21 on the road and maintained its lead in the West.
"It's a good win for us," said third baseman Alex Bregman. "That's one of those things that this team does a good job of, coming through late in the game and never giving in. It was a great team win."
After Houston scratched out just two hits off Boston starter David Price, who struck out 10 over 6 1/3 innings, Bregman began a trend in the seventh with a leadoff double, his Major League-leading 78th extra-base hit.
"Price was unbelievable tonight," said Bregman. "He was throwing fastballs, cutters to both sides of the plate, changeups and just continually going in, out, in, out. ... It was good stuff by him."
Yuli Gurriel and Tony Kemp would collect two-base hits of their own in the inning to provide Houston a short-lived 3-2 lead.
Boston countered in the bottom of the inning behind a J.D. Martinez single that squared things up at 3.
Undeterred, Houston answered the bell in the eighth, opening with three straight singles before a Carlos Correa sacrifice fly scored George Springer.
A Joe Kelly wild pitch allowed Jose Altuve to cross the plate, and with one out, Tyler White got back to the singles parade to bring Bregman in and pad the lead.
Boston nearly worked its way back in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners on first and second with one out before reliever Hector Rondon retired Rafael Devers by strikeout and Jackie Bradley Jr. on a comebacker to the mound.
Houston starter Gerrit Cole allowed two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts over six innings, the biggest blow against him Xander Bogaerts' 423-foot solo shot in the fourth.
Cole did well to get out of trouble throughout the night, including a little payback on Bogaerts in the fifth, when he shut down a bases-loaded situation by blowing a 100-mph fastball past the Red Sox shortstop.
"He did a good job navigating a lot of issues," manager AJ Hinch said of his starter.
"Bogaerts beat me before, and I just had to get the job done," added Cole.
Roberto Osuna tossed a clean ninth to pick up his fifth save since joining the Astros and 14th on the season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With runners on second and third and two outs in the seventh, Hinch looked to his bench, calling on Kemp to hit for Martin Maldonado. Kemp ran the count to 3-1 and thought he had drawn a walk on a low fastball from Ryan Brasier, even flipping his bat back as he began down the line toward first before the pitch was called a strike. Kemp calmly stepped back into the box and sent the next pitch down the third-base line and into the left-field corner, scoring both White and Gurriel to give Houston a 3-2 lead.
"I thought it was a little down, [they] called it a strike, and thankfully they did," said Kemp. "I just tried to get a pitch right there that I could handle and he went fastball in and I just tried to put a good swing on it. Luckily, it went down the left-field line."
In the bottom of the third inning, Cole reached back and unloaded a 98-mph fastball to strike out MVP candidate Martinez and end the inning. It was Cole's third strikeout of the evening and 246th of the season, moving him past Nolan Ryan's 1982 campaign with Houston for sixth on the club's single-season strikeout leaderboard. Cole finished with eight K's on the night, giving him 251 on the season and moving him momentarily ahead of teammate Justin Verlander (248) for first in the AL and second in the Majors behind Washington's Max Scherzer (260).
"He was able to dial it up, hit 100 [mph], executed pitches, reached back a little bit," said Hinch. "He mixed and matched and navigated his way through."
Crew chief and home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora was forced to leave the game after just an inning and a half after a foul ball hit him in his mask. The incident occurred in the top of the second inning when Josh Reddick fouled back a pitch that ricocheted off Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon and then O'Nora. Red Sox trainer Brad Pearson came out to check on O'Nora, who remained in the game until the top of the second inning concluded. Following a 13-minute delay to change equipment, first-base umpire James Hoye took over behind the plate.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the top of the seventh inning, Boston challenged a safe call at second base on Gurriel's double after he momentarily came off the bag on his slide. Following a review of one minute and 30 seconds, the call on the field was confirmed.
Right-hander Charlie Morton returns to action in the second of the three-game set against the American League East-leading Red Sox. Morton missed only one start after landing on the disabled list with discomfort in his right shoulder on Aug. 29. Morton allowed a season-high nine hits in a loss to Boston on June 3 but has gone 6-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 14 starts since. Boston counters with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who struck out 12 White Sox in 5 2/3 innings in his return from the disabled list on Sept. 1.
Craig Forde is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston.