HOUSTON — The first-place Red Sox are in a portion of their schedule that includes playing 16 of 19 games on the road in two countries and three time zones.
It’s one of the toughest stretches of the season and comes just as the pennant race starts to heat up.
Dropping two of three games against the lowly Houston Astros would have been a harsh start. Thanks to Stephen Drew, the first-place Sox avoided that mini disaster.
Drew’s three-run home run in the ninth inning gave the Sox a 7-5 victory Wednesday night.
After coming back from a five-run deficit Tuesday night, the Sox were down, 5-2, before rallying this time as Jonny Gomes hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning before Drew connected.
“I was looking for something over the plate,” Drew said. “I got a hanging breaking ball and put a good swing on it. It’s great what this team is doing.”
Drew is 13 of 28 with three extra-base hits and seven RBIs in eight games since Jose Iglesias was traded. Like Gomes, he has a low batting average but has come up with a series of important hits this season.
“You look at the overall performance on the year; you look at the numbers. In key moments they’ve been big for us,” manager John Farrell said.
At 70-46, the Red Sox have won one more game than they did last season and have 46 to play. They have won seven of nine.
With the Sox down by a run, David Ortiz singled to start the ninth inning against rookie righthander Josh Fields. Drake Britton, a relief pitcher, pinch ran for Ortiz.
With Daniel Nava away on paternity leave and Shane Victorino having been ejected, the Red Sox were playing with a short bench.
“They told me I would run for David and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ But it was fun,” said Britton, who hadn’t been on the bases since playing for Tomball High, about 40 minutes from Minute Maid Park.
Mike Carp lined to left field. Gomes then walked before Drew drove a curveball into the seats in right field for his ninth homer.
Fields (1-2) is a former Red Sox minor leaguer the Astros took in the Rule 5 Draft. He struck out four batters for a save on Monday.
Before the homer, the Sox were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Ortiz was 4 for 5. Before making an out in the seventh inning, he had reached base 10 consecutive times, going 8 for 8. He is hitting .332 with a .412 on-base percentage.
Ortiz was 17 of 27 (.630) in seven games against the Astros this season.
Junichi Tazawa (5-3) threw two perfect innings in relief of Ryan Dempster before Koji Uehara picked up his 11th save. He allowed a single but otherwise struck out the side.
Uehara has 15 scoreless innings in a row and has allowed one earned run over 28 innings in his last 26 appearances.
“They were outstanding,” Farrell said.
Houston rookie Jarred Cosart had an impressive first four starts, allowing three earned runs on 18 hits over 28 innings. The Red Sox were a bit tougher on the 23-year-old righthander as they scored two runs on seven hits and five walks over five innings.
It started in the second inning when Gomes drew a leadoff walk and took third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double to right field. A run scored when Brock Holt grounded to second.
In the third, Dustin Pedroia singled and went to third on a single by Ortiz. When Carp grounded toward first base, Brett Wallace seemed to have a play at the plate but stepped on the bag and threw to second. By the time Houston tagged out Ortiz, Pedroia had scored.
The Sox put two runners on in the fifth inning before Carp grounded into a double play. In the sixth, Gomes and Drew walked to knock Cosart out of the game after 100 pitches.
Wesley Wright struck out Saltalamacchia before Holt walked to load the bases. Jacoby Ellsbury struck out before righthander Josh Zeid came in and struck out Victorino.
Victorino checked his swing and was called out on an appeal to third base umpire Brian Knight. Victorino was ejected from the dugout by Knight during the seventh inning. He was the fourth Red Sox player ejected this season, the third since July 14.
Dempster retired seven of the first eight batters he faced and had a 2-0 lead. It didn’t last long.
In the Astros’ third, Jake Elmore doubled to right field. Robbie Grossman followed with a home run to right-center when Dempster left a 91 mile-per-hour fastball in the middle of the plate.
Dempster had a rough sixth inning, giving up three runs on three hits.
Grossman led off with a double down the line in right field, and went to third on a wild pitch. With the infield in, Dempster struck out Brandon Barnes. But Jose Altuve singled off the glove of a diving Holt at third base to give Houston a 3-2 lead.
Jason Castro followed with an RBI double to right field and took third on the throw to the plate. He scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Marc Krauss.
Dempster allowed five runs on seven hits. He has a 7.26 earned run average and a 1.88 WHIP in his last four starts.
The Red Sox chopped away at the Houston lead in the seventh inning when Carp singled with two outs and Gomes lined a home run over the out-of-town scoreboard in left off Zeid.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.