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Closing Time: Sox bats quiet in 2-0 loss to Astros

08.05.13 at 11:25 pm ET
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John Lackey gave up just two runs in six-plus innings, but the Sox couldn't score in support of him against the Astros. (AP)

John Lackey gave up just two runs in six-plus innings, but the Sox couldn’t score in support of him against the Astros. (AP)

John Lackey battled, but Brett Oberholtzer made it look easy as he shut down the Red Sox offense completely in a 2-0 Astros win to open the Sox’ 10-game road trip.

The Sox were essentially powerless against Oberholtzer, a 24-year-old lefty who was making just his second big league start (in his first, he shut out the Orioles for seven innings). They had just four hits — two singles from Dustin Pedroia and a double apiece from Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes — and two walks in seven innings against him.

Lackey put himself in some tough situations, allowing at least one baserunner in every inning but the first, but he escaped unscathed in all but the fifth and seventh, giving up just two runs on eight hits and two walks. He exited with the game still 1-0 in the seventh, but the offense couldn’t take advantage of his performance.

Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Sox.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– When the Sox did start putting runners in scoring position, they couldn’t do anything with them. One of their best offensive chances came when Gomes hit a one-out double to right field in the seventh, then aggressively took third on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia flyout to right, barely beating the throw to the base.

But Oberholtzer wasn’t fazed, striking out Drew and Brandon Snyder swinging on a fastball to end the inning. Snyder also flew out to center to end the inning after Drew doubled in the fifth.

Then, in the eighth, the Sox put runners on first and third with two outs. Mike Napoli worked a 3-1 count but then swung and missed on two straight high fastballs, foul-tipping the second one for strike three and ending the scoring threat. Napoli also stranded runners on first and second when he made the last out of the sixth inning.

– The Astros ran on Saltalamacchia and Lackey all night, stealing six bases for the first time this year. Saltalamacchia nabbed just two of the eight Astros who tried to steal on Monday.

With the third-worst team OPS in the league (.670) entering the contest, the Astros have looked to push runs across in other ways: they entered Monday’s game tied for the ninth-most steals in baseball as a team, with 73, although they’d been caught stealing the most often (35 times). Altuve alone now has 29 steals on the year, tied for fifth-most in the majors.

Saltalamacchia has seen 63 runners steal successfully on him this year, while catching just 15. No runs scored as a direct result of steals, although the Astros did take advantage of outfielder L.J. Hoes‘ speed in the seventh when they sent him home on a suicide squeeze that gave them a 2-0 lead.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Lackey appeared to be in trouble when he twisted his ankle in the second inning fielding a comebacker. However, although he left the field in pain, he returned the next inning and showed no adverse effects, staying in the game into the seventh inning and throwing 113 pitches.

The Astros lead the majors in strikeouts by a wide margin: they entered Monday’s game with 1,034, with the Braves a distant second at 957. Lackey took advantage of their free-swinging tendencies, fanning 10, nine swinging, for his second-highest strikeout total of the year.

He was able to do that in part because of the swings and misses he induced on his breaking pitches. Of his 10 strikeouts, nine were swinging, and seven of those came on his cutter or curveball.

– Pedroia was the only Sox player with multiple hits, singling twice against Oberholtzer. That’s his third multi-hit game in the last seven contests, mild encouragement after he hit .077 in the 10 games prior to that.

Read More: Brett Oberholtzer, Dustin Pedroia, jarrod saltalamacchia, john lackey
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