Lyles unable to make early lead stand vs. Red Sox
Righty gives up eight runs as bullpen also struggles vs. AL East leaders
HOUSTON -- No lead is safe for the Houston Astros.
After a road trip featuring numerous bullpen woes, starter Jordan Lyles never let it get that far on Tuesday night.
The righty squandered an early lead, surrendering eight runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings and Jacoby Ellsbury popped two home runs to lead the Red Sox past the Astros, 15-10, during a typical American League slugfest at Minute Maid Park.
"The beginning was very pretty," manager Bo Porter said of his team's early 5-0 lead. "It was almost like the tale of two games. They did a good job of swinging the bat and we didn't do a good job of minimizing the damage."
Lyles has now allowed nine or more hits in each of his last three starts. That is tied for the second-longest run in franchise history, and he is the first Houston hurler to be that hittable since Wandy Rodriguez gave up that many hits between May 28-June 8, 2012.
"My bad outings have been bad, real bad," Lyles lamented. "Offense came out tonight and put up some big numbers. I let it go, made the bullpen throw a lot of innings. It was a tough game to watch.
"I didn't do my part. When I got those bad outings, I have to limit teams to three or four runs instead of letting it get out of hand."
Lyles has given up 39 runs in his last eight starts, making for an abysmal 8.49 ERA during that span. Houston has lost all of those games, with Lyles getting the decision in five of them.
The Red Sox scored five runs in back-to-back innings, tallied 15 hits and became the ninth team this season to post double-digit runs against Houston, nullifying dismal efforts by its own pair of de facto starters.
There was no shortage of firepower from the Astros, though it was aided by some curious happenings early on.
Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright got his first career start and gave up three runs in the first inning due to four passed balls and one wild pitch as he and catcher Ryan Lavarnway were out of sync.
"Whenever you get a knuckleball pitcher, you'll have situations where the ball may be put on the ground," Porter said. "It's not an easy pitch to catch. We were able to take advantage of the fact their catcher was having a little bit of trouble."
Those four passed balls in one frame tied the Major League record, last recorded on Aug. 22, 1987, with knuckleballer Charlie Hough on the mound.
Houston extended its early lead with Robbie Grossman's two-run homer off Boston's Brandon Workman, a spot starter and long reliever who took over for Wright.
Troublesome signs started brewing in the third, as Ellsbury hit a two-run shot and David Ortiz added an RBI single for the Red Sox.
"We still had seven at-bats," said Boston manager John Farrell of falling behind. "Once we put three on the board, little by little we thought we could get something done."
Lyles pointed to that frame for chipping away at the armor his offense built for him with an early lead.
"The inning where I gave up a couple of runs, fell behind to Ellsbury and I throw a fastball and he put a good swing on a pitch," Lyles said. "It was the whirlwind effect after that."
Though a demise was imminent, Brett Wallace's solo dinger in the third and Jonathan Villar's RBI single in the fifth boosted the lead back to 7-3.
Wallace has become a formidable bat in the Astros' order, booming nine home runs and 23 RBIs over 35 games since returning from Triple-A Oklahoma City in late June.
The floodgates couldn't stay shut for long. Off Lyles and relievers Dallas Keuchel and Jose Cisnero, the Sox put up a 10-spot over the next two innings. Jonny Gomes' three-run, pinch-hit blast off Cisnero was the backbreaker, doubling Boston's lead to six at 13-7 to finish the sixth.
"If you're able to turn either one of those innings into two or three runs, it's a whole different ballgame," Porter said. "Let's remember, there's a reason why Boston's a really good team. They have disciplined hitters, they work counts, they get themselves into predictable counts until they get their pitch."
To make matters worse, Villar left the game with a sprained left thumb after diving for a ball up the middle during the sixth, potentially halting the rookie's impressive two-week debut run in the Majors.
However, Porter and Villar said he injured the thumb when the speedy shortstop was caught stealing at third during the fourth inning.
"I hit the bag, and the finger just bent a little," Villar said. "Take two days off and see how it feels. It feels fine in some ways, but it's sore."
The Astros responded to that adversity by loading the bases with one out in the sixth, pushing across two runs to get back within striking distance at 13-9.
"The offense did a tremendous job," Porter said. "We were able to put runs up early and continued to battle late. No complaints there really."
Meanwhile, Boston wasn't letting up.
Ellsbury took Cisnero well into the right-field upper deck for a seventh-inning solo shot and Gomes tacked on another RBI with a single to make it 15-9.
Villar's replacement, Jake Elmore, crushed his second homer of the season with a massive blast to left field in the eighth.
The Astros have now failed to win consecutive games for more than a month and a half, stretching back to June 15-16 against the White Sox. Houston hasn't won a series since that same homestand (June 18-20 vs. Milwaukee), a streak of 12 sets that the Astros still have a chance to snap with a win over the Sox on Wednesday.