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Closing Time: Red Sox’ offense explodes in rout of Astros; Boston matches last year’s win total

08.07.13 at 12:05 am ET
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HOUSTON — In case Monday night’s futile offensive showing surfaced any doubts, the Red Sox offered a pretty hefty reminder Tuesday night that scoring runs on the road has never been this team’s problem.

The Red Sox — who came into the series’ second game at Minute Maid Park averaging the most runs per game (4.9) of any American League team on the road — overcame a rocky start to dominate Astros pitching. The end result were two five-run frames and a 15-10 win over Houston.

The victory allows the Red Sox to match their win total (69) for the entire 2012 season.

This time, the offensive explosion led the Red Sox back from a 5-0 deficit after the first two innings, and 7-3 hole after four.

“I would say no,” said David Ortiz when asked if the Red Sox would have won this sort of game a year ago. “I would say it was a lot of things going on and I don’t think a lot of guys were focused on the things that we need to do to win ballgames.

“Our manager set everything up. John [Farrell], he’s been doing a great job. He’s been outstanding, making sure that we come prepared to play every day. He’s a big part of what we’ve got going on right now here.”

Leading the offensive onslaught was Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs. It was the leadoff hitter’s fourth career multi-home run game, with his last such occasion coming against the Yankees, Sept. 5, 2011.

The top four hitters in the Red Sox’ lineup — Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz — set the stage for their team’s comeback, going 11-for-18 with 11 runs and nine RBI. The Red Sox already came into the night owning more hits out of their first four batters than any team in the majors.

Punctuating the Red Sox’ bat attack were a stretch from innings 5-7 in which they sent 26 men to the plate.

The combination of starter Steven Wright and reliever Brandon Workman put the Red Sox in a ditch they had to dig out from early on. Houston, who came into the game with the second-worst batting average for innings 1-4 in the majors, put up seven runs before recording its 11th out.

Wright’s primary issue came courtesy an inability to find catcher Ryan Lavarnway’s glove, watching as the backstop succumbed to a major-league record four passed balls in one inning. The knuckleballer didn’t help himself, either, allowing three runs on three hits, two walks and a wild pitch, while throwing 38 pitches in his only inning of work.

“It ended,” said Lavarnway of Houston’s first inning. “They scored three runs and then we came back and kicked their butt.”

‘€œIt was definitely moving, it was moving more than I think I’€™ve ever had it in my life, so it was a learning experience,” said Wright, who had previously thrown to Lavarnway in games eight times. “It was great to come out on top, we got the win, just wish I was able to go a little bit deeper into the game.’€™”

Workman couldn’t put out the fire after entering in the second inning, allowing two runs in his first frame, and single runs in each of the following pair of innings. The rookie would go on to keep the Sox in the game until being pulled after allowing six runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings. By the time he was replaced by Drake Britton, the Sox carried a four-run advantage.

Here is some more of what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ 69th win of the season:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Lavarnway managed to slow down the Astros’ running game a bit, throwing out Jonathan Villar attempting to steal third with one out in the fourth inning. Up until the caught stealing, Houston had managed eight straight steals for the series. The catcher also came through with a two-run double in the fifth that gave the Sox the lead for good.

– Jonny Gomes’ three-run homer in the sixth inning was the outfielder’s fourth pinch-hit homer of the season, giving him the second-most in franchise history for a single campaign. Joe Cronin still holds the team’s mark with five in 1943, with Del Wilber the only other Red Sox player to manage four in a season, totaling the number in ’53. The six pinch-hit home runs is the second-most for a Red Sox team, with the ’53 team having hit seven.

“Any time you have an opportunity to share the record, or share history with somebody, it’€™s pretty special, especially when it’€™s on the positive side,” Gomes said. “It’€™s pretty cool, but the season’€™s not over. I might get another one.”

– Britton continued to impress, coming on to fan All-Star Jason Castro with a pair of runners on in the sixth inning. He finished his 2 1/3 innings allowing just a Jake Elmore solo home run, striking out three.

– Rubby De La Rosa made his Red Sox debut, pitching a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Lavarnway’s four passed balls in the first inning tied a major league record. The last time the feat was accomplished was by Geno Petralli (courtesy Charlie Hough) on Aug. 22, 1987, with Ray Katt failing to handle Hoyt Wilhelm on Sept. 10, 1954.

Mike Napoli continued to struggle, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. In his last 11 games, the first baseman is 5-for-41 with 19 strikeouts.

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