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Brian Johnson went 4<span class="onethird"><span class="web_fractions">⅓</span>
</span> innings in his major league debut Tuesday, allowing four runs, three hits, and four walks.
Brian Johnson went 4<span class="onethird"><span class="web_fractions">⅓</span> </span> innings in his major league debut Tuesday, allowing four runs, three hits, and four walks.Bob Levey/Getty Images
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HOUSTON — When Red Sox lefthander Brian Johnson walked to the mound at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, he had gone 15 days without pitching in a game.

That’s unusual for any pitcher but especially for somebody making his major league debut. Going back to June 25, Johnson had thrown only five innings.

Part of that was by design as the Red Sox believed Johnson needed some extra rest. Part of it was circumstance because there was a four-day break for the All-Star Game. The rest was a lack of planning.

The result was an 8-3 loss against the Houston Astros as Johnson was not able to get through the fifth inning.


“Obviously I could have done better,” he said.

The 24-year-old had some good moments but was undone by poor command. Johnson threw only 50 of 87 pitches for strikes and two of the four batters he walked scored.

The Red Sox have lost six straight and seven of their last eight. They are 10 games out of first place for the first time since June 20 and have been outscored, 30-7, over the first five games of their road trip.

At 42-52, the Red Sox have the worst record in the American League. Even the mutinous 2012 bunch that gave up wasn’t that bad.

“We’ve got to be professional,” said catcher Ryan Hanigan, whose throwing error in the fifth inning turned the game Houston’s way. “Keep playing hard, represent the city of Boston. We’ve got to go out there and compete.”

On the advice of sleep experts, the Sox changed their usual travel plans and stayed in California on Monday night after losing a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels. They flew to Houston in the morning and went directly to the ballpark.

The belief was that would give the players more rest and lead to better performance.


Maybe the Sox can trade for new experts. They were held scoreless over the final six innings as Astros rookie Vince Velasquez and three relievers retired 15 of the final 17 batters.

Johnson, who flew ahead of the team, was more rusty than sleepy. He walked leadoff hitter Jose Altuve on five pitches in the first inning. After Altuve stole second, Marwin Gonzalez followed with a sharp single to center.

The Astros took the lead when rookie Carlos Correa lined a ball to center that Mookie Betts made a leaping catch on. It was good enough for a sacrifice fly.

Johnson was in trouble but got Evan Gattis to ground into a double play.

“I kind of got the cobwebs off,” Johnson said.

The Red Sox scored three runs in the third inning.

Alejando De Aza singled and went to third when Hanigan doubled to left field. Betts checked his swing and accidentally rolled a double down the first-base line that scored two runs.

Xander Bogaerts stayed hot with a single to center that scored Betts.

Johnson took a 3-1 lead into the fifth inning and to that point had allowed one hit. The problem was he had also thrown 72 pitches.

Chris Carter knocked a curveball softly into center field for a single. L.J. Hoes followed with a sharp single to left field.

When Jake Marisnick grounded sharply to third base, Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop and the Sox got an out at second.


Johnson made two pronounced lob throws to first base in an attempt to keep Marisnick close. Manager John Farrell said those sort of throws were a surprise, although Johnson claimed it was nothing unusual for him.

“Quickly they looked to take advantage of that,” Farrell said.

Marisnick took off and Hanigan threw to second. With a slow runner at third base in Carter, that wasn’t a bad idea.

But the throw hit Marisnick on his left elbow as he slid and deflected into left field. By the time Hanley Ramirez made a hurried throw to the plate, two runs scored.

“That’s baseball, it happens,” Johnson said.

Said Hanigan: “I rushed it a little bit, kind of tailed on me and unfortunately hit the runner. Tough play momentum-wise because we were in control of the game until that happened.”

Justin Masterson relieved Johnson and hit Gonzalez with a slider. Correa followed with a ground-rule double that scored Altuve. Gonzalez scored when Gattis grounded to third.

Johnson was charged with four earned runs over 4⅓ innings, which didn’t necessarily reflect his effort. He walked four and struck out three, all on curveballs in the third inning.

“As it went later in the game I felt like I really settled in,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s next start, which will presumably be on less rest, should be in the majors given what he showed.

Masterson, who pitched well in his first two appearances out of the bullpen, allowed two more runs in the sixth inning when Hank Conger doubled off the wall in left and Carter homered to right center.


Masterson, who was signed to a one-year, $9.5 million deal before the season, has a 5.98 earned run average.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.