Two of MLB’s best offenses entered; only one survived.
For the first time since Alex Cora was suspended by MLB for a year as the scapegoat of the Astros’ cheating scandal, Cora and his squad returned to Houston for a four-game set between two of the American League’s best teams.
Three games in, it’s been all Houston, all the time.
The Astros continued their dominance of the Red Sox on Wednesday night, when ‘Stros lefty Framber Valdez struck out 10 in a 2-1 win that has the Sox’ offense spinning its wheels.
Houston clinched the series by winning the first three games by a combined score of 18-4.
It has to be terrifying for the Red Sox, who have seen their three-headed monster of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers held completely in check.
In the series thus far, Martinez is 1-for-11 with three strikeouts and a single, Bogaerts is 0-for-10 with five strikeouts and Devers is 2-for-11 with six strikeouts and a pair of infield singles.
The alarming part isn’t just that all three have scuffled this series; it’s how easy it’s looked for the Astros’ pitching staff to handle three of the best hitters in baseball this season.
Martinez looks fine, albeit a tough series.
But Bogaerts was chasing low breaking balls again and hasn’t had a hit since May 25.
And Devers might’ve been exposed in a way he hasn’t been throughout his career thus far.
He’s seen 48 pitches over three games, and all 48 of them have been fastballs. He had to know they were coming again on Wednesday, and it didn’t seem to matter. He struck out his first at-bat chasing a sinking fastball under the zone. He managed to beat out a couple infield singles but didn’t hit either one on the screws. And with the game close in the eighth, he got three more fastballs and lifted one to center field for a fly out.
Being carried by three players has looked like a winning formula for the Red Sox all year. They’re an MLB-best 28-3 when scoring at least four runs. But all of a sudden the Astros have turned the Sox’ season upside down.
Other takeaways from this one:
1. Nick Pivetta looked off his game in the first inning, but did his best to wiggle his way out of a bases-loaded situation with just one run across. Pivetta settled in nicely and found a way to strike out nine batters over six strong innings of work. The only other run allowed came in the fourth, when Kyle Tucker hit a leadoff double, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a swinging bunt by Myles Straw.
2. The Red Sox haven’t lost four in a row all year. They’ve lost three in a row three different times now, but have found a way to snap out of losing streaks quite quickly thus far. It was a hallmark of the 2013 team, which never lost more than three in a row. Lefty Martin Perez will take the hill for the Red Sox to try to avoid a series sweep against Jake Odorizzi on Thursday afternoon.
3. The Red Sox need to figure out what’s going on at first base and center field. Kiké Hernandez was 0-for-4 and is now stuck in an 0-for-24 stretch, while Bobby Dalbec was 0-for-3 and continues to look outmatched in the big leagues this year.