No matter how many strikes he threw, how many batters he set down in order, history was working against Astros starter Scott Feldman on Thursday night.
He had seemingly found every possible way to come apart at the seams when he took the mound against the Red Sox.
It happened July 11, when the righthanded sinkerballer gave up seven runs on 11 hits in 5⅓ innings.
That start was only slightly less ugly than an eight-run, eight-hit, 2⅓- inning disaster last September when he was pitching for the Baltimore Orioles.
Six years ago, while with the Texas Rangers, he gave up 12 runs in 2⅔ innings against the Sox.
So on Thursday, even after he set down the first eight batters he faced, let just one ball out of the infield in the first three innings, threw 25 of his first 37 pitches for strikes, and was given a four-run cushion, the question was, when would the rope start to fray?
Feldman could sense it.
He went from being able to throw four pitches for strikes at the start of the game to leaning on his cutter to get strikes.
“I think I just started relying just strictly on one pitch,” Feldman said. “Those guys are too good to do that. You can throw 100 [miles per hour] and [if] you only got one pitch, it usually doesn’t work.”
The Sox got to him for a run in the fourth inning. Then it unraveled for Feldman in the sixth.
The Sox tagged him for five hits and a walk and ushered him off the mound following a tying RBI single by Will Middlebrooks.
Feldman left the bases loaded for reliever Darin Downs, and by the time the inning was over, the Sox had hung seven runs on Feldman on their way to a 9-4 win at Fenway Park.
“We came to life,” manager John Farrell said. “We were able to combine some base on balls with some base hits. Seemed like we got a couple of pitches up on the plate from Feldman.
“The first time or two through the order, he kept us in check, kept us off balance. But good to see us break out.”
When Feldman gave up a double to Brock Holt, a single to Dustin Pedroia, and an RBI single to David Ortiz to start the seventh, you could see the snowball starting to roll.
After Yoenis Cespedes grounded into a fielder’s choice, Mike Napoli shot a single to left field to score Pedroia and make it 4-3. Daniel Nava then squeezed a six-pitch walk out of Feldman to load the bases, making way for Middlebrooks to shoot a line drive to center to tie it at 4.
Feldman, who had won both of his previous starts this month, left the mound with his head hanging, while the Sox were still looking to cash in.
“He’s a good pitcher, he knows how to pitch and he was hitting his spots early, mixing and matching with his sinker and his cutter, his curveball, throwing a couple changeups,” Nava said. “I think we were able just to work some counts . . . grinding him out and eventually things started to fall our way.”
With Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate, Downs had the lefty-lefty matchup in his favor, but he fell behind Bradley, 3 and 1, and walked in the go-ahead run two pitches later.
Christian Vazquez then shot a 2-and-1 pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly that scored Nava and made it 6-4.
Holt came to the plate for the second time in the inning and Downs walked him on five pitches to load the bases.
That brought Mike Foltynewicz to the mound to face Pedroia, who sliced a line drive that kicked up chalk as it bounced off the right-field line and into the stands for a two-run, ground-rule double.
Foltynewicz got out of the inning by getting Ortiz to bounce into the shift. But six of the seven runs in the inning were on Feldman’s shoulders.
In his past three starts against the Sox, Feldman has given up 22 earned runs. He fell to 1-4 lifetime against Boston, and Farrell acknowledged that sometimes teams can have a pitcher’s number.
“I think there are certain matchups where a pitcher’s going to be tough against a certain club or they run into a little bit of a challenge,” Farrell said. “We fared well against him down in Houston when we faced him down there. Sometimes you match up well against a guy.”
The scoring binge was more than timely for Red Sox starter Allen Webster, who gave up four runs over six innings.
Walks sabotaged Webster in his first two starts this season, giving up 11 free passes in eight innings. He seemed to get a handle on them last week against the Angels, cutting his walks to two.
He walked three on Thursday — two leading off innings. On both of those occasions, Webster got ahead in the count with first-pitch strikes. But both walks turned into runs.
Dexter Fowler took a five-pitch walk to lead off the second and then scored when a Jon Singleton grounder blew up on Napoli at first.
After Robbie Grossman came through with an RBI single in the third, Singleton worked a six-pitch walk to start the fourth. Matt Dominguez blasted the next pitch for a two-run homer over the Monster to put the Astros up, 4-0.
Webster was able to limit the damage, and with the Sox breaking out in the sixth he earned his third win of the season.
“I think we’re seeing some small gains here,” Farrell said. “When you compare it to two starts ago, where things might’ve gotten away from him a little bit, he did bend today, but he didn’t break and that was an encouraging sign.
“I think more than anything, he’ll wake up tomorrow knowing that there’s another win next to his name and hopefully that’s added confidence along the way.”
The Sox remained perfect against the Astros at Fenway, at 8-0. It was their 23d come-from-behind win of the season and their 30th when scoring at least five runs.
“A very good offensive night overall,” Farrell said. “To come from behind, a good win.”