The Red Sox needed Thursday night to work in their favor.
Over the last two weeks, the Astros had dominated the Red Sox in their two regular-season series, stringing together five wins in six contests, cementing series wins in both meetings.
So, with one final game to play in this three-game set against the Astros at Fenway Park, the Red Sox willed their way to a wild 12-8 comeback victory to avoid getting swept at home.
The win was backed by a Christian Arroyo game-tying, three-run shot that made it 7-7 in the fifth, and then punctuated by the Sox’ five-run outburst in the sixth.
“At that point in the game, it was a rollercoaster ride, back-and-forth,” Arroyo said afterward. “I thought it was awesome to be able to do that and help us tie the ballgame up and give us a chance to win.”
But it didn’t appear as if it would be the case, beginning in the top of the fifth when Eduardo Rodriguez missed on a 3-2 changeup to Astros’ Yordan Alvarez and loaded the bases.
With the Sox clinging to a 4-3 lead, manager Alex Cora made his way out of the dugout and took the ball from his lefthanded starter.
Astros starter Zack Greinke hardly fared any better, lasting just three innings while surrendering four runs on seven hits, including a solo homer to J.D. Martinez that tied it, 3-3. It resulted in Greinke’s shortest outing since Aug. 14, 2016, a nightmarish flashback to when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks and lasted just 1⅔ innings vs. Boston at Fenway Park, giving up eight runs on nine hits.
Still, Rodriguez’s exit left the Red Sox in a bind. They were down a couple of relievers. Hirokazu Sawamura was out with a sore right hip and Garrett Whitlock was unavailable because he pitched an inning (17 pitches) in Wednesday night’s 8-3 loss.
With righty Yuli Gurriel at the plate — who had homered off the Pesky Pole in the first inning off Rodriguez — lefthanders Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez weren’t an option. Cora wanted the righty-on-righty matchup, electing to go with Matt Andriese.
Andriese walked Gurriel on four straight pitches. Andriese then fell behind, 3-0, in the count to Kyle Tucker. On his eighth pitch, Andriese finally threw a strike.
But on the next pitch, Tucker punished a 93-m.p.h. fastball off the center field wall for a bases-clearing double, giving the Astros a 7-4 lead.
In an outing in which Rodriguez appeared ready to at least navigate his way through five frames having yielded just three runs, suddenly took a nightmarish turn.
Rodriguez went 4⅔ innings and was charged with allowing six earned runs despite tying a season-high with 15 swings-and-misses. Yet Rodriguez went deep into counts, causing his pitch count to soar to 106 over that span. With the best offense in baseball, the Astros proved themselves to be disciplined hitters in the box, rarely, if ever, chasing pitches off the plate.
It left Rodriguez — who sat at 92-93 m.p.h. with his fastball — to nibble around the periphery of the plate with his offerings.
“The walks didn’t help him out,” Cora said of Rodriguez, who had three walks on the evening. “We got to keep pushing, we need him to be better. For us to accomplish what we want to do, he’s a big part of it.”
In the bottom of the fifth, however, the Red Sox fought back, the game suddenly turning into a slugfest.
With the Sox trailing 7-4, two out, and Christian Vazquez and Rafael Devers at first and third, respectively, Christian Arroyo belted a three-run homer off reliever Brandon Bielak to tie it, 7-7
In the sixth, Jose Altuve responded by clubbing a Darwinzon Hernandez slider that was just inches off the ground, giving the Astros an 8-7 lead.
The Sox then erupted for five runs in the bottom of the sixth off reliever Blake Taylor, tying it when Tucker dropped J.D. Martinez’s flyball to right. Bogaerts drew a walk. After Taylor induced Devers to pop to short for the second out, he handed the baton to Enoli Paredes who continued the Astros misery by issuing a walk to Hunter Renfroe then hitting Vazquez with a pitch with the bases load to score Martinez from third with the go-ahead run, 9-8.
Arroyo then negotiated a walk, stretching the Red Sox lead, 10-8, before Bobby Dalbec roped a two-out, two-run double to highlight the sixth-inning onslaught.
In the Sox’ two previous losses to the Astros at Fenway, they had 10 combined hits. But on Thursday, the Sox had 14 hits and struck out just three times.
“I do believe, approach-wise, that was our best game of the season,” Cora said. “A lot of positives.”