Lots of Astros positives from Red Sox series

Lots of Astros positives from Red Sox series
August 8, 2013, 1:00 am
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Porter on Grossman: 'Really good at-bats'

(Thomas Campbell - USA Today Sports Images)

The Astros have the fewest wins in baseball and the Red Sox the best record in the American League. Over a three-game series at Minute Maid Park, there wasn’t a drastic difference between the two teams.

In Wednesday’s rubber match, the Astros were two outs away of winning their ninth series of the season. Then Boston’s Stephen Drew hit a three-run home run off Josh Fields to give the Red Sox a 7-5 lead that they would hold, spoiling what had been a good performance from the Houston bullpen.

The Astros won the series opener 2-0. Even in Tuesday’s five-run loss to the Red Sox, the Astros scored 10 runs.

Victory was certainly in the Astros’ grasp on Wednesday. A game in which Jarred Cosart started, Robbie Grossman hit safely for the 10th straight game, including a two-run home run in the third inning that tied the game 2-2, and Astros manager Bo Porter being ejection in the ninth inning for the first time in his career by home plate umpire Mark Carlson disputing a strike out of Jason Castro on a foul tip.

“It is frustrating, but I’m proud of the effort that these guys displayed in these three ballgames against one of the best teams in baseball,” said Porter. “That speaks value to that group in there and the Boston Red Sox are not leaving here feeling like they came in here for three games and walked over a team that has the worst record in baseball.”

In going to their final at-bat to win two-out-of-three games with Houston, the Red Sox needed some monster performances to achieve that. David Ortiz reached base safely in 10 straight plate appearances from his third plate appearance on Monday through his third on Wednesday. Over that span Ortiz went 8-for-8 with eight singles and two walks.

Jonny Gomes hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to cut Houston’s lead to 5-4. But Drew’s 374-foot homer to right field off Fields was the game changer.

“I left a breaking ball. I should have buried it down a little more,” said Fields. “He put a good swing on it.”

In Monday’s Houston win, Fields struck out all four Red Sox he faced in earning his first major league save.

“It’s a grind, there’s 162 games and nobody’s going to go out there and get the job done every time,” said Fields. “Make one mistake out there and you can pay for it.”

The Astros are still trying to find their closer since trading Jose Veras last week to Detroit. The Houston bullpen came up big in the sixth inning, striking out the side after Cosart left the game with runners on first and second and no outs. Left-hander Wesley Wright relieved Cosart and got two strikeouts. Right-hander Josh Zeid struck out Shane Victorino with the bases loaded to end the inning, keeping the score 2-2.

“From there we looked like we were going up,” said Cosart, who walked five and allowed two runs in five-plus innings. “With a team like that it’s a game of inches. You leave a bad pitch to anyone of those guys and they can hurt you.”

And Houston reliever Chia-Jen Lo got in the act, striking out Brandon Snyder to end the seventh inning with two runners on base and Houston leading 5-4. Lo pitched a scoreless eighth inning before giving way to Fields (1-2), who allowed Drew’s go-ahead homer to take the loss.

Grossman, Castro and Brett Wallace had two hits each for the Astros, who took a 5-2 lead with a three-run sixth inning.

“It shows a lot about this team, there’s a lot of resiliency and a lot of fight,” said Grossman, who scored two runs and had a double in addition to homering for the second straight game. “We came out and fought every inning.”