Red Sox Sweep Astros, Continue Torrid Pace


And the beat goes on.  The Red Sox demoralized the Astros yet again on Sunday 6-1 and closed out the four game sweep of the American League’s new cellar dwellers.  John Lackey provided six solid innings in his return to the rotation after missing three starts with a strained right biceps, holding the Astros to just five hits and two walks while surrendering one run.

Filed under the “things no one saw coming in 2012”, Lackey was given a standing ovation by the Fenway faithful when he trekked to the mound for his home debut. Less than a month after a grisly looking injury had everyone thinking his surgically repaired elbow had failed (which would’ve effectively ended his career), Lackey shut down the opposition and improved the Sox starters record to 15-4.  The only real tests for Lackey in this one came in the first and sixth innings.

At the outset, it looked like it’d be a long afternoon at Fenway and for Lackey.  After retiring the first two batters of the game, Lackey got wild as he walked Jason Castro in a nine pitch at-bat, followed by another walk to old friend Carlos Peña before Ronny Cedeño sent a single up the middle to score Castro, and give the Astros first blood and a 1-0 lead. They wouldn’t take advantage of the situation, however as Fernando Martinez flew out to right to end the threat – and the Astros scoring for the afternoon.

The Sox would not wait around long to counter, scoring a run in the home frame off Houston starter Bud Norris, as David Ortiz continued his unbelievably hot streak, with a line drive into center that brought home Daniel Nava, who had doubled in front of a Dustin Pedroia walk.

Boston would take the lead for good in the fourth when Stephen “Don’t Call Me J.D.” Drew lined a two out, two run triple into the right field corner, bringing around Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and producing a 3-1 lead.  The inning began less than favorably, as Mike Napoli blooped a hit in between right fielder Rick Ankiel and first baseman Carlos Peña, but was thrown out when Ankiel reacted quickly to Napoli attempting to stretch the hitinto a double.  After Carp and Salty singled, Will Middlebrooks, who had shown signs of late of coming out of his slump, struck out with Carp on third.  Drew almost looked as though he would squander a chance for the Sox as Norris set him up 1-2.  Drew would get the better, however, delivering his fifth RBI in four games.

Marwin Gonzalez would play goat for Houston in the fifth, committing a fielding and throwing error on a groundball by Daniel Nava, allowing Nava to reach second to lead off the frame as the Gonzalez desperation throw sailed over Peña’s head and into the crowd.  Nava would come home on a Pedroia double on the next pitch, followed two batters later by a Carp double to drive in the fifth run of the day for the Sox.

While John Lackey was expected only to go five innings, he managed to keep his pitch count low and finish the sixth. Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez had led off the second with a single before Lackey went on to retire the next 13 batters of the game in succession.  Lackey would allow three straight singles in the sixth to load the bags with one out, but Houston couldn’t get back into the game, as Fernando Martinez struck out, and Dominguez grounded into a fielder’s choice, ending an outstanding comeback for Lackey.

The Sox would add a run in the seventh on an Ortiz Double, notching his second RBI of the game and scoring Nava for the third time.  Ortiz continues to punish opposing pitchers, hitting to the tune of .516 (16-31) since his return from the disabled list.  He drove in his 10th and 11th runs in just nine games back.

The Red Sox have an off day Monday before making their second trip north of the border to face the quickly fading Toronto Blue Jays (9-17, 9.5 GB).  The Sox too two of three in the first match-up, and they will look to wrap up an improbable April (club tying record 18 wins this month) in strong fashion with Jon Lester beginning the series looking for his fifth win of the year.

Jay Coorey –  MLB Contributor – TitleTown Sports

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