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MAGIC NUM­BER STUCK AT 1 FOR SKIDDING SOX

Boston Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­SON MASTRODONATO Twit­ter: @JMas­trodonato

John Far­rell can’t go to his bullpen to score runs.

Show­ing signs of des­per­a­tion with the clock wind­ing down on the reg­u­lar sea­son, Far­rell called on David Price and the red-hot bullpen to take over for starter Doug Fis­ter af­ter just 74 pitches in the sixth in­ning last night.

Price was dom­i­nant and the move worked out fine. But the of­fense had no such sav­ior for Far­rell to turn to in Game No. 160.

The cham­pagne will stay on ice for at least an­other day as the Red Sox bats re­mained sim­i­larly chilled and the AL West jug­ger­naut Hous­ton Astros pre­vailed in a tense 3-2 game at Fen­way Park.

“Your best some­times just isn’t enough,” Fis­ter said.

The magic num­ber is still 1, since the New York Yan­kees took care of busi­ness against the Blue Jays in a Bronx mati­nee to cut the deficit to two games with two play.

The Red Sox are 1-4 over their last five games.

In the last 10 years, only one team with a los­ing record in the fi­nal week of the sea­son has gone on to win the World Se­ries: The 2013 Red Sox, who went 3-4 over their fi­nal seven.

“It’s not easy, man,” Dustin Pe­droia said. “Go­ing into a sea­son, you set goals as a team. They’re dif­fi­cult to ac­com­plish. We know that. There’s go­ing to be ups and downs. It takes everyone to do it.

“We’re in first place in the best divi­sion in base­ball. So we’ll come out to­mor­row and play as hard as we can, like we did tonight, and see what hap­pens.”

But the Sox sure are mak­ing this fi­nal week dif­fi­cult for them­selves. They’ll be forced to use Drew Pomer­anz to start today’s af­ter­noon game in an at­tempt to clinch the divi­sion yet again. If that fails, Chris Sale lingers for a po­ten­tial start to­mor­row.

The Sox haven’t got­ten a qual­ity start from their ro­ta­tion in six straight games.

Fis­ter was bet­ter last night than in his re­cent out­ings, es­cap­ing the first in­ning af­ter putting a man on sec­ond and third out of the box. But Alex Breg­man clubbed him around dur­ing a three-hit game in which the sopho­more sen­sa­tion put the Astros on the board with an RBI sin­gle in the third in­ning and blasted a two-run homer over the Green Mon­ster in the fifth.

“A lot of pitches ex­e­cuted, and one that wasn’t,” Fis­ter said. “I have to tip my cap to Breg­man. He’s a good kid and works hard. I didn’t get the pitch where I needed it.”

With the Red Sox down, 3-1, to start the sixth in­ning, Fis­ter struck out Car­los Cor­rea be­fore Far­rell called on Price to face switch-hit­ter Mar­win Gon­za­lez, who en­tered the day hit­ting .305.

“Felt like where we were get­ting some mo­men­tum and it was time to go to him tonight,” Far­rell said about the left-han­der.

Price made quick work of Gon­za­lez on his way to throw­ing 12⁄3 score­less in­nings, strik­ing out two. He threw 24 pitches, 19 for strikes, which is likely to make him un­avail­able for today. How­ever, to­mor­row should be an all-hand­son-deck game, if the Sox haven’t clinched by then.

An­drew Ben­in­tendi went 0-for-4 with three strike­outs and Han­ley Ramirez went 1-for-4 as the two mid­dle-ofthe-or­der hit­ters com­bined to leave six men on base.

The Sox had eight baserun­ners, col­lect­ing five hits.

They’ve scored just four runs in two nights against the Astros, who haven’t yet used one of their top-tier starters in Dal­las Keuchel, Justin Ver­lan­der or Collin McHugh.

The Sox en­tered last night with an AL-worst .695 OPS since Aug. 25 and once again strug­gled to get any­thing go­ing.

Rafael Dev­ers dou­bled in their first run in the fifth in­ning.

A threat was brew­ing in the sixth, when Ra­jai Davis sin­gled and Xan­der Bo­gaerts dou­bled down the left-field line. Pe­droia grounded out to score Davis from third and knock starter Char­lie Mor­ton out of the game, but Fran­cisco Liri­ano struck out Ben­in­tendi and, two bat­ters later, Chris Deven­ski han­dled Ramirez to clean up the in­ning.

Ramirez dou­bled with two outs in the ninth, but Dev­ers grounded out to end the game.

In the club­house af­ter­ward, play­ers in­sisted they’re not get­ting wor­ried. The man­ager agreed.

“We’ve got to go out and win a game,” Far­rell said.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN WIL­COX

START­ING TO GET TIGHT: Doug Fis­ter re­acts as the Astros’ Alex Breg­man (back­ground) cir­cles the bases on a two-run home run last night. Fis­ter al­lowed three runs in 51⁄3 in­nings, and the bats were un­able to erase the early deficit as the Red Sox lost, 3-2, and once again failed to wrap up the AL East ti­tle.

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