Red Sox

Moreland walks off Red Sox to avoid sweep by Astros

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Moreland walks off Red Sox to avoid sweep by Astros

BOSTON -- Mitch Moreland put some recent struggles behind him with a clutch hit in the ninth inning. Helped the major league-leading Boston Red Sox do the same with their weekend woes, too.

Moreland singled in the winning run with two outs in the ninth and the Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 6-5 on Sunday night to avoid a three-game sweep in a matchup of AL division leaders.

"Yeah, I'll take those every time if I could," he said, breaking into a grin. "It was at the right time to do it, I guess."

Coming into the game in a 2-for-26 slump, the first baseman had a pinch-hit single in the eighth before his walkoff bloop.

"Yeah, he gets jammed and he gets a single," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said, adding "we need this guy to get going offensively. We know how good he is."

With runners on first and second, Moreland sent his opposite-single to left against Hector Rondon (2-3), and pinch-runner Tzu-Wei Lin raced home easily. Left fielder Marwin Gonzalez tried to barehand the ball for a quick throw but lost his grip and let it dribble toward the Green Monster.

J.D. Martinez hit his 40th homer and drove in four for Boston, which snapped Houston's seven-game winning streak even after the Astros rallied with a four-run sixth inning to tie the game at 5.

The East-leading Red Sox sliced their magic number to 11 for their third straight division title. Boston leads the second-place Yankees by 8 1/2 games after they lost at Seattle.

Jose Altuve and Gonzalez each hit a solo homer for the West-leading Astros, who saw their lead over Oakland cut to 2 1/2 games. The Athletics beat Texas earlier in the day.

"This was a really good game, really good series," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "We win this series, which is one of the goals coming into this."

Craig Kimbrel (5-1) pitched a perfect ninth to preserve a tie.

Trailing 5-1 in the sixth, the Astros rallied against starter Rick Porcello and Boston's recently struggling bullpen. Altuve led off with a shot over the Monster, Tyler Whitehad a two-run double off Heath Hembree, and Josh Reddick hit a tying double off Brian Johnson.

Boston had built its lead on Martinez's three-run shot an inning earlier. Martinez's sacrifice fly had pushed Boston ahead 2-1 in the third.

"Just one mistake pitch to J.D.," Houston starter Dallas Keuchel said after giving up five runs in six innings. "I knew he was swinging. We have a long history together."

The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning, but reliever Tony Sipp entered and struck out pinch-hitters Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez.

Porcello gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings.

LONG WAIT

There was a 3-minute, 50-second review of a key play at the plate where Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon jumped for a throw from shortstop Xander Bogaerts to get Altuve in the seventh. He was called out, and replays were inconclusive on if the tag was applied before he touched the plate with his left hand.

"He did get in there. It's clear as day," Hinch said. "I'm tired of these questions because replay's set up for precisely that type of play, and we feel like we have clear evidence."

CLUB MILESTONE

Martinez became just the fourth Red Sox player to hit 40 homers in his first season with the team.

Dick Stuart had 42 in 1963, Jimmie Foxx 41 in `36 and Manny Ramirez hit 41 in 2011.

HOUSTON INVASION

There was a large contingent of Astros fans all weekend, filling Fenway Park, restaurants and bars in the area. The Houston Texans faced the New England Patriots about 45 minutes away in Foxborough, Massachusetts, earlier in the day.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Lefty Chris Sale is still set to be activated off the disabled list and start Tuesday. Cora said the plan is for the ace to go about two innings the first time as he gradually works back from mild left shoulder inflammation that landed him on the DL twice in less than three weeks.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (14-9, 2.73 ERA) is scheduled to pitch in Detroit on Monday for the first time since being traded last season by the Tigers. LHP Francisco Liriano (4-9, 4.90) is slated to start for the Tigers.

Red Sox: After an off day, Sale (12-4, 1.97) is set to face Toronto LHP Ryan Borucki (3-4, 4.39) when the teams open a three-game series Tuesday at Fenway.

How did the Red Sox' Andrew Benintendi kick-start his recent hot streak?

How did the Red Sox' Andrew Benintendi kick-start his recent hot streak?

A little more than a month ago, Andrew Benintendi was being sat for multiple games in a row because, in the words of his manager, "we need him to feel hitter-ish again."

Safe to say that's happened.

Benintendi had three hits Friday night - a single, double and triple - in the Red Sox' 9-1 victory over the Orioles and since July 22, when Benintendi homered for the first time in more than a month in going 3-for-5 in a 9-4 victory over the Rays, he's hit .394 with five homers, 21 RBI and an OPS of 1.131.

The secret? It's what he's not doing. Benintendi got rid of the leg kick in his stance that he'd been using the first three months of the season. He bottomed when he was benched in the series in London when Alex Cora blamed the left fielder's "heavy legs." Then after an 0-for-12 stretch, he sat for the July 4 and 5 games in Toronto and Detroit. That's when he wasn't "hitter-ish."

He went 4-for-6 the next day in Detroit to raise his average from .266 to .274. He's now at .291 with 12 homers and 63 RBI for the season and is thriving in the fifth spot in the order after a failed experiment as a leadoff hitter early in the season and then ceding the No. 2 spot to red-hot Rafael Devers.

“It’s definitely made me feel more comfortable eliminating that leg kick," Benintendi told reporters after the game Friday. "Just trying to keep it simple.”

With or without the leg kick, Benintendi was confident he'd turn it around. 

“I never felt like I doubted anything,” he said. “I’m still just going out there and playing. Things just seem to be going better than they did in the first half.”

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Mike Yastrzemski matches his grandfather with a 3-HR game

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Mike Yastrzemski matches his grandfather with a 3-HR game

Seventy games into his major league career, Mike Yastrzemski has matched his Hall of Fame grandfather in one category.

Three-homer games.

The younger Yaz went deep three times, including a go-ahead solo blast in the 11th inning, to lead the San Francisco Giants to a wild, 10-9 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night in Phoenix.

The Red Sox legend played 3,308 major league games and the only three-homer game of his career came in his 15th season, on May 19, 1976, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Here's a look at Mike Yaz's handiwork in a game where the teams combined to hit 12 homers, just the second time in major league history that's happened. 

A solo shot in the third...

A two-run homer in the seventh...

And what proved to be the winner in the 11th:

Mike Yastrzemski, 28, called up May 25, has 16 homers, 45 RBI (including four Friday night) and is hitting .272. The Giants (62-61) are 2 1/2 games out of the NL's second wild-card spot.

Drafted in the 36th round by the Red Sox in 2009 out of St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., Yastrzemski, a left-handed hitting outfielder like his grandfather (but a left-handed thrower), didn't sign, went to Vanderbilt and was drafted in the 14th round by the Orioles in 2013. After six years in the minors with Baltimore, he was traded to the Giants this past March.

Even before the third homer, the MLB Network noted that Mike Yaz was off to a better start in his first 261 plate appearances than grandpa, who hit .266 with 11 homers and 80 RBI as a Red Sox rookie in 1961. 

The Giants come to Fenway Park for a three-game series Sept. 17-19.

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