HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole could sense the finish line was near, and that was bad news for the Red Sox.Cole was clocked at 100 mph twice in the seventh inning as he was closing out a 105-pitch effort in a 7-3 win over the Red Sox on Friday
HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole could sense the finish line was near, and that was bad news for the Red Sox.
Cole was clocked at 100 mph twice in the seventh inning as he was closing out a 105-pitch effort in a 7-3 win over the Red Sox on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, putting an exclamation point on a solid performance that was his 11th quality start in 12 outings.
"He's really good at finishing his outing," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "I mean, 100 a couple of times in a row at the end of his game. When he knows he's about to be done and the game is close and he needs to dial it up, he's proven time and time again he can do it. He was very impressive."
Cole (6-1, 2.20 ERA) left the game with a 4-3 lead and watched as Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis cranked home runs in the eighth inning off red-hot reliever Joe Kelly to stretch the lead. George Springer (3-for-4) also homered for the Astros, who have won 16 of their past 27 games.
The Astros had built a 4-1 lead against Red Sox ace Chris Sale after three innings, making the lefty work to get the ball in the strike zone.
"For us to come out and have a long first inning -- I think he threw like 30-something pitches -- it's big for us," Springer said. "One, it gives Gerrit some time to breathe and lets him slow down, and it also makes [Sale] work. And that's huge."
Sale (5-2, 3.00) worked six innings and allowed four runs and six hits for the Red Sox, who were trailing 4-3 after Mitch Moreland hit a homer projected by Statcast™ at 434 feet to center and J.D. Martinez followed with a laser into the right-field seats.
"A poor fastball to Moreland that he was able to handle and take it to dead center, and then J.D., I mean, you throw him a two-seam there at 96, and switch it to a four-seam and try to add height and velo, and he gets on top of it and deposits it," Cole said. "That's kind of a tip your cap."
Cole retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced.
The Astros broke things open in the eighth inning against Kelly, who had allowed only one run in his previous 24 outings and had retired 24 batters in a row before Correa lofted a homer into the Crawford Boxes. After Yuli Gurriel walked, Gattis blasted his seventh homer in his past 19-games for a 7-3 lead.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Three of the four runs the Astros scored off Sale were helped along by wild pitches. Springer walked and Alex Bregman singled to start the first, and both advanced two bases on a wild pitch to Correa, with Springer scoring from second. Bregman later scored from third on an infield hit by Gurriel for a 2-0 lead. In the third, Gurriel drove in Correa with an RBI single that came after Correa advanced to second on a wild pitch.
"To get the first run the way we did and even Bregman getting to third on that play, it's important," Hinch said. "There's an aggressive style we can play with that, which is heads-up and creates a little bit of pressure on the opponent. It's good to see. We've seen it a lot in the last couple of weeks and that's a factor in bringing energy to the ballpark every day. Our guys have done a good job of pushing it a little bit."
The Astros' 45 quality starts are the second-most by an American League team through 59 games in the live-ball era (since 1920). Only the 1968 Indians had more (48).
HE SAID IT
"There's an ambush caveman in there that we all love when he's going like this." -- Hinch, on Gattis, who's hitting .306 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in his past 19 games
Justin Verlander (7-2, 1.11 ERA) faces the Red Sox on Saturday (6:15 p.m. CT) for the first time since his lone career relief appearance, which came in Game 4 of the AL Division Series last year. He's gone 16-3 with a 1.36 ERA with 179 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings in 23 career games (22 starts) with the Astros, including the postseason. Fellow former Cy Young winner David Price (5-4, 4.04) will start for Boston.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.