Red Sox-Astros Preview

MATT BEARDMORE (STATS Writer)
The Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox got off to a bad start on a road-heavy portion of their schedule.

Rookie Steven Wright hopes his first major league start has a better finish Tuesday night when the AL East-leading Red Sox try to prevent the Houston Astros from winning two straight for the first time since June.

Opening a stretch of 10 straight and 16 of 19 away from Fenway Park, the Red Sox (68-46) lost 2-0 to the major league-worst Astros (37-74) on Monday. Boston, one-half game ahead of second-place Tampa Bay in the East, finished with five hits after averaging 5.4 runs while winning seven of its previous nine.

"We had some chances to score, we just couldn't do it," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.

Saltalamacchia and the Red Sox also couldn't stop Houston from swiping a season-best six bases, three from rookie shortstop Jonathan Villar.

Manager John Farrell is hoping that Wright (2-0, 3.65 ERA), who's getting the ball so that the Red Sox can give their regular starters an extra day of rest, can keep the Astros off the basepaths.

The right-hander has earned wins in each of his last two appearances. He's gone 8 2-3 scoreless innings in those contests after pitching the final three frames of Thursday's 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Seattle.

Wright credits his 12-inning scoreless streak - which includes time at Triple-A Pawtucket - on increased confidence in his knuckleball.

"For me, I was always trying to trick guys with setup pitches," he said. "And now it's like, 'Here it is.' It's a tough mental thing to get over."

Wright will face an Astros team seeking its first set of back-to-back wins since a four-game streak June 12-16.

Houston, though, has dropped seven straight with Tuesday's starter Jordan Lyles (4-5, 4.91) on the mound. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 7.61 ERA in that span after giving up five runs - three earned - in 5 2-3 innings of Thursday's 6-3 loss at Baltimore.

"Same story. I've got to pitch better when guys are on base,'' said Lyles, whose last victory was June 18 against Milwaukee. "I haven't been good. It might be a little bit of bad luck, but it starts with me, it finishes with me.''

Lyles makes his second start against Boston after permitting one unearned run in a 2-1 loss July 3, 2011, that gave the Red Sox a three-game sweep in their last visit to Minute Maid Park.

Outfielder L.J. Hoes, acquired from Baltimore in last week's Bud Norris deal, will try to build off a solid home debut with the Astros. He went 2 for 3 on Monday with a double, a steal and two runs, crossing home plate for the first time on Robbie Grossman's fifth-inning single.

Grossman, who has hit safely in all eight games since being called up July 27, went hitless in 17 at-bats in a four-game sweep at Boston from April 25-28.

Dustin Pedroia, 7 for 14 in that series, had two of Boston's hits Monday and is batting .552 (16 for 29) in seven career games at Houston.