Carlos Correa put his hand to his ear following his first-inning homer off Martín Pérez Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
Boos rained down on the shortstop from the crowd, a response to the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal. After a 2020 season with no fans, this was the Fenway crowd’s first chance to give Correa and his club an earful. The hand to his ear was Correa’s reply: He didn’t care.
The homer was the precursor to a 7-1 Red Sox loss, their fourth in five games to the Astros in a little more than a week.
The Astros pummeled Pérez. He lasted just two innings, matching the shortest outing by a Red Sox starter this season, and surrendered six runs (all earned) on six hits. This came after Pérez carved up the Astros in his previous outing (7⅔ scoreless innings).
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight,” Pérez said. “I think my two-seamer, I threw inside too much, and when I tried to make a good pitch, they hit it. It’s one of those nights where you have to compete no matter what. I tried to do my best.”
In the second inning, Martín Maldonado’s single scored two runs. Then a double by Correa, to the chants of “You’re a cheater” from the Fenway fans, plated another. Five of Pérez’s six runs allowed came in the second.
Entering Tuesday night, the Red Sox bullpen had worked 24⅔ innings over the last eight games. The number of bullpen innings during that stretch put the Sox in the middle of the major league pack. Nonetheless, the Sox are in the midst of 17 games over 17 days. Nights like this could deplete a bullpen.
“I was a little mad because my job is to go deep into the game,” Pérez said. “But I threw too many pitches, too many foul balls. Too many base hits and  pitches in two innings, that was bad.”
Meanwhile, the Sox knew they would have their hands full with Astros lefthander Framber Valdez. Much like Pérez, Valdez was dominant when the teams met last week, going seven innings, striking out 10, and allowing just one run.
“He pitched deep into the game,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday afternoon. “Good two-seamer, changeup, good breaking ball. Houston does a good job pitching. They have their thoughts, they have their game plan, they execute. And that’s why they are one of the best pitching staffs in the big leagues. The fact that we’re going to face him right away, we’ll see what happens.”
Valdez was also impressive in this one, and the Sox, again, didn’t have an answer. Valdez went 7⅓ innings, struck out eight, and allowed just one run, on a Hunter Renfroe RBI ground out in the fourth. Valdez induced 18 swings and misses. Of his eight strikeouts, five were on pitches out of the strike zone.
“I believe that, it’s not actually that he throws a lot of strikes. I think guys are just chasing pitches,” Cora said after the game. “We chased 38 percent of the pitches against them last week, and if you do that, it’s going to be tough to beat them.”
In the first three games of last week’s four-game set against the Astros — all three Red Sox losses — the Sox were just 17 for 98 (.173). Boston scored just four runs and struck out 32 times.
The Sox responded in their next five games, all wins, batting .269/.328/.446 with five homers. But the cold bats returned Tuesday. The Sox tallied just six hits, struck out 12 times, and were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
The Red Sox seemed as if they were on the brink of a rally against Valdez in the fifth after Christian Vázquez and Kiké Hernández delivered back-to-back singles. But with runners at the corners, Bobby Dalbec struck out, his second of three against Valdez in the game. In his last 16 plate appearances against lefthanded pitchers, Dalbec is 1 for 16 with 10 strikeouts.
Valdez then fanned Christian Arroyo and got Rafael Devers to ground out to end the threat.
“I think we like to swing the bat, and sometimes we need to be more disciplined,” Cora said. “Hopefully, we can face him again.”