HOUSTON — Few events can deflate a baseball team more than a blown save. A night of good work disappears in an instant, a victory denied.
But the Red Sox found the will to survive the latest meltdown by their struggling pitching staff, scoring two runs in the 12th inning to beat the Houston Astros, 7-5, on Sunday night.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s RBI single was the difference as the Red Sox took two of three in the series and improved to 9-9. Heath Hembree pitched three scoreless innings for the win.
“We found a way,” said catcher Ryan Hanigan, who contributed an epic walk to the winning rally.
The Sox had not scored in eight consecutive innings before Hanley Ramirez led off the 12th inning with a single off Ken Giles. Travis Shaw also singled before Brock Holt put down the team’s first sacrifice bunt of the season.
Hanigan fouled off eight consecutive pitches before drawing a 13-pitch walk to load the bases.
“It was a big situation in that game. Trying to win. Trying to get something to the outfield,” Hanigan said. “Just worked it as hard as I could and got to first.”
Bradley was next, and he lined a single to right field through a drawn-in infield for his second RBI of the game.
“Had to do something there,” said Bradley. “You get down but we still had some game left. Good team win, the way we fought back. It’s going to be a lot easier flight.”
With two outs, Hanigan scored on a wild pitch with a headfirst dive across the place — this by a 36-year-old who had caught the entire game.
“Hanny’s a guy that leaves everything he’s got on a given night on the field,” manager John Farrell said.
Video: Jackie Bradley RBI single in 12th
The bottom of the inning brought more drama. Tyler White reached on an error by Shaw at third base before Carlos Gomez singled. But Hembree struck out Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez to end a game that lasted five hours and three minutes.
“He continues to come along so strong for us. Through all the shuttle that we’ve gone through, if there’s a silver lining in this, it’s been the arrival of Heath Hembree,” Farrell said. “He gave us everything he had and more.”
Hembree has thrown 7⅔ scoreless innings in three games since being called up from Triple A Pawtucket April 19, helping a bullpen that has thrown the most innings in the American League.
“I was hoping to make that last inning less stressful. But I was able to get through it and get the win,” said Hembree, who threw 49 pitches.
After Red Sox starter Henry Owens managed only 3⅓ innings, Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara held the Astros scoreless for 4⅔ innings.
Tazawa faced the first six hitters in Houston’s order and retired five of them. He has a 1.04 earned run average in 10 appearances.
Uehara was next. The 41-year-old righthander had not pitched since last Monday. He allowed four runs in that game, and Farrell acknowledged two days later that he had overworked Uehara and needed to give him some time off.
Refreshed, Uehara got three easy outs, striking out two. He handed a 5-3 lead to closer Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel got two outs before Carlos Correa doubled off the wall in right field. Colby Rasmus then crushed a 98-mile-per-hour fastball way out to right center field.
Rasmus had a game-changing grand slam on Saturday against Clay Buchholz. Kimbrel put the ball in the same place, over the plate and in the lower third of the strike zone. His intent was to elevate the pitch.
“I wouldn’t say it was a bad pitch. But it was a bad pitch to him,” Kimbrel said. “It was down and kind of right into his swing.”
Kimbrel is a problem the Red Sox never expected to have. He has allowed five runs on five hits — two of them home runs — and five walks in 10 innings.
“I’ve had some pretty rough outings so far at the start of this year,” he said. “I’ve had some really good outings as well. Trying to find the middle line. I hated to watch the team go out there and play such a good game and me to come in and not get my job done.”
The Red Sox scored three runs in the first inning against Houston starter Scott Feldman, aided by a call overturned on replay.
Mookie Betts led off with a single and took third when Dustin Pedroia doubled down the left-field line. Xander Bogaerts, back after missing Saturday’s game with a sore right wrist, grounded to first and Betts held.
The Astros intentionally walked David Ortiz to get to Hanley Ramirez, and he accommodatingly grounded to shortstop. But the ball was hit too slowly to turn a double play and Betts scored.
The Red Sox asked for a review of the play, saying second baseman Jose Altuve did not touch the bag to force Ortiz. The call was overturned and the bases were loaded with one out.
Shaw, down 1 and 2 in the count, drew a seven-pitch walk to force in a run. Holt drove in another with a sacrifice fly.
The Sox scored two more runs against Feldman in the third inning.
Holt reached on a two-out infield single to second base and took second when Altuve threw the ball away. Hanigan drove in his first run of the season with a double over the head of George Springer, who was playing shallow in right field.
Bradley came out of a 3-for-24 slump with a double to right field, driving in Holt.
Feldman allowed five runs, three earned, on eight hits and four walks over 4⅓ innings.
In his season debut, Owens seemed determined to squander the run support and was unable to complete four innings. He needed 86 pitches to get that far.
Owens allowed three runs on five hits and four walks after being staked to a 3-0 lead.