During their current stretch of 13 victories in 15 games, the Houston Astros have benefitted from exceptional pitching performances via sources both familiar and unexpected.
In claiming the second contest of a three-game road set against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, the Astros produced a record-tying power surge that overshadowed a timely effort from rookie right-handed reliever Seth Martinez in a 13-4 win.
The Astros and Red Sox will contest the rubber match of the series on Wednesday.
Houston placed veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi on the 15-day injured list before the Tuesday game after he was carted off the field with a left lower leg injury in the series opener a day earlier.
That development likely will force the Astros to utilize a five-man rotation for the foreseeable future, a change of direction from the six-man rotation that has undergirded their recent run of success and one that was necessary with Houston scheduled to play 33 games over 34 days.
Martinez, recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land, replaced Odorizzi on the roster and immediately delivered three scoreless innings on Tuesday. He entered after starter Jose Urquidy labored over five frames despite being the beneficiary of a nine-run second inning.
Martinez saved the Houston bullpen on a night when it didn't appear to need salvaging, particularly with eight games scheduled over the next eight days.
The Astros' offense give the pitchers plenty of wiggle room by matching the major league record with a five-homer inning. Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Pena, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel all went deep in the second inning. Tucker added a grand slam in the fourth.
"There is no explanation," Houston manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, sometimes you hit the great (pitchers) good and sometimes, you know, the so-so (pitchers) you don't hit them. There's not an explanation for everything. ... It's not that easy to hit home runs, and like I said, it was just our day."
The second-inning homers all came off Boston's Nathan Eovaldi, prompting questions regarding the possibility that the right-hander was tipping his pitches.
Boston manager Alex Cora, the Astros' bench coach in 2017, linked the onslaught to Houston's offensive prowess.
"Like I said last year, when they get going, it's that fastbreak offense," Cora said. "They attack early and they hit the ball in the air. The conditions, (Fenway Park) was playing small.
"It's one of those we'll take a look at it and make adjustments for the next one."
Right-hander Luis Garcia (3-1, 2.94 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Wednesday. He worked five scoreless innings in a 5-0 road win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, allowing five hits and two walks while recording a season-high-tying nine strikeouts.
Garcia has posted 23 strikeouts and a 1.50 ERA over his past 18 innings and three starts. He faced the Red Sox once last season, his first full season in the majors, allowing one run on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-1 home victory on June 1.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta (1-4, 5.08) will start the series finale for the Red Sox.
After allowing 13 earned runs over 11 2/3 innings and three starts to open the season, Pivetta has produced a 2.45 ERA over his past four starts.
On Friday against the host Texas Rangers, he surrendered one run on three hits and one walk with four strikeouts over a season-high seven innings during a 7-1 victory. It marked his longest start since July 4, 2021, and was his seventh career start in which he allowed one earned run or fewer over seven or more innings.
Pivetta is 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA over two career starts against the Astros.
--Field Level Media