HOUSTON — Given all that is known about statistical probability, it seems mathematically improbable for the Boston Red Sox to continue on their recent and remarkable run of come-from-behind victories.
Sometimes, however, the line between math and magic gets blurred.
Shortstop Stephen Drew drilled a three-run home run in the ninth inning as Boston claimed its sixth comeback victory since July 30, a 7-5 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Houston right-hander Josh Fields (1-2), who earned his first career save in the series opener Monday night, surrendered a leadoff single to David Ortiz and a one-out walk to Jonny Gomes before Drew turned on an 0-1 curveball and deposited his ninth home run of the season into the right-field seats, obliterating the Astros’ 5-4 lead and capping another comeback for Boston (70-46), which erased a 5-0 deficit Tuesday night.
“Hopefully it continues and hopefully we don’t have the need to have so many comebacks,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “It just continues to build on what the spirit and the characteristic of this team is, and it’s never quit.”
Ortiz recorded his second consecutive four-hit game, the first time in his career he has accomplished that feat, and enjoyed a string of 10 plate appearances where he went 8-for-8 with two walks. Gomes’ two-run homer off Josh Zeid in the seventh allowed Boston to close to within 5-4.
Boston has come from behind to claim victory 27 times this season.
“It’s great,” Drew said. “This team has done it all year. Everybody has fun, but everybody knows their role. I think that makes it easier on guys. Everybody has been clutch in late innings. That is what good teams do.”
Boston reliever Junichi Tazawa (5-3) logged two perfect innings in advance of Koji Uehara, who earned his 11th save with a scoreless ninth.
Houston (37-76) parlayed two doubles, an RBI single by Jose Altuve and a sacrifice fly from Marc Krauss into a three-run sixth. What followed was a parade of five relievers charged with holding the line.
Instead, the bullpen allowed home runs No. 68 and 69, most in the majors by far.
“It’s been pretty tough,” Fields said of the bullpen. “Guys out there are giving their best. We have a lot of young guys, and they have been doing pretty well out there. It’s up to the rest of us who have been going through some tough times to lock it down for the rest of the season.”
It came as little surprise that Boston presented a significant challenge to Astros rookie right-hander Jarred Cosart, whose first four starts as a major-leaguer produced a sub-1.00 ERA despite lingering control woes.
Cosart opened his fifth start with more walks (12) on the season than strikeouts (11), and the Red Sox tested his ability to throw strikes. Cosart surrendered a pair of singles yet posted a scoreless first inning, but his leadoff walk of Gomes in the second resulted in a 1-0 deficit when Brock Holt followed with an RBI groundout three batters later.
The Astros erased a 2-0 deficit when Robbie Grossman hit a two-run homer off Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster in the third, but Cosart kept scuffling, pitching around two baserunners in the fourth and fifth before departing after walking Gomes and Drew to open the sixth.
Boston eventually loaded the bases with one out, but Houston relievers Wesley Wright and Zeid combined to strike out the side and preserve a fourth no-decision for Cosart, who allowed 12 baserunners over five innings. The Astros’ subsequent surge to the lead proved fruitless given the limitations of their bullpen, which is in disarray.
“It’s one of those things where you sit there and ask yourself, ‘Could we do something different?’” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “You put guys in situations where you feel they have the best opportunity to be successful, and tonight is another example of us just not getting it done.”
GAME NOTES: Starting with their four-game series against the Texas Rangers kicking off Friday night, the Astros will utilize a six-man rotation. The Astros have just one off day (Aug. 22) through Sept. 11, and given the emergence of LHP Brett Oberholtzer and Cosart, Houston will continue to start that duo along with LHPs Erik Bedard and Dallas Keuchel, and RHPs Jordan Lyles and Brad Peacock. … Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli was scheduled for a day off Wednesday, but his recent struggles at the plate made his benching timely. Napoli posted a slash line of .122/.280/.171 with 19 strikeouts in 50 plate appearances over his previous 11 games. His 33.6 strikeout rate ranked second-to-last among qualifying hitters in the American League. Napoli entered as a defensive replacement and went 0-for-1.
SOX PLAYER NOTES: LHP Matt Thornton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain retroactive to Aug. 5. Thornton suffered the injury on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics, and while showing signs of improvement since, is at least two weeks away from a return to game action. Thornton was acquired from the Chicago White Sox on July 12 and is 0-1 with a 2.16 ERA over 10 appearances with the Red Sox. … RHP Pedro Beato was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and replaced LHP Matt Thornton on the 25-man roster. Beato has had three other stints with the Red Sox this season, going 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA in nine relief appearances. In 26 relief appearances with Pawtucket, Beato is 5-3 with a 2.09 ERA and three saves over 43 innings.