Powered by Martin Perez’s strongest showing of the season to date, the Red Sox were able to avoid a four-game sweep and salvage their series against the Astros with a 5-1 victory at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.
Perez, making his 11th start of the season, pitched into the eighth inning for the first time in his Red Sox career.
Over 7 2/3 impressive frames of work, the veteran left-hander kept the Astros off the board while scattering just six hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.
Five of the six hits Perez gave up were singles. The only extra-base hit was snuffed out right away when he yielded a two-out double to Aledmys Diaz and immediately picked him off trying to steal third base.
The fifth inning presented a little bit more trouble for Perez when he put on two of the first three hitters he faced in the frame. Nevertheless, the southpaw got Myles Straw to pop out to the infield before inducing an inning-ending grounder off the bat of Garrett Stubbs. Bobby Dalbec made a nice diving play on the ball and Perez did a quality job of getting over to first base in time.
From there, Perez held things in check. But a one-out single and two-out walk — his first free pass of the contest — in the bottom of the eighth would mark the end of his outing.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler improved to 4-2 on the year while lowering his ERA down to 3.09. His next start should come against this same Astros team back at Fenway Park next Tuesday.
In relief of Perez, Adam Ottavino got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and needed all of five pitches to record the final out of the inning.
With a five-run lead going into the last of the ninth, the Sox were able to go to Brandon Workman to close this one out on the same they promoted him from Triple-A Worcester.
Workman served up a solo homer to Yuli Gurriel, but was otherwise up to the challenge of preserving a 5-1 win for his side.
Red Sox offense wakes up
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in the form of Astros right-hander Jake Odorizzi.
Unlike the first three games of this series, the Boston bats were actually able to take advantage of early scoring opportunities.
That being the case because with no outs and runners on first and second in the top of the second, a resurgent Christian Arroyo crushed his first home run of the season on a hanging cutter from Odorizzi.
Arroyo’s three-run shot traveled 339 feet over the left field fence and had an exit velocity of 93.2 mph off the bat. It also cleared the bases and gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage early on.
Fast forward to the seventh, and the Sox found themselves in a nearly-identical situation.
With no outs and runners at second and third, Xander Bogaerts put an end to one of the worst offensive skids of his career (0-for-his-last-24) by lacing a two-run double off Astros reliever Cristian Javier. He also singled in the ninth to finish the day with his first multi-hit game since May 21.
Bogaerts’ seventh-inning two-base hit put the Red Sox up 5-0 and, as previously mentioned, 5-1 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.
By breaking out of a three-game losing streak, the Sox improve to 33-23 on the season (17-10) on the season to get back to 10 games over .500. They remain two games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Alex Cora ejected
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning. He was tossed by home plate umpire Lance Barrett after Kevin Plawecki struck out looking on a questionable third called strike.
Cora has now been ejected two times this season, with Thursday marking his first ejection since April 15. Bench coach Will Venable took over managerial responsibilities for the remainder of the ballgame.
Next up: Big weekend series in the Bronx
The Red Sox will depart Houston for New York, where they will open up a three-game weekend series against the 31-26 Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the ball for Boston in the opener, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Michael King for New York.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Bob Levey/Getty Images)