MAGIC NUMBER STUCK AT 1 FOR SKIDDING SOX
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.
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.