On a night when baseball news was dominated by suspensions related to performance enhancing drugs, it only stood to reason that the American League team with the fewest wins would shut out the American League team with the most.
Houston rode the impressive pitching of southpaw Brett Olberholtzer ( a product of Seminole Community College in central Florida) to a 2-0 shutout over Boston Monday night. The Astros began the evening at 36-74, worst in the A.L. against the Red Sox at 68-45, best in the A.L.
Olberhotlzer went seven innings, giving up just four hits to the Red Sox while walking two and striking out a pair to win a pitching duel against Boston’s John Lackey. Lackey fell to 7-9 on the season and had good reason to file suit against his teammates for nonsupport. He ground out seven quality innings, spacing out 8 hits, a pair of walks, two runs, while striking out 10. Lackey survived a twisted ankle while fielding a ground ball in the second inning when it looked like he would not be able to return to the game.
Houston made the most of what little offense they could generate against the Red Sox, combining two singles and a pair of stolen bases in the sixth inning to take a 1-0 lead, then adding a second run in the seventh when L.J. Hoes scored following his leadoff double on a suicide squeeze by Brandon Barnes following a well-executed bunt single by Jonathan Villar. All told, Houston ran on Boston most of the evening, registering six stolen bases in seven attempts.
The Red Sox failed to capitalize with opportunities in the seventh and eighth innings, stranding Jonny Gomes in the seventh when he lead the inning off with a double, then in the eight by leaving Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz aboard on a Mike Napoli strike out. Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow kept the Astros for further damage, but Houston’s bullpen was just as effective, including Josh Fields striking out the Boston side in the top of the 9th inning to preserve a rare Astros win, and even rarer shutout of the Red Sox. Boston managed to maintain a half-game lead over idle Tampa in the A.L. East while dropping to 68-46 overall and 29-25 on the road.
There was plenty of Red Sox news outside the lines Monday. Clay Buchholz continues to rebound from inflamed shoulder problems and is expected Tuesday to throw off the mound for the first time since July 14. Buchholz has increased his distance and intensity throwing off flat ground and this is the next step in a process that will hopefully have him back in the rotation by the end of August.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian, Shane Victorino has been chosen as the American League Player of the Week for the period July 29-August 4. For the week Victorino hit .400, going 12/30 which computes to a .700 slugging percentage. He had three doubles, a pair of home runs, knocked in six and scored seven times, while crashing numerous times into the right field wall making great catches.
Hard throwing Brandon Workman, sent down to Pawtucket Aug.1 didn’t stay there for long. The 24-year old righty, who notched his first major league victory last week stands at 1-1 on the year with a 3.54 ERA and is expected to get a spot start soon to give Boston’s regular rotation an extra day on a tough travel schedule. Beginning with the Houston series the Bosox will play 16 of the next 19 on the road. Also expected to get a spot start Tuesday is knuckleballer Steven Wright. Wright has pitched well all season at Triple-A and his been up with the parent club long enough to compile a 2-0 record with a 3.65 ERA. He will oppose Houston’s Jordan Lyles (4-5, 4.91) in game two of the three game series. A roster spot for an additional pitcher has opened up briefly with Boston outfielder Daniel Nava being placed on paternity leave with the birth of the Nava family’s daughter, Faith.
No word on how long it took Boston pitcher Ryan Dempster to clear the basketball-sized bubble gum mess from his beard that he blew during Boston’s batting practice Sunday afternoon prior to the Red Sox blanking Arizona 4-0 behind Felix Doubront’s eighth win of the season.
Categories: A-AMERICAN LEAGUE