Sox Shut Down In Houston, Begin Road Trip On Sour Note

In a season marred by ridicule and many an internet meme, a team like the 2013 Houston Astros needs a big game every once in a while from a young phenom to validate its future course.  Enter rookie lefty Brett Oberholtzer and his brilliant seven inning outing Monday night against the AL’s top offense in the Boston Red Sox.  While the Red Sox came off a great homestand that included two walk-off victories, a team like the Astros were the team waiting in the weeds ready to pounce.

Astros rookie Brett Oberholtzer left Sox batters scratching their heads with seven four-hit innings.

Astros rookie Brett Oberholtzer left Sox batters scratching their heads with seven four-hit innings.

John Lackey was outstanding (7+ IP, 8H, 2 ER, 10K), but succumbed to a pesky Houston lineup that stole six bases en route to the grinding 2-0 victory.  Houston got an RBI hit by Robbie Grossman, and used the aggressive approach in the seventh with a suicide squeeze to take the 2-0 lead that would hold up.

Lackey provided some scares when he awkwardly made a play off the mound in the 2nd inning to throw out Matt Dominguez at first.  Lackey rolled his left ankle and looked to be in considerable pain as he walked off the field and into the clubhouse.  True to his competitive fire, Lackey came back out in the third inning, and showed no signs that the ankle was an issue as he kept the Astros off-balance all night.

Oberholtzer ran into his first real threat in the Sox half of the seventh inning when Jonny Gomes led off with a double to the right field gap.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed up with a fly ball to right, and Gomes tagged up and just barely beat the throw into third by new Astros outfielder L.J. Hoes.  The young left-hander then picked an ideal time to come up with his first strikeouts of the night, as he set down Stephen Drew and Brandon Snyder swinging, much to the excitement of Astros manager Bo Porter.  When your team is on pace for 109 losses, I guess any silver lining will do.

John Lackey, with 107 pitches, came back out for the eighth, only to be pulled after a double to Hoes and bunt-single by Jonathan Villar.  Junichi Tazawa got a huge strikeout of Robbie Grossman before allowing Brandon Barnes to lay down a perfect suicide squeeze to get an insurance run.

Jacoby Ellsbury worked a tough ten-pitch at-bat to greet reliever Wesley Wright with the leadoff walk in the eighth inning, but was stranded on third when Mike Napoli struck out with runners on the corners to end the inning.  Former Sox prospect, and Houston Rule 5 pick Josh Fields was dominant in silencing the Red Sox, striking out all four batters he faced to earn his first career save for the last-place Astros.

With the Tampa Bay Rays idle on Monday, the Sox dropped down to just a half game lead over their rivals.  The Sox will try to regroup when Steven Wright makes his first career start on Tuesday night against Houston righty Jordan Lyles.

Jay Coorey – Senior MLB Contributor – Title Town Sports

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