Defense dooms Bello as Red Sox lose to Astros 6-2, fall 6.5 back in Wild Card


When Brayan Bello is at his best, he’s keeping the ball on the ground and trusting his defense to make plays behind him.

Neither of those things happened on Tuesday, and the result was another long night for the Red Sox bullpen.

Bello allowed back-to-back home runs in the first inning and was let down by his infielders in the fifth, as a error by Rafael Devers and a botched double play attempt extended the inning and led to another run and Bello departing after only 4.2 innings. Those setbacks, plus a quiet night for the offense, doomed the Red Sox as they lost 6-2 to the Houston Astros.

The loss may have doomed Boston’s postseason hopes as well. The Red Sox are now 6.5 games back in the American League Wild Card race with 29 games left to play.

Bello’s outing got off to an inauspicious start after he allowed consecutive solo home runs to Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez in the top of the first. Bregman’s was a no doubter to the Green Monster, though Alvarez’s was a low line drive that curled around the right field foul pole. According to Statcast it would have been a home run at two ballparks, Fenway and Yankee Stadium.

That was a bit unlucky, but afterwards Bello settled down and went to work. He retired eight straight batters into the fourth, and after allowing a leadoff double to Alvarez and a walk to Jose Abreu he drew a 3-6-1 double play to escape the inning.

Bello should have escaped the fifth in similar fashion, but the Red Sox resorted to some of their worst tendencies once again.

Bello got a groundout to start the inning and then drew another grounder by Mauricio Dubon that Devers bobbled and threw away for his 17th error of the season. Bello then got Jose Altuve to ground into what should have been an inning-ending double play, but rookie David Hamilton threw away the throw to first after recording the second out.

That allowed Dubon to advance to third and gave Houston an extra chance to bring him home, and Bregman came through with an RBI single to chase Bello from the game.

Bello ultimately allowed three runs (two earned) over 4.2 innings, including four hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Though he mostly kept the Astros in check, his and the defense’s inability to get a couple more outs meant the bullpen once again had a lot of ground to cover. Four Red Sox relievers combined to pitch the last 4.1 innings.

On the flip side, Astros starter J.P. France enjoyed a strong bounce back performance after getting torched for 10 runs over 2.1 innings by the Red Sox last Thursday. France allowed two runs over 5.2 innings, with the Red Sox managing only an RBI fielder’s choice by Justin Turner in the third and a solo home run by Adam Duvall in the sixth.

Duvall wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup originally, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora said pregame he’s been on such a heater that he needs to keep playing. His home run Tuesday was his 18th of the season and his seventh in the last nine games.

Even after the beating Kyle Barraclough took Monday to allow the rest of the bullpen a night off, it’s clear the wear and tear of the season has caught up with the Red Sox relievers. John Schreiber, who came into the night with a 5.65 ERA over his last 14 appearances since coming off the injured list in July, was shaky again, allowing a walk and a two-run double after coming on with two outs in the fifth.

It should have only been a one-run double, but a poor tag attempt by Reese McGuire allowed Yanier Diaz to score despite the relay throw beating him to the plate by a couple of feet.

Josh Winckowski, who had posted a 5.40 ERA over his last five appearances dating back to Aug. 17, loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and was fortunate to escape after allowing just one run on a Jose Abreu fielder’s choice. He followed that with a scoreless eighth and Mauricio Llovera pitched a scoreless ninth.

Houston’s bullpen combined for 3.1 scoreless innings, and overall Boston’s offense combined to go 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. Bregman finished 3 for 5 with a home run, two runs and two RBI and Alvarez went 3 for 5 with a home run and two doubles.

Boston (69-64) now looks to avert the sweep with one game remaining before a badly needed off day. Kutter Crawford (6-6, 3.65 ERA) is expected to take the mound for the Red Sox against Houston’s Framber Valdez (9-9, 3.40). First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.

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