Red Sox try to break out of rut, slow Astros

August is coming to an end Boston Red Sox see their playoff hopes dwindle.

The Red Soxwho is now 6 1/2 games from the last wildcard spot in the American League will be looking to salvage the final of a three game series against the guest Houston Astros Wednesday afternoon.

In Houston’s 6-2 win on Tuesday, that was Astros took advantage of a Boston error in the fifth inning after back-to-back homers from Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez set the tone in the first.

Brayan Bello was fourth in a row Red Sox Starter who failed to finish five innings.

“We’re where we are because we struggled in certain areas of the game,” said Boston coach Alex Cora. “It’s catching up (to us) now.”

Right-hander Kutter Crawford (6-6, 3.65 ERA) will be looking to give that Red Sox a much needed strong start on Wednesday.

Crawford hit seven strikeouts against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday and allowed just two runs with four hits in five innings without a decision.

In his only career start against Houston, Crawford allowed just a seven-hit run in six innings in a win on August 2, 2022.

The Red SoxAmid a difficult week that also included call-up Kyle Barraclough on Monday for 10 runs with 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings, Triple-A Worcester top pick Ceddanne Rafaela made his major league debut.

According to MLB Pipeline, Rafaela is #3 in the organization.

“Obviously that’s a different level but we expect him to come in and whenever he plays just go out and have fun playing center. He can play short. He can walk,” said Cora. “He strives for strength. The discipline has been much better in the last few weeks, which is very important at this level.”

Rafaela scored his first goal in Boston’s 13-5 opening defeat on Monday but has yet to make a start in the major leagues.

Boston also gets an impressive performance from midfielder Adam Duvall, who hit seven homers in his current nine-game hitting streak. On Tuesday, he hit a home run for the fourth straight year.

The Astros have won four games in a row and scored 66 goals in that time, which is a franchise record. On Tuesday they fought a three-way battle for first place with the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers.

Despite winning 4-0 on Tuesday, Michael Brantley buoyed Houston’s line-up after returning from right shoulder surgery.

Brantley last played in the majors on June 26, 2022. In 16 rehab games for Triple-A Sugar Land, he hit 14 of 47 (.298) with a home run and 12 RBIs.

“It’s great to have him back. He’s worked hard to get back to this point.” Astros said manager Dusty Baker. “He was as patient as only a man can be. He is the consummate team man, team player, team leader.”

Left-hander Framber Valdez (9-9, 3.40 ERA) will claim victory for Houston in the series finale.

Valdez failed with the Cleveland Guardians on Aug. 1 before allowing 16 runs (15 earned) on 24 hits in his next three starts, but rebounded in seven innings without a hit on Friday when there was no decision in Detroit.

Valdez worked about five walks and a hit batter against the Tigers.

“That was part of my plan to just mix a lot of my pitches,” Valdez said through an interpreter. “Mix them up, mix them up, try not to get predictable.”

In four career appearances (two starts) against the Red SoxValdez is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA.

—Field-level media Red Sox try to break out of rut, slow Astros

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