HOUSTON -- The Red Sox were getting tired of being pushed around by the Astros. The trend started last October and continued into the first couple of games this series. But it all changed in satisfying fashion with a tense, 5-4 victory on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.After working
HOUSTON -- The Red Sox were getting tired of being pushed around by the Astros. The trend started last October and continued into the first couple of games this series. But it all changed in satisfying fashion with a tense, 5-4 victory on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
After working Justin Verlander hard enough to get the dazzling ace (1.24 ERA) out after six innings, the Boston bats went into attack mode in the top of the seventh.
With two outs, Christian Vazquez hammered a towering solo shot (No. 1 on the season) to left to tie the game. After Jackie Bradley Jr. walked and Andrew Benintendi strode to the plate, Brock Holt said something to manager Alex Cora.
"I just looked at AC and I said, 'Hey, Benny's going way back here,'" Holt said. "And he looked at me, he said, 'Yeah?' I said, 'Yeah, second deck.' And I don't know why I said that. I just had a feeling."
On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Benintendi made his closest friend on the team look like a prophet, smoking a 1-2 fastball from reliever Will Harris into the second deck in right for a two-run homer that put the Red Sox ahead, 5-3. The drive had an exit velocity of 104.6 mph and traveled a projected 417 feet, according to Statcast™.
"He crushed that pitch," said Cora.
The climb from 3-1 down started in the sixth when Xander Bogaerts worked a walk against Verlander, stole second and then scored when J.D. Martinez laced an RBI single to center.
Martinez's heroics are nothing new to the Red Sox. They pretty much happen on days that end with the letter y.
"It's Saturday," deadpanned Cora of Martinez coming through again.
It was Martinez who drove in Boston's other run against Verlander -- his former teammate in Detroit -- with an RBI single in the first.
"In my opinion, he's been the best hitter in baseball for the last month. He's hot," said Verlander. "I made a couple of mistakes to him and he doesn't miss them. That's what happens with a hitter like that. He kind of put it in his wheelhouse, and you're probably happy they're just singles."
David Price (6-4, 4.08 ERA) held up well in his duel with Verlander, allowing five hits and three runs while walking one and striking out seven to earn the win. It was the fifth straight solid start for the lefty.
"Yeah, that was a good win against a very good team," said Price. "The way we battled back during that seventh was huge. Especially with the way that Ver is throwing the baseball, if you go out and give up a crooked number, you're probably going to lose. The way we battled back after the first two games, that was big for us."
After reeling off their MLB-best 40th win of the season to improve to 21 games over .500, the Sox will try to earn a split of this four-game series on Sunday night.
"We would have liked to take three out of four or at least split but it's a good atmosphere," said Cora. "That's a good team. Obviously, we're playing without some of the guys. To go out there and perform, play defense, run the bases well, it was a cool game."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Perhaps the equalizing homer will serve as a confidence-builder for Vazquez, who has struggled mightily at the plate this season and has seen his playing time reduced this week. In Vazquez's first at-bat of the night, he saw 10 pitches from Verlander and lined out to right. In his big at-bat in the seventh, he smashed a 3-1 cutter from Harris that soared over the wall in left.
"I'm here to help the team and do whatever it takes to help the team," said Vazquez. "Take good at-bats and grind and be there for my teammates and Alex and everybody."
With Mookie Betts (abdominal strain) on the disabled list, it's good that Benintendi is red-hot. The outfielder, who will lead off until Betts returns, has six homers in his last 17 games, during which he has a .790 slugging percentage.
HE SAID IT
"Yeah, those guys over there, it's tough to get three hits in a row. We will apply pressure on them. Like I told you guys yesterday, the guys have a free pass this weekend to be aggressive. If they get thrown out, well, let them make the play and we put pressure on them the whole day." -- Cora, after a game in which the Red Sox stole three bases
The finale of this four-game series between AL heavyweights features another strong pitching matchup Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.65 EA) takes the ball for Boston. He will be opposed by Astros righty Charlie Morton (7-0, 2.26 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.