By Brian McTaggart and Christian Boutwell
HOUSTON -- Mookie Betts threw out a runner at the plate in the sixth inning and greeted Astros reliever Will Harris by hitting a first-pitch homer to left field in the eighth to break a tie and send the Red Sox to a 2-1 win in the series opener Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
"Just in a small snapshot, there's Mookie's skillset on both sides of the ball," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's a dynamic player."
Betts' homer, his 12th of the season, came one inning after Astros catcher Brian McCann tied the game at 1 with a solo homer to right field off Drew Pomeranz, who was immediately pulled after throwing 97 pitches in 6 1/3 innings.
"Just so happens McCann had done a good job against left-handers all year, and a fastball leaked back over the middle and Drew paid for it," said Farrell. "He had handled [Astros designated hitter Evan] Gattis. You watch hitters' reactions throughout the course of the game and he was in control of the ballgame."
The Red Sox's win moved them to within one game of the American League East-leading Yankees while the Astros have a commanding 11-game lead over the second-place Rangers in the AL West.
The Astros got another terrific effort from starter Mike Fiers, who allowed one run and five hits in seven innings to drop his ERA in his last four starts to 1.78. The only run he allowed came in the third on a two-out single by Mitch Moreland.
"We played well enough to win," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "In the big at-bats is where this game swung a little bit."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Joe survives Aoki blow: Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly came into the game following the McCann homer and allowed a double to Yuli Gurriel and then walked Derek Fisher intentionally with two outs in the seventh. With Gurriel at third and Fisher at second, Kelly battled pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki for nine pitches before getting him to line out to third base for the final out. All nine pitches were fastballs, including four that were 100 mph. Aoki came into the at-bat 7-for-16 (.438) lifetime vs. Kelly.
"We had a great matchup with Aoki coming off the bench against Kelly, and he hits a bullet to the third baseman," Hinch said. "One foot, one inch, one way or the other, up, down, left, right and we might be talking about a different result."
Betts' laser says bye, George: The Astros rallied in in the sixth when George Springer and Jose Altuve drew walks with two outs. Correa followed with a sharp single to Betts, who fired a 96.8-mph strike, according to Statcast™, to the plate get Springer out by 15 feet. It was Betts' hardest tracked assist since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015, and third hardest tracked throw overall.
"Mookie obviously helped me out there towards the end of the game," Pomeranz said. "I don't know what he's thinking there running. I think he was about halfway down the line when [Christian Vazquez] caught the ball. He's great out there."
"With two outs, it's an aggressive send," Hinch said of third-base coach Gary Pettis sending Springer home. "When you get thrown out like that, as big a distance as he did, it brings the question, obviously. We'll look at it again. Getting thrown out at that distance, you're betting on a mistake a little bit. It's a one-hopper bullet hit right at Betts. Betts made a nice throw and they made the play."
"I mean, with two outs, you've got to send him. Springer's not slow. The ball was hit well. I think it was the right play, I just ended up making a good play." -- Betts, on the throw to nab Springer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Along with what is now a 13-game hitting streak against the Astros for Betts, he has nine extra-base hits in his last nine games and has an AL-best 22 extra-base hits on the road (33 games).
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Hinch unsuccessfully challenged a safe call at second base in the first inning. Hinch thought Dustin Pedroia's hand came off second base during an attempted steal while Carlos Correa was still applying the tag, but the safe call was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Righty Rick Porcello, who hasn't won any of his last four starts and is 3-8 this season with a 4.67 ERA, gets the starting nod in Game 2 against the Astros. First pitch is set for 8:15 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park.
Astros: Rookie right-hander David Paulino (0-0, 6.59 ERA) makes his fourth start in Saturday's 7:15 p.m. CT game against the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park. Paulino gave up five runs in four innings Sunday against the Angels.