Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 7, Astros 5

July, 1, 2011

HOUSTON -- As if Astros manager Brad Mills, former Red Sox bench coach, didn’t know it would happen.

Don’t ever get Dustin Pedroia upset. It only makes him an even better player, and he’s an outstanding player to begin with, a former American League Most Valuable Player.

When plate umpire Laz Diaz called a strike on Boston’s feisty second baseman in a key spot in the pivotal seventh inning in Boston’s come-from-behind 7-5 victory at Minute Maid Park, Mills must have been cringing in the Astros dugout, knowing Pedroia would do something special.

And, of course, the agitated Pedroia did something special. He reached out and smacked the next pitch between first baseman Brett Wallace and the bag for a game-tying, two-run, bases-loaded single.

As the ball made its way into right field, Pedroia almost stopped running on his way down the first-base line, turning back and hollering in the direction of Diaz, no doubt still steamed by a pitch he thought should have been called a ball, which would have made it a 3-and-1 count instead of 2 and 2.

The two-run hit, on a low-and-outside fastball from Wilton Lopez, made it a 5-5 game, and a few pitches later, Adrian Gonzalez crushed a two-run double to left-center to make it 7-5.

Gonzalez’s two-bagger capped the Red Sox’s six-run explosion, a rally made all the more improbable because Boston had been held to just one hit -- Marco Scutaro’s leadoff homer -- through six innings by Houston starter Bud Norris. The right-hander had given himself a 5-1 lead with an RBI single off Boston starter Tim Wakefield in the sixth.

But a tiring Norris, who fanned 10, could not get an out in the seventh, coughing up singles to J.D. Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a bloop double to Josh Reddick, forcing Mills to go to his bullpen, which is statistically last in the National League.

And his relief corps promptly showed that the Astros don’t own the worst record in the majors for no reason. Bad teams find ways to lose, and good teams find ways to beat bad teams, which helped explain Boston’s six-hit, six-run eruption that was aided in part when Sergio Escalona hit pinch hitter Darnell McDonald, a .115 hitter, with a pitch.

WHAT A MOVE! Manager Terry Francona had to move Marco Scutaro from eighth in the batting order to first when Jacoby Ellsbury was sick and unable to play.

It turned to be a great move. Scutaro crushed a 2-and-2 fastball for a no-doubt homer tp lead off the game. It was such a blast, Houston left fielder Carlos Lee didn’t even move to look at it, never mind chase after it.

Scutaro now has five career leadoff homers. His last one came on April 30, 2009, when he was playing for Toronto.

GETTING BETTER AND BETTER: The maturation of outfielder Josh Reddick continues.

In the first inning, Reddick fell behind Norris at 0 and 2. But Reddick kept plugging away, eventually working a nine-pitch walk. And while it didn’t seem like much at the time, maybe that tough at-bat had something to do with Norris running out of gas in the seventh inning, with his pitch count elevated to 95 heading into the inning.

Reddick, meanwhile, flied to left in his second at-bat, but, in the seventh, he again battled back from an 0-and-2 count and dunked an opposite-field run-scoring double inside the third-base line, finishing Norris for the night and accounting for the first run in Boston’s six-run splurge.

Reddick also laced a single in the eighth and bounced to first in the ninth.



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