HOUSTON — The Red Sox had four rookies in the lineup on Friday night, twice as many as the perennially rebuilding Houston Astros. It was not the kind of team the defending World Series champions expected to field in their final series before the All-Star break.
“I came in and looked at the lineup and I was hitting sixth,” center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “I had to look again to make sure.”
Maybe the Red Sox should have tried this sooner. Led by their rookies the Sox beat the Astros, 8-3, to extend their win streak to three games.
In his second major league start, catcher Christian Vazquez was 3 for 4 with two doubles, three RBIs, and two runs.
Brock Holt was 2 for 3 with a triple, a double, one RBI, and two runs. Bradley was 2 for 4 with one run. The Sox had 12 hits, seven by their rookies. Seven of the hits were for extra bases.
“Just a good offensive showing,” manager John Farrell said.
Not only have the Red Sox won three straight, they have scored 17 runs in those games. That represents progress for a team averaging the fewest runs in the league at 3.81. The Sox aren’t making up much ground in the standings, but they’re at least more entertaining.
John Lackey went six innings for the win. Burke Badenhop, Craig Breslow, and Edward Mujica each went an inning. Chris Carter had two solo homers for Houston.
“Really fun night,” said Vazquez, who picked up his first major league hit and didn’t stop there.
The Red Sox put three runners on base in the first two innings, but did not score against Astros starter Scott Feldman. Holt changed that in the third inning.
Vazquez singled with one out, his first major league hit. Holt then lined a triple to the gap in right field. Dustin Pedroia followed with a double to left field and the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead.
The bottom of the order added a run in the fourth inning with two outs. Stephen Drew snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a triple to right-center. Vazquez then dropped a double down the line in right, going the other way with a sinker from Feldman.
Farrell said the Red Sox noticed late last season during a batting practice session in Colorado that Holt had more power than they realized. It wasn’t just the thin air. Holt has 18 doubles, second on the team to Pedroia’s 26 in only 59 games.
“I’m not the biggest guy. It’s just getting in a good position. I’ve always had pretty good hands. It’s getting in a good position to hit and getting a good pitch,” Holt said.
The Red Sox, up 3-1, sent nine batters to the plate in the sixth inning and five of them scored.
Daniel Nava led off with a single and took third when Bradley singled to right field. L.J. Hoes bobbled the ball and Bradley went to second base.
Struggling Xander Bogaerts (0 for 4 and down to .234) fouled to third. The Astros then intentionally walked Drew to load the bases for Vazquez.
Vazquez lined a two-strike sinker to right field, a copy of his hit in the fourth inning. This time it drove in two runs.
Facing reliever Darin Downs, Holt walked to load the bases. Pedroia lined out to left field but David Ortiz came through with a three-run double to the gap in right field. Ortiz has eight RBIs in the last six games.
Feldman (4-6) allowed seven runs on 11 hits and three walks over 5⅓ innings. He threw 116 pitches, a season high.
Lackey (10-6) allowed two runs on four hits over six innings, the foundation of a solid outing. But he walked five, committed a balk, and threw only 67 of 117 pitches for strikes.
“A blue-collar night,” Farrell said.
Lackey enjoyed pitching to Vazquez for the first time since spring training.
“He’s awesome. He really catches the ball well. He really sticks the low pitch,” Lackey said. “He really wants to learn, really executed the game plan we talked about beforehand. He did a great job.”
The Astros had runners on base in every inning but the second against Lackey. But they stranded seven against him and were 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
Lackey didn’t give up a hit until Enrique Hernandez singled in a run with two outs in the fourth inning after Jon Singleton and Robbie Grossman had walked. Carter homered to left field off Lackey with one out in the sixth inning.
The five walks were the most for Lackey since May 11, 2011.
Burke Badenhop pitched the seventh inning for the Red Sox and made one of the best defensive plays of the season. With two outs, Matt Dominguez grounded to first base. Mike Carp fumbled the ball and tried to shovel it to Badenhop with his glove. The ball rolled into foul ground but Badenhop dove across the base and made a barehanded grab for the out.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.