The Houston bullpen has struggled of late, blowing several save opportunities in the recent 2-8 road trip. Josh Fields gave not only the relievers, but the entire team, a jolt on Monday in preserving the Astros’ 2-0 win over the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park for his first major league save.
“It was huge all the way around for our team to come in, first game of the series against a team like this to put out a win,” said Fields, who did it in grand fashion.
The right-handed Fields faced four batters and struck out all four, including the side in the ninth inning. And he did it against a team that leads the majors with 568 runs and entered Monday with the most wins (68) in baseball.
“For Fields to finish it up, that’s what you ask for from a back-end guy,” said Brett Oberholtzer (2-0), who got the win and became the first pitcher in franchise history to throw at least 14 scoreless innings over his first two major league starts.
Fields, who earned his first major league win just two weeks ago, came in with two outs in the eighth inning and Jacoby Ellsbury on third base and David Ortiz on first base. Fields proceeded to strike out Mike Napoli for the third out, preserving Houston’s two-run lead.
In the ninth inning, Fields struck out Jonny Gomes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew in order to end the game, snapping Houston’s four-game losing streak.
“His fastball command is where he wants it to be,” said Astros manager Bo Porter. “He can move it around the zone, he can put it on top of the zone with late life and he’s been really good pounding the bottom of the strike zone, getting ahead and then doing a good job with his breaking stuff late in the count.”
Fields was selected by the Astros as a Rule 5 Draft selection out of the Boston system this offseason.
The Astros had a season-high six stolen bases on Monday with shortstop Jonathan Villar having three. Outfielder L.J. Hoes, who was acquired on Wednesday from Baltimore in the Bud Norris trade, scored both of the game’s runs and added a stolen base.
Hoes scored in the fifth inning on Robbie Grossman’s single and in the seventh inning Hoes, who led off with a double to right field, scored on Brandon Barnes’ sacrifice bunt. The second run allowed Fields to challenge the Boston hitters, especially in the ninth.
“I felt I could be more aggressive with that two-run lead,” said Fields, who threw strikes on 14 of his 20 pitches. “Just because I don’t want to let anybody on base and give them a chance to tie it up with one swing of the bat.
“It was real nice to have that extra run. I felt it took a little pressure off. I knew I had one run for a cushion so I was coming right after those guys as hard as I could and hope they get themselves out.”
The Astros traded their closer Jose Veras to Detroit last week and it’s closer by committee as of now.
“We don’t have anybody (in the bullpen) that has earned the right to be called the closer,” said Porter. “We have a bunch of guys that will be given the opportunity and we’ll see how things go. But Josh did a great job.”