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Closing Time: Andrew Miller impressive again in Red Sox win over Astros

07.02.11 at 10:14 pm ET

Andrew Miller looked sharp in his third outing in a Red Sox uniform. He picked up his second straight victory and in three starts with Boston has still yet to allow more than three runs in a start, this time leading the Sox to a 10-4 win over the Astros in Houston.

The Red Sox bats gave Miller an early lead, putting up a three-spot in the first frame as each of the first five hitters reached base. And, they did it without hitting an extra-base hit. Jacoby Ellsbury got things started against Astros left-hander J.A. Haap with a leadoff walk. Dustin Pedroia followed with a soft chopper to shortstop Clint Barmes, who made an errant throw to first baseman. Carlos Lee. Lee couldn’t manage to stay on the bag, missed Pedroia diving head first into the bag and was charged with an error.

Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI single to right field and Kevin Youkilis loaded the bases, singling to left. David Ortiz, who played first base in the field, battled back from 0-2 to work a walk. It was the fifth bases-loaded walk Boston has earned this season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then grounded into a double play, but the Sox caught another break as third baseman Chris Johnson threw to second rather than throwing home, which he had plenty of time to do.

Michael Bourn one-upped Ellsbury, tripling to left-center field on Miller’s first pitch to start things off for Houston. That hit also extended his hitting streak to 11 games. On the very next pitch, Angle Sanchez put the Astros on the board, knocking a single back up the middle. After a Hunter Pence single, Miller settled in, getting Carlos Lee to fly out and Jason Michaels to ground into a double play

The top of the lineup accounted for another run in the fifth as Ellsbury and Pedroia provided back-to-back doubles. Pence answered in the bottom of the sixth with his tenth longball of the season, taking advantage of a changeup Miller left up in the zone.

Alfredo Aceves took over for Miller in the seventh, but his replacement in the No. 9 spot — Yamaico Navarro — left more of an impact. Called up for Mike Cameron Saturday, Navarro belted his first career home run over the left field wall to raise Boston’s lead to three runs. In 42 at-bats in 2010, Navarro batted .143 with five RBIs and 17, yes, 17 strikeouts.

After retiring Barmes and J.R. Towles to start the bottom of the seventh, Aceves ran into some problems. Pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger lined a 2-2 fastball into right field for a single. Bourn followed with another sharply hit single, this time to center field. Matt Downs pinch hit for Sanchez and earned a walk, albeit on a questionable 3-2, call to load the bases. At that point Daniel Bard replaced Aceves to face Pence. After getting squeezed again by umpire Cory Blaser, Bard missed badly with the count full, and walked in a run. Luckily for Boston, Lee grounded the first pitch he saw to third base to end the inning.

After Saltalamacchia plated Gonzalez on a bases loaded sacrifice fly to left in the top of the eighth inning, Darnell McDonald, who entered the game batting .115, hammered a three-run bomb that quickly exited the park over the left field wall. Youkilis finished the scoring for Boston, driving in Gonzalez on a single to left.

Houston picked up a meaningless ninth-inning run off Dan Wheeler. Bourn recorded his fourth hit of the game, singling to center, and took second on a defensive indifference.


– Miller continued to build his case to stay in the rotation once Clay Buchholz returns form the disabled list. The 6-foot-7 southpaw pitched six strong innings, allowing the Astros just two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out three throwing 85 pitches on the evening.

– In six innings, Ortiz (1B) and Gonzalez (RF) not only avoided injury, but played solid defense. Neither were overly tested defensively, but both handled routine plays. Saturday marked the second time manager Terry Francona has tried this lineup.

Bobby Jenks pitched a perfect eight inning, using only eight pitches to retire the side. He struck out Johnson and got Barmes and Michaels to fly out to center field.


– Youkilis reaggravated a left ankle injury in the eight inning, sliding into third base. He batted in the bottom half of the inning, singling in Gonzalez, but was replaced in the field by Drew Sutton in the final frame.

– After retiring the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning, Aceves was unable to close out the inning. He allowed two hits and a walk and was credited with the run that Bard walked in.

Marco Scutaro was the least productive Red Sox batter. Going 0-for-4 on the night, interestingly enough, he never stepped to the plate with a runner on base.

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