George Springer of the Houston Astros (PHOTO: Getty Images)
HOUSTON (AP) — If leadoff hitter George Springer is having a big game, it's usually a pretty good sign that the Houston Astros will, too.
That was the case on Friday night when Springer dashed home from second base on a wild pitch by Chris Sale, then homered off the Boston ace to send the Astros over the Red Sox 7-3 in a matchup of AL division leaders.
"He's an energy provider for us," manager A.J. Hinch said of Springer, last season's World Series MVP.
Springer finished with three hits, and Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis homered late to boost the Astros.
Mitch Moreland and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back homers off Gerrit Cole (6-1) to start the fourth inning and get within 4-3. Moreland's homer was a towering shot to straightaway center field that hit the "H'' in the Astros' logo on the wall, while Martinez hit his major league-leading 19th homer.
Springer's sprint put the Astros ahead in the first inning. With runners at first and second and one out, Sale threw a hard slider that Correa swinging for strike three. But the ball bounced off catcher Sandy Leon's glove and caromed toward the first base dugout, and Springer hustled home on the wild pitch.
Springer loves being the spark to get the offense going.
"I know who's up behind me," he said. "If I can just get to first base for those guys a lot can happen. So I take a lot of pride in it."
Springer hit his 12th home run in the third as Houston built a 4-1 lead.
Cole won his fourth straight decision, giving up three runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out seven, raising his AL-leading total to 116.
Sale (5-3) lost his second in a row, allowing four runs in six innings. He struck out six, giving him 110 this season.
"He struggled early, but after that, he made a few adjustments and gave us six," manager Alex Cora said. "Overall, he will tell you he wasn't good, but I think for him to give us a shot after going through the first two innings with all those pitches, it was good enough."
Correa, who entered Thursday's game in an 0-for-10 slump, homered for the second straight game against Boston when he hit a solo drive in the eighth off Joe Kelly. It was just the second run Kelly had allowed in his last 24 outings and he'd retired 24 straight batters before the homer.
Kelly then walked Yuli Gurriel, and Gattis homered to left-center.
The Red Sox, who have baseball's best record at 39-19, lost their second straight game on a night where they were missing major league batting leader Mookie Betts, who was placed on the disabled list before the game retroactive to Tuesday. Boston had hoped that Betts was nearing a return after missing the last six games, but instead put him on the disabled list just before the game because of an abdominal strain.
He's hopeful that it won't take any longer than 10 days for him to recover.
"I think it's kind of a hope," Betts said. "I've never been in this situation. I've never had it and I've never any other situation. This isn't enough pain to not play through. It's just something where you just don't want to make it worse."
Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has played just three games this season, sat out for the second straight game because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
Red Sox: Cora isn't sure how long Pedroia will be out. "He's a big part of what we're trying to accomplish," Cora said. "We know what he brings to the table so we'll make sure he's healthy."
Astros: OF Josh Reddick, who is on the disabled list with an infection in his left knee, took early batting practice for the second straight day, but isn't expected to return during this series. But Hinch said he's improving and could begin a rehabilitation assignment soon.
Houston's Justin Verlander, who leads the majors with a 1.11 ERA, opposes David Price (5-4, 4.04) when the series continues on Saturday night. Verlander has won three straight and allowed just two runs combined in those games. Price has also won three in a row and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts.
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