BOSTON (AP) — The defending World Series champions are heading into September in position to make another long postseason run.
The Houston Astros won their fifth straight game on Wednesday, earning their first sweep at Fenway Park with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Framber Valdez retired the first 10 Boston batters one start after pitching seven no-hit innings and took a shutout into the sixth inning for the Astros, who ended the day one percentage point behind Seattle in the AL West, one game ahead of Texas.
“We’re due for an extended streak of wins,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “So hopefully this is it.”
If the Astros can hold off the Rangers and Mariners, it would be their sixth division title in seven years; the two teams that fall short are still likely headed for the playoffs as wild cards. Houston has won two World Series since 2017, added another pair of AL pennants and twice lost in the AL Championship Series.
“We’ve been there and done that for a long time, the past seven years,” said closer Ryan Pressly, who pitched the ninth for his 29th save. “I think this is kind of when we turn it on. This team is built to win championships and to go deep in the playoffs so we know what it takes to get there.”
The Red Sox lost for the fifth time in six games and are fifth in the race for the three AL wild-card berths, four games behind Toronto and seven back from the AL West pack heading into Wednesday night’s games.
Valdez (10-9) no-hit the Guardians on Aug. 1 and left Friday’s start against Detroit with a no-hitter intact before the bullpen took the loss. He extended his no-hit string to 10 1/3 innings before Justin Turner blooped a single into center in the fourth, with Houston already ahead 7-0.
Boston scored all its runs off Valdez in the sixth, when Luis Urias led off with a single and Triston Casas doubled. Shortstop Jeremy Peña's throwing error allowed Connor Wong to reach safely and one run to score; Ceddanne Rafaela, making his first major league start, doubled in another run and two more followed on groundouts.
Valdez allowed four runs — two of them unearned — on five hits while striking out five in six innings.
“That's how it usually happens. In that one inning we had a miscue and it kind of opened the gates and they start hitting and hitting," Baker said. “I'm just glad that we got the sweep.”
Michael Brantley, Peña and Martín Maldonado had two hits apiece for Houston. Casas had three hits for Boston.
Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford (6-7) gave up six runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out one in 2 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs with two out in the second inning, and three more after loading the bases with one out in the third.
Astros: RHP Kendall Graveman left the game with two outs in the seventh because of lower back discomfort. Baker said his reliever would get treatment on Thursday. “He threw a pitch and you could just sort of tell that he winced. We’re just hoping there wasn’t anything serious,” Baker said.
Red Sox: OF Jarren Duran had surgery on a tendon in his left big toe and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Duran was batting .295 with eight homers, 40 RBIs, 34 doubles and 24 stolen bases this season before going on the injured list Aug. 10.
Astros: Off Thursday before opening a three-game series at home against the last-place Yankees. LHP Carlos Rodon (1-4) will start for New York against Houston RHP Justin Verlander (10-6).
Red Sox: Off Thursday before playing at Kansas City. LHP James Paxton (7-4) will start the series opener for Boston.
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