Red Sox

And it's Ryan Brasier's turn to spin the wheel of despair in another awful Red Sox loss

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And it's Ryan Brasier's turn to spin the wheel of despair in another awful Red Sox loss

NEW YORK -- Ryan Brasier had Brett Gardner right where he wanted him, and then all he could do was turn around and grimace.

Summoned with the bases loaded and the Red Sox clinging to a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning of what felt like a must-win game on Wednesday, Brasier raced to an 0-2 count on the slumping Yankees veteran with a pair of sliders before deciding to come back with a fastball.

In his 12-year career, Gardner had homered just twice on 0-2 counts. This time, though, he lashed Brasier's fat 96 mph offering over the right fence for a game-breaking grand slam that rallied the Yankees to a 5-3 victory that leaves the Red Sox once again wondering what hit them.

If it's not the starting pitching, it's the offense. If it's not the offense, it's the bullpen. If it's not the bullpen, it's the defense.

It's always something, and on Wednesday it was Brasier.

"Had a plan to go after him, got him right where I wanted to get him, and I didn't execute a pitch," said Brasier, who joined fellow reliever Brandon Workman in wasting an excellent start from Nathan Eovaldi. "Nate did a hell of a job tonight. Bullpen guys, it's our job to come in and get outs and hold the lead and I made a bad pitch on a good count for me and it bit me in the butt."

The Red Sox have no strengths so far this year, but the back of the bullpen had kind of been one of them. Brasier entered the game with three saves and a 1.17 ERA in eight outings, pairing with Matt Barnes (1.42 ERA, 17.1 K/9) to give the Red Sox some stability in the final innings, not that the Red Sox have found themselves protecting too many leads.

But it's one of the stories of this season that the reliable can suddenly become unreliable at the worst moments.

"We've still got to finish off games," said manager Alex Cora. "We didn't. it takes everybody to get out of this. Today, in the seventh inning, we didn't do a good job."

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Red Sox vs. Astros lineups: J.D. Martinez returns, Michael Chavis leads off

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Red Sox vs. Astros lineups: J.D. Martinez returns, Michael Chavis leads off

After taking three out of four games vs. the Blue Jays, the Red Sox look to carry their success into Houston.

They'll begin a three-game series vs. the Astros on Friday night with the red-hot Chris Sale toeing the rubber opposite ex-Red Sox left-hander Wade Miley. Sandy Leon will call the game for Sale behind the plate.

J.D. Martinez finally returns to the lineup after missing the last four games due to an illness and back tightness. Rookie Michael Chavis again leads off with Andrew Benintendi batting sixth.

Here are the full lineups for both teams with first pitch set for 8:10 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.

BOSTON RED SOX (27-23)
Michael Chavis 2B
Mookie Betts RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
J.D. Martinez DH
Steve Pearce 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
Eduardo Núñez 3B
Sandy León C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Chris Sale, LHP (1-5, 4.31 ERA)

HOUSTON ASTROS (33-18)
George Springer RF
Alex Bregman 3B
Carlos Correa SS
Yuli Gurriel 1B
Aledmys Diaz 2B
Robinson Chirinos C
Josh Reddick LF
Tyler White DH
Jake Marisnick CF

Wade Miley, LHP (4-2, 3.51 ERA)

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How Chris Sale can make MLB history in Friday's start vs. Astros

How Chris Sale can make MLB history in Friday's start vs. Astros

Don't let the 1-5 record and 4.31 ERA fool you: Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant over the last three weeks.

In fact, the Boston Red Sox ace has the chance to make history Friday night in Houston.

Sale enters Friday's start against the Astros on a crazy streak: He's recorded ten or more strikeouts and allowed four or fewer hits in four consecutive starts dating to May 3.

If he extends that streak to five, he'll pass Pedro Martinez in the Red Sox record books and tie Johan Santana in the MLB record books.

Milestones were the last thing on Sale's mind in April, when he stumbled to an 0-5 record with a 6.30 ERA through his first six outings.

He's been absolutely lights-out in May, though, averaging a mind-boggling 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings (51 Ks in 26.1 innings) while allowing three runs or fewer in all four of his starts.

Believe it or not, the 30-year-old has room for improvement, as he walked a season-high five batters in his last appearance against Houston on May 19.

First pitch at Minute Maid Park is set for 8:10 p.m. ET, with history on the line for Sale as he continues his May redemption tour.

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