Having become accustomed to astronomical run totals and lights-out starting pitchers, Astros fans might be forgiven a certain amount of trepidation during Friday night’s nail-biter against the Boston Red Sox. Nevertheless, the ‘Stros prevailed 3-2, shocking the capacity crowd at Fenway Park, who’d come expecting to see their beloved team at last clinch the American League East. Had the Yankees lost earlier in the day, Boston would have been celebrating before last night’s contest, the team’s magic number having been reduced to 1. But the Yankees did not lose, which set the stage for a dramatic evening of celebration and infield pileups and champagne spraying in Beantown.
But no one told the Astros, who in any case seem almost incapable of losing at the present moment. So sounds are the pitching staff and offensive squad right now, either is able to step in the moment the other gets into trouble. On Friday night, it was the pitching that impressed first, with starter Charlie Morton throwing four perfect innings. By the third inning, the ‘Stros offense came to life, led by some deadly clutch hitting by Alex Bregman, who drove in all three of the Astros runs. Bregman quieted the crowd early with a third-inning single that drove home Derek Fisher, and then really quieted them in the fifth inning with a towering two-run homer, his second shot over the Green Monster in two days.
The latter came just in the nick of time, as starting pitcher Charlie Morton had begun to sputter, giving up one run in the fifth inning and another in the sixth. Sensing a distinct momentum shift, the Fenway crowd grew louder with every batter, and suddenly it seemed like only a relief pitching staff of door-slamming awesomeness could keep the game from slipping away. Amazingly, that is exactly the relief staff the Astros got, with Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski and Will Harris each doing his part to cool the Red Sox’ heels.
At that point, sighs of relief could be heard all over Houston, as it seemed only a matter of time before the ‘Stros offense would strike again. Amazingly, that did not happen. Over the last three innings, the Astros eked out just one hit, a single by Carlos Beltran, and once more tensions began to mount. Not for the first (and certainly not for the last) time, we found ourselves shouting hosannas at closer Ken Giles, who shut down the Sox once and for all in the ninth, though not before giving us palpitations, it must be said, after allowing a two-out double to Hanley Ramirez, the Sox’s DH.
And so it was that on the third-to-last day of the regular season, the Astros got their 100th win for just the second time in the team’s history, even as they forced the Red Sox to wait at least another day for a taste of the bubbly.
The only thing more criminal than what the ‘Stros are doing to the Sox at present is what the Indians are doing to the ‘Stros. The current five-game winning streak has done nothing to improve our chances of running down Cleveland for the best record in the American League, the Indians having become similarly unbeatable of late. But game No. 160 of the regular season was a win nonetheless, and one all the more impressive for having come in the wilds of Fenway.