Red Sox look to ignite sputtering offense vs. Astros

MLB

The Boston Red Sox opened a four-game road series against the Houston Astros featuring one of the top offenses in the majors, one that entered Tuesday leading the league in extra-base hits (192), slugging percentage (.446) and OPS (.765), while ranking third in runs per game (5.08).

The Red Sox have mustered just three runs while dropping the first two games of the series, including a 5-1 loss Tuesday in which they managed only five hits and five at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Red Sox will look to ignite their offense on Wednesday when they continue their series in Houston.

The heart of Boston’s lineup — designated hitter J.D. Martinez, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers — is a combined 0-for-21 with 12 strikeouts in the series after each entered Tuesday ranked in the top six in the American League in OPS.

“They’re human,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the three players. “They’re not going to carry the offense for 162 games.

“We haven’t been able to do too much. They’ve done a good job of using fastballs in certain spots and using their breaking balls in certain situations, and we haven’t been able to adjust.”

Right-hander Nick Pivetta (6-0, 3.86 ERA) will start for the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Pivetta is one of two starters in the majors with at least six wins and no losses this year, holding that distinction with San Francisco Giants right-hander Kevin Gausman. Pivetta leads all Red Sox starters in strikeouts (59) and opponent batting average (.215).

Pivetta recorded nine strikeouts in his previous start against the Atlanta Braves on May 26, his highest total since competing against the Dodgers while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies on June 2, 2019. Pivetta is 8-0 with a 3.53 ERA in 12 starts with Boston and has faced the Astros once previously, allowing five runs on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over six innings in a 5-0 home loss with the Phillies on July 25, 2017.

Left-hander Framber Valdez (0-0, 2.25) will make his second start of the season for Houston on Wednesday. Valdez made his season debut against the San Diego Padres on Friday, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts over four innings. He missed the first 49 team games with a left index finger fracture sustained during spring training.

Valdez is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in two relief appearances against the Red Sox.

Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia continues to pitch as though he wants to maintain his spot in the rotation as Astros starters return from the injured list. Houston welcomed back Valdez, Jake Odorizzi and Jose Urquidy this past weekend and expect to get Lance McCullers Jr. back at some point later this month. That depth would seem to push Garcia out of the mix.

Instead, Garcia won his fourth consecutive decision Tuesday and has allowed just four earned runs on 15 hits and six walks with 25 strikeouts over 23 innings during their stretch. If the time comes to trim the rotation, Garcia seems intent on making his exclusion a difficult decision.

“You still have to pitch no matter where you are in the rotation or the bullpen,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Like they say you never have enough pitching. We’re going to need everybody for that rotation. You just live in the present and enjoy what’s been given to us now and worry about the future later.

“He’s proven he belongs in the big leagues.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.