Just how they Drew it up: Sox knock off Astros
With one out, shortstop crushes go-ahead three-run homer in ninth
HOUSTON -- Another comeback win, no walk-off necessary.
For the second straight night, the Red Sox overcame a deficit of at least three runs, as Stephen Drew's three-run ninth-inning home run stunned the Astros, 7-5, on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park and gave Boston its 27th comeback win of the season.
"Credit to Houston, they pushed us to the hilt in this series and I'm just proud of the team for the grit we showed yet again," said manager John Farrell. "This is, once again, a team win."
It was another improbable victory in a stretch run already full of them, as the Red Sox have won six of their last seven in come-from-behind fashion. They are now 12-6 in rubber games this season.
The win prevented what could have been a worrisome series loss to baseball's worst team. Instead, the late heroics have the Sox up by 2 1/2 games on the Rays, who lost to the D-backs, 9-8, in the American League East.
Drew played the role of hero again, one week removed from his walk-off single in the 15th inning against Seattle on July 31.
With Houston on the verge of cementing its first series win since mid-June, Drew stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth inning and the Sox trailing, 5-4.
On an 0-1 curveball from reliever Josh Fields, Drew launched a towering shot that just cleared the right-field fence, eliciting a massive fist pump from Jonny Gomes -- who was on first base -- and another raucous ninth-inning scene in Boston's dugout.
"He threw me a first-pitch changeup, and watching Jonny's at-bat and having faced [Fields] yesterday, I just figured if I got something up in the zone I'd put a good swing on it," said Drew. "I got a curveball and he left it out over [the plate] and I got a good rip."
Though Drew said he knew the ball was gone right off his bat, Astros right fielder L.J. Hoes appeared to have a bead on it and Fields was hopeful as the ball hung near the rafters.
"I should have buried it down a little bit more," Fields bemoaned. "It just came up out of my hand, and he put a pretty good swing on it."
Since missing 16 games with a right hamstring injury and activated off the disabled list July 20, Drew's become a force near the bottom of the Sox's lineup.
Drew has put together an eight-game hitting streak, batting .464 with two home runs, eight walks and seven RBIs. Most importantly, he's got two wins to his credit.
"I've seen him do that exact thing off me a few times," starter Ryan Dempster said of the homer. "When he gets to swinging the bat well, he's as good of a shortstop as there is offensively."
All of this came one night after Boston overcame an early five-run deficit with a pair of five-run innings to down the Astros, 15-10, on Tuesday.
There was drama beyond the final score, too, as right fielder Shane Victorino was ejected from the dugout in the seventh inning by third-base umpire Brian Knight for apparently arguing his check-swing strikeout that ended the sixth inning with the bases loaded.
As if to match the fiery Victorino, Astros manager Bo Porter took out his frustrations with another blown lead by his volatile bullpen, getting ejected for arguing on a foul tip call in the ninth.
Even for a lineup that posted 15 runs the night before, Wednesday's production was impressive by almost any measure.
Vaunted Astros rookie Jarred Cosart entered the game with a 0.96 ERA in his first four big league starts, having shut down Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota and Toronto over 28 innings.
Boston chipped away with a run each in the second and third innings, using Cosart's five walks and flat fastball to piece together rallies off the rookie.
Designated hitter David Ortiz certainly smelled fresh blood on the mound. He went 4-for-5 -- including a first-inning single to left that beat the shift -- to lodge the first consecutive four-hit games of his career.
When the Astros finally got Ortiz out in the seventh, it snapped his string of 10 plate appearances reaching base and a seven at-bat hitting streak.
"It's so impressive what he's doing," Farrell said. "They shift on him, he hits the ball the other way. They don't shift on him, he hits it back up the middle. We've seen he can get into those stretches where he can see the ball as well as anyone."
The Sox knocked the touted righty out of the game with no outs in the sixth and two men on base. They eventually loaded the bases for Victorino, whose half-hearted offering was definitely a borderline offering, both to the human eye and replays.
Knight saw a swing and rung him up before the Astros used three hits and a sacrifice fly to grab the momentum and a 5-2 advantage in the bottom of the inning.
Dempster was solid before that sixth inning, but he couldn't hold the rope, finishing with a line of five runs on seven hits and seven strikeouts over six innings.
Though he's been on the mound for quite a few of Boston's comebacks this year, it's a scenario the veteran would rather avoid during the season's final third.
"I want to try and leave the game leading and not losing, not relying on these comebacks," he said. "Somehow, someway though, this team finds a way of digging deep, and it's fun to watch."
Even with Dempster's late struggles, no lead is secure against this year's Red Sox, who notched win No. 70 to already outpace last year's 69-win season.
It was Gomes with another big blast, as Boston struck back quickly after Victorino's ejection, trimming the lead to 5-4 with a two-run liner over the elevated left-field wall in the seventh. It was his 10th home run of the year and came one night after he hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer to cap a five-run inning during a comeback win.
"Maybe to the naked eye it looks like I try to hit a home run every time, but I really did sell out in that situation to try and hit one early in the count," Gomes said.
Right then, Dempster said, the tone in the dugout was instantly familiar and victory seemed more likely than not.
"Once Jonny hit the home run, I figured the way we've been going, it was only a matter of time before someone hit one over the fence again," Dempster. "I think we all felt that way."
Farrell looked lost for words yet again, left to describe another unique chapter of what is quickly becoming a storybook summer for Boston.
"I don't know [how to describe it]," he said. "Hopefully we don't have the need to have so many comebacks. It just builds on the spirit and characteristic of this team and it's, 'Never quit.'"
Boston has now won nine of its last 10 against the Astros, claiming the season series, 6-1, after sweeping a four-game April set against its new American League rivals in Fenway.