If your starting pitcher is only going to last one out, the day before the All-Star Break is not a bad time for it to happen.
The Red Sox offense barrage hardly stopped after Brad Peacock’s exit just five batters in, and they piled it on to the tune of 11 runs and 16 hits for an 11-0 rout of the Astros on Sunday.
Manager Bo Porter admitted before the game that securing a series win against the defending world champions would be a major momentum boost heading into the season’s second half.
That goal looked more like a longshot from the very first batter. Leadoff hitter and former Rice stud Brock Holt drilled starter Brad Peacock’s full-count offering well into the right-field stands. Peacock loaded the bases with just one out and was pulled after just 27 pitches.
“I was not very happy,” Peacock said. “I feel like I could get out of that jam. I’d only given up one run at the time… I felt fine.”
Boston never really slowed down, even as relievers Anthony Bass and Josh Fields were serviceable stopgaps in the meantime to keep the Astros close until a pair of runs in the fifth and seventh innings sealed it.
The Astros offense, so potent in Arlington during a recent sweep, finished a rough series by failing to score off Sox hurler Clay Bucholz. A fourth-inning threat was the closest they came, with two runners on and just one out. Jonathan Singleton flew out to left and Matt Dominguez grounded back to Bucholz. A mere single may have chopped Boston’s 4-0 advantage in half.
The Astros committed three errors and Bucholz sat the last 17 Astros batters down in a complete game effort.
“This one game is not going to leave a bad taste in our mouth about the first half of the season,” said Astros manager Bo Porter. “It’s one baseball game, it just so happens we don’t have another one tomorrow to get ready for. We have until Friday.”
A sour end to the first 96 games, yes, but the Astros ultimately do have a lot to take away from a streaky first half. Here’s the checklist:
- They’re ahead of their Lone Star rivals, the Texas Rangers, and out of last place in the American League West. It’s the first time the Astros haven’t been cellar dwellers at the Midsummer Classic since 2010.
- Jose Altuve gets ready for his second All-Star appearance, though this season has been on another level. Former Astros great Bob Watson, whose first-half franchise hits record Altuve shattered with 130, was on hand for Sunday’s game to throw out the first pitch and honor the second baseman with a commemorative bat. Go figure, Altuve was held hitless Sunday for the first time in seven games.
- Chris Carter and Jason Castro — two of the team’s most inconsistent bats — enter the break on seven and nine-game hitting streaks respectively after they each recorded a single.
- Dexter Fowler missed the last 16 games of the first with a right intercostal strain, but he is expected back on Friday, when the Astros play the White Sox in Chicago. Fowler quickly became a mainstay at the top of the lineup in his first Astros season, hitting .270 with 24 RBI and six stolen bases.
- George Springer roared to life after a rough start to his Major-League career. He’s hit 19 home runs since May 8, and some minor injuries haven’t kept him out of too much action. With Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow issues, a strong finish to the season could have Springer in the discussion for the ALRookie of the Year. His two strikeouts on Sunday accentuated his main weakness at the plate, but he’s still tied for the team lead in home runs.
- Relievers Matt Albers and Jesse Crain could potentially return in August, which would shore up the bullpen — a sore spot that has cost Houston several games in the late innings. Albers was aces before his tendinitis flared up in April and Crain has yet to pitch for Houston after a 2013 All-Star campaign with the White Sox.
- The Astros are 40-56 at the break, their first time reaching 40 wins before the break since 2009. It has them on pace for a 68-94 campaign. While nowhere near contention, that would be a 17-game improvement over last year’s 51-win effort and Houston’s first sub-100 loss season since 2010.
“We’ve played good in spurts, and it’s been up and down,” Porter said. “That’s what you’re going to get with a young ballclub. We’re at the 40-win mark, and I feel like we can continue to make more improvements to build on that in the second half.”
Though Sunday’s action didn’t highlight it, the Astros showed enough so far that the Red Sox probably won’t be the main draw by the time Boston comes to town next season.
And a series win might be expected by then.