|Astros aiming for series sweep vs. Red Sox|
If the Astros took anything from their victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday at Fenway Park beyond their series-clinching win, it was the standout performance of right-hander Josh James.
James, who labored to a 7.90 ERA over his first 10 appearances this season, worked three hitless innings in the Astros' 7-3 victory and recorded the most crucial outs of the contest by retiring Xander Bogaerts (strikeout) and Rafael Devers (groundout) with the bases loaded in the fifth.
James returned to the mound and worked a perfect sixth and seventh to extend his streak of scoreless appearances to six while lowering his ERA to 4.56. During that stretch, James has allowed just three hits and four walks while amassing 14 strikeouts over 10 innings.
What the Astros have established is a dominant back end of their bullpen. If James can maintain this form, he only deepens their relief corps.
"That's exactly the kind of guy that we need to bridge these games and we're winning, and the other side is looking at 98, 99 (miles per hour on the fastball) plus the secondary pitches," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Under control and kind of emotionless, which is good. He's just playing the game. Very impressed."
Left-hander Wade Miley (4-2, 3.51 ERA) gets the start for Houston in the series finale. He had his streak of 24 consecutive starts allowing three earned runs or fewer snapped on May 14 at Detroit when he surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings in an 11-4 win.
Miley is 2-2 with a 7.13 ERA over four career starts against the Red Sox, for whom he finished 11-11 with a 4.46 ERA over 32 starts in 2015. Miley last faced Boston in 2017 while with the Baltimore Orioles, going 2-1 with a 4.41 ERA over three starts that season.
Ace left-hander Chris Sale (1-5, 4.24 ERA) will get the ball Sunday seeking to help Boston avert a series sweep. Sale has reclaimed his dominating form this month, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts while recording 41 strikeouts against just one walk over 21 innings. He is 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA over seven career starts against the Astros.
Even with left-hander David Price slated to return to the rotation Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays, right-hander Hector Velazquez had an opportunity to keep his spot in the rotation Saturday against the Astros. With right-hander Nathan Eovaldi at least two weeks out from his return following elbow surgery, Boston remains a starter short even with Price back in the fold.
Velazquez imploded in what was his seventh start on the season, allowing five runs on three hits and two walks while recording just one out. He pitched the Red Sox into a five-run hole from which they never escaped, and jeopardized his chance to avoid bullpen duty with his showing,
"We'll wait and see," Boston manager Alex Cora said on the immediate future for Velazquez. "That spot (in the rotation) doesn't come up again until the last day in Toronto (next Thursday), so we'll talk about it the next few days. Just a bad one. He could have thrown a good one."
--Field Level Media