Young pitchers meet again for Red Sox, Astros

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Two of baseball’s best young pitchers face off when the Boston Red Sox host the Houston Astros in the middle game of a three-game series on Tuesday night.

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The Red Sox will turn to 24-year-old right-hander Brayan Bello (10-7, 3.56 ERA) after he recorded his team-leading 10th win on Thursday in Houston, pitching seven innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts.

Bello’s mound opponent that day, in a contest the Red Sox won 17-1 to gain a four-game series split with the Astros, was J.P. France (9-5, 3.51 ERA). The same two pitchers will clash on Tuesday.

Bello is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA against the Astros in his career over one relief appearance and the one start last week.

The Thursday blowout was crucial for Boston, which is attempting to chase down on American League wild-card spot.

“It was very important for us to split (last week’s) series,” Bello said through an interpreter. “When we lost the first two games, I talked to Chris Sale. I told him, ‘It’s up to us to try to split the series and try to win these two games.’ And we did it.”

Three losses in four games have since followed, including a 13-5, season-opening setback to the Astros on Monday in Boston.

Another strong start from Bello will be vital. He is 3-1 with a 3.26 ERA over five games in August.

The Red Sox are 15-7 this season in Bello’s starts.

“He’s good against everybody,” Boston manager Alex Cora said earlier this month. “I think we get caught up sometimes on (him giving up) three runs in six innings. The lefties are hitting him and all that, but it’s part of the progression. He’s still learning and he’s good.”

Another Boston player who has been very good of late is Adam Duvall. The reigning American League Player of the Week has homered six times over his past eight games, including a long ball on Monday.

The Astros‘ offense is hot, too, having matched the single-game franchise record with 25 hits in a 17-4 win at Detroit on Sunday and then scoring 10 of its 13 runs in the sixth through eighth innings the following night.

Houston has also set a franchise record for most hits in consecutive games (43) and in a three-game span (57).

Monday’s highlight was Jose Altuve becoming the first Astro since 2013 to hit for the cycle. Altuve and Yordan Alvarez each had four hits, including Alvarez’s first home run since Aug. 6.

“Hopefully this is the start of something good,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said.

The Astros could soon receive a boost from outfielder Michael Brantley, who hit and fielded with the team prior to the Monday game as he looks to return to the major league field for the first time since June 2022. Shoulder surgery has sidelined him since.

Baker said a decision will be made “in the next couple days” regarding Brantley’s status.

“The plan is to play left sometimes and DH sometimes, I think that’ll help him and (Alvarez) both,” Baker said. “Just got to choose when and where … and try to have them where they can both be productive.”

On the mound, France will look to rebound from the shortest and worst outing of his rookie season. The 28-year-old allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in 2 1/3 innings on Thursday in his first career meeting with the Red Sox.

“It seemed like everything I threw they were hitting, whether it was cutters away, heaters in, heaters away,” France said. “Just one of those days.”

—Field Level Media

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