Weary Astros brace for red-hot Red Sox

Since their acquisition of Justin Verlander at the trade deadline, the Houston Astros have attempted the gambit of utilizing six starters while eschewing a long reliever in their bullpen.

The results have been spotty and, after getting a combined 7 2/3 innings from starters Framber Valdez and Hunter Brown in consecutive losses to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday and Sunday, Houston will host the Boston Red Sox in a four-game series starting Monday with its bullpen stretched thin.

Exacerbating matters for the Astros is that their next off day is Aug. 31. The Astros used four relievers in their 10-3 loss on Saturday and six relievers on Sunday when Brown failed to escape the third inning of a 7-6 defeat that enabled the Mariners to complete a three-game sweep that Astros catcher Martin Maldonado called “a slap in the face and a wake-up call.”

“It’s a little beat up, especially in this 13-game streak that we’re in with 10 more to go,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of his bullpen. “Hopefully we’ll get some innings out of (right-hander Cristian) Javier (on Monday).”

Javier (8-2, 4.49 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros in the series opener. He has worked at least six innings only once in his last nine starts, going 1-1 with a 7.56 ERA during that span.

Javier allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits and one walk with two strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings against the Miami Marlins last Tuesday but did not factor into the decision of the Astros‘ 6-5 road win.

In three career appearances (one start) versus the Red Sox, Javier is 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA and one save. In his last appearance against Boston, Javier allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over six innings in a 2-1 home loss on Aug. 2, 2022.

Left-hander James Paxton (7-3, 3.34) will start the series opener for the Red Sox on Monday. He allowed two runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts over six innings against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday and did not factor into the decision of a 6-2 loss.

Over his last five starts, Paxton has recorded a .282 opponents’ batting average but has posted a 2.96 ERA while logging at least five innings in each outing.

Paxton is 8-4 with a 3.24 ERA in 14 career starts against the Astros. In his last appearance against Houston on June 21, 2019, Paxton allowed one run on five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts over five-plus innings in a 4-1 victory while pitching for the New York Yankees.

With their 6-5 road win over the Yankees on Sunday, the Red Sox completed a three-game series sweep and improved to 8-1 in the season series with four games remaining. Boston has won eight of its last 11 games after dropping eight of its previous 10 contests.

The Red Sox remain three games out of the final American League wild-card spot.

“We know where we’re at,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It should be fun the next month and a half. We’re playing good baseball, we’re getting healthier — which is the most important thing. Let’s see where it takes us.”

—Field Level Media

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