Red Sox-Astros Preview

It took until the seventh inning of the seventh game of their

road trip on the first day of the year’s seventh month, but the

Boston Red Sox finally broke out of their recent doldrums.

Now, the Red Sox look for a third straight win overall and try

to even their record on their interleague trek when they continue

their series with the hapless Houston Astros on Saturday night.

Boston (47-34) led the New York Yankees by one-half game atop

the AL East when its nine-game trip against NL opponents began June

24, but fell 2 1/2 games back after dropping two of three in

Pittsburgh and the first two games in Philadelphia this week. The

Red Sox salvaged Thursday’s finale against the Phillies 5-2, but

trailed Houston (29-54) by four runs entering the late innings

Friday night.

They finally broke through in the seventh. Dustin Pedroia’s

two-run single tied the game, and Adrian Gonzalez followed with a

two-RBI double to cap a six-run rally and lift Boston to a 7-5

victory.

“It won the game for us, so obviously it was big,” Gonzalez

said. “We just had a great inning.”

The Red Sox have scored 74 runs in the seventh inning this

season – no other major league club has more than 47 – and have

taken the lead to stay in the seventh inning of three of their last

four wins.

Boston remains 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees, who have won six

straight, but now has a chance for its first three-game winning

streak since June 15-17.

The Red Sox appear to have a good chance to for another strong

offensive game against slumping Astros starter J.A. Happ (3-9, 5.54

ERA). The left-hander is 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in his last eight

starts, none of which have lasted longer then six innings. He

yielded five runs, nine hits and three walks in five innings

Sunday, but did not factor in the decision of a 14-10 loss to Tampa

Bay.

Happ also didn’t get a decision despite pitching poorly in his

only career start against Boston, surrendering five runs, seven

hits – three homers – and six walks over 5 2-3 innings for

Philadelphia on June 14, 2009.

He did not face David Ortiz, the usual designated hitter who

Boston manager Terry Francona said may start at first base

Saturday. If that happens, Gonzalez would likely move to right

field – as he did Wednesday when Ortiz got a start in

Philadelphia.

Francona will give the ball to Andrew Miller (1-0, 3.09) for his

third start since getting called up from Triple-A Pawtucket. The

left-hander earned his first win in a Boston uniform Sunday,

allowing two runs – one earned – in six innings of a 4-2 victory at

Pittsburgh.

Miller, who spent three seasons in the NL with Florida before

signing with Boston last December, is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two

starts versus the Astros.

Hunter Pence had two hits and two RBIs on Friday for Houston,

which fell to 1-6 on its homestand and has dropped 17 of its last

20 at Minute Maid Park.

“You take the good and the bad, and try to get better, and

learn,” said Astros starter Bud Norris, who struck out 10 in the

series opener but also allowed four runs and didn’t record an out

in the pivotal seventh inning. “That’s where this team is at right

now, a lot of young guys, learning day in and day out. That’s what

it’s all about.”