This weekend was a tough one for the Red Sox, losing consecutive one-run games to the Houston Astros. On Saturday night the teams had a combined 27 hits for 21 runs, including a wild third inning with 9 two-out runs. Despite the messy start, Sox starter Jon Lester was lined up for the win after a 5-run Sox rally in the 6th.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Ty Wiggington ended Manny Delcarmen’s scoreless innings streak in the Eighth inning. Wiggington’s game-tying solo shot was the first run Delcarmen had surrendered since May 27th; a span of 13 2/3 innings over 12 appearances. Lance Berkman continued the Astros’ two-out success and nailed a go-ahead double to left field to put Houston ahead for good.
Mike Lowell hit a clutch solo homer in the 9th to bring the Sox within a run, but Houston closer Jose Valverde cooled down and managed to get Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek to strike out to end the game.
The red-hot Sox offense kept it going in this game, with four-hit performances by Mike Lowell and Dustin Pedroia, and a combined 8 RBI from 4-6 in the order. Sox pitching gave up double-digit runs for only the 4th time this season. Lester’s 6 earned were the most he’s given up this year. David Aardsma’s 2 runs (1 earned) were the first he’d surrendered since June 6th.
The pitching staff fared far better on Sunday. Starter Josh Beckett scattered 8 hits and 2 walks across 7 innings, but left after the 7th with 111 pitches.
“Too many pitches,” Beckett said. “I have to cut down on some of the three-ball counts and go deeper in the game and give myself a better chance to win. ”
David Aardsma came on in relief, and gave up a one-out single to Miguel Tejada. Sox manager Terry Francona went back to the pen and brought in Hideki Okajima. Okajima has struggled with inherited runners this season, and has not been brought in with runners on since May 14th. Okajima would toss a wild pitch to move Tejada to second, and give up a go-ahead single to Mark Loretta. For the second time in two days, Loretta was the difference maker against his old team.
“His pitch is the [split] changeup, so I was completely sitting on the changeup there, you have to,” Loretta said. “I was out in front just a hair, but I was able to stay back just enough to get it up the middle.”
Okajima has allowed 12 of his 15 inherited runners to score this year. The split-changeup that got him through his first MLB season seems to have lost much of its fire. Okajima again refused to speak to the media after the game.
With the loss to Houston, the Sox lost the top spot in the American League East, which they have held since June 3rd. The Tampa Bay Rays mounted an 8th inning rally against the Pirates to move into first place. The Sox start a three game set against the Rays on Monday night in Tampa (where they were swept in April). After that series, the Sox head to New York to play the Yankees, and then return home to face the Twins.