Josh Beckett struck out 11 men in eight innings of one-run ball and Kevin Youkilis drew a bases loaded walk to complete their sweep of the Houston Astros and finish their National League road trip at 5-4.
For the entire game, Josh Beckett was far-and-away outperforming Houston starter Jordan Lyles and his bullpen help, but the Sox’ bats were not coming through when they needed to, almost matching Beckett’s strikeouts with their stranded runners. After leaving the bases loaded in the third, the Sox left them full again in the fourth. Luckily, though, an errant throw home on Jason Varitek’s groundout (once again with the bases juiced) had allowed Kevin Youkilis to come home safe and score the first run of the game beforehand.
Beckett ran into his first real trouble since the first inning (when he had allowed a pair of one-out singles) in the fifth, giving up a double to Brett Wallace to lead things off. He seemed poised to escape unharmed having struck out Chris Johnson and induced a fly ball from Carlos Corporan, but Angel Sanchez pinch hit for Jordan Lyles, and singled him home on a ground ball that got past a diving Dustin Pedroia.
The Sox picked up three more baserunners between the seventh and eighth, but each time the rally was shut down by a double play from top hitters Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz. Finally, though, they were able to push one more across in the ninth. With one out, Drew Sutton pinch hit for Josh Beckett and drew a walk. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a sharp ground ball single to right, and Dustin Pedroia avoided providing another double play ball with his grounder to the right side of the infield.
With Ellsbury out at second, the Astros elected to give Adrian Gonzalez the intentional walk to load the bases. The move did not pay up. Youkilis walked to the plate, and Mark Melancon couldn’t find the strike zone, falling behind 3-0 before giving up the five-pitch walk to put the Sox ahead.
The Astros still had a chance in the bottom of the ninth, down just one, but Jonathan Papelbon was on. With his splitter at its absolute best, Papelbon had the Astros hitters taking bad swings and missing often as not. Brett Wallace managed a single, but that was all, as the Sox’ closer struck out the side around him.