Closing Time: Jose Altuve's walkoff homer stretches Red Sox losing streak to 8 games

Rob Bradford
July 23, 2015 - 7:49 pm
HOUSTON -- There was seemingly no other way to punctuate this road trip. Seven games. Seven losses. Outscored 39-13. Eight-game losing streak. Twelve games out of first place. Twelve games under .500. It was a stretch that saw the Red Sox hit .204 with just three home runs, striking out 51 times and drawing 13 walks. Their ERA was 5.37 (6.29 for the starters), with Sox pitchers giving up 16 homers. And then there was the finale. The latest loss would come courtesy a walkoff, solo homer from Jose Altuve in the ninth inning against Craig Breslow, giving the Astros a 5-4 win over the Red Sox on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park. "It was a fastball down," Breslow said. "Probably got a lot of plate. But in a 3-1 count, I wanted to throw the ball over the plate, didn't want to give him a chance to get on base via the walk. He's obviously a fast guy, base-stealer, so that presented a different host of problems. But once I fell behind, I needed to make sure the ball was in the strike zone." "It's crazy, man. It's crazy," said Red Sox DH David Ortiz of the losing streak. "Just come back tomorrow and keep on playing. That's all you can do, right?" Altuve's blast just cleared the left-field fence (coming in Breslow's second inning of work), and spoiled the Sox' eighth-inning comeback, which had been led by Mike Napoli. The Red Sox first baseman notched three hits, including a solo home run and a line-drive RBI double in the eighth that tied the game at 4. The last hit -- coming with two outs -- plated Hanley Ramirez, who had followed Ortiz' leadoff homer with a single and stolen base. In the end, however, the latest defeat came courtesy an overall bullpen meltdown, with the combination of Alexi Ogando and Junichi Tazawa proving unable to protect another gem from Wade Miley. The pair of relievers allowed three seventh-inning runs to the Astros, blowing the win for the starter. The Astros' initial go-ahead run of the game came on Marwin Gonzalez's double over the head of center fielder Mookie Betts off of Tazawa, scoring Altuve with the Astros' third score. It followed Colby Rasmus' pinch-hit homer against Ogando to lead off the inning. Tazawa would surrender a third run in the inning when Evan Gattis ripped a single up the middle, scoring Carlos Correa two give the hosts a two-run lead. Miley once again prove to be a tough-luck starter. The lefty followed up his seven-inning, one-hit gem in Anaheim with another standout start, going six innings, giving up just one run. Miley, who struck out five while allowing four hits and one walk, lowered his ERA to 4.33. The only run he surrendered came in the first inning when the lefty allowed a homer to his second batter of the night, Marwin Gonzalez. "I felt all right," Miley said. "I didn't have the command I would have hoped you have. But I stuck with Hani [catcher Ryan Hanigan] and we made a lot of pitches, off speed pitches and got through it." WHAT WENT WRONG -- Ogando seemingly has hit a pretty big wall, not only allowing at least one hit for his sixth straight outing, but giving up a run now in four of his last five appearances. The Rasmus homer was just the second the righty has surrendered against a lefty hitter this season. -- Tazawa had a rough series, following up his one-inning stint in which he allowed a run on two hits, Tuesday, with Thursday's stinker. This one saw the righty being charged with one run while allowing three hits and recording just a single out. -- The Red Sox finished up the seven-game road trip scoring just 13 runs. In the same span, the team the Sox are about to face, Detroit, has plated 35. The Sox also went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, making them 9-for-47 in such spots for the trip. WHAT WENT RIGHT -- Napoli might be turning a corner, pounding his first home run since June 17 in the second inning. The solo blast off of Houston starter Lance McCullers gave the Sox a 2-1 advantage. Napoli also doubled into the left field corner on his second at-bat before adding his second double of the night in the eighth. The three-hit night was the first baseman's second of the season, not having claimed one since April 25. -- Ramirez played one of his better games in the field, ranging to his left in the third inning on a Marwin Gonzalez line drive, and then sprinting in to snag Chris Carter's sinking liner in the sixth inning. -- The Red Sox did come out of the gate scoring first (which had led them to a 31-12 record when doing so), plating the game's first run on Ortiz' two-out double in the first inning. The fly ball off the left field wall scored Mookie Betts, who had led off the game with a double of his own, down the left field line. -- Ryan Hanigan executed a key caught stealing in the fifth inning, nailing Jose Altuve at third after the Houston second baseman tried to take advantage of a Miley pitch bouncing out in front of the plate. It marked the inning's second out, helping preserve the visitors' one-run lead.