HOUSTON -- Rookie outfielder Preston Tucker clubbed a pair of home runs, including a two-run blast in the fifth off Joe Kelly, to back seven strong innings by starter Collin McHugh to lead the Astros past the Red Sox, 4-2, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Kelly (2-6), making his first outing since being sent to Triple-A shortly after his June 23 start, gave up solo homers to Tucker in the first and Evan Gattis in the fourth. Tucker blasted a two-run homer to right field in the fifth that gave the Astros a 4-0 lead.
"I think we scored all of our runs on the home runs," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We can do that from time to time. We've got a little bit of power. I thought our at-bats early were pretty good. Our zone discipline was nice. We made them throw a lot of pitches."
McHugh (11-5) retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced and didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning. The Red Sox scored a pair in the sixth on RBI hits by Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, but McHugh stranded a pair of runners in the sixth and seventh innings. The victory matched his career high for wins set last season.
The Red Sox have lost seven in a row to fall a season-high 11 games back in the American League East.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
McHugh lives dangerously late: McHugh, who allowed only one run despite 11 hits in his previous outing, pitched out of jams in the sixth and seventh. In the sixth, he struck out Hanley Ramirez and got Alejandro De Aza to fly out strand runners at second and third, and he recorded three straight outs in the seventh after Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli led off with back-to-back singles.
"He's a pretty calm guy in the middle of his competition, which is good," Hinch said. "I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well early, very efficient. They got to him for a 30-pitch inning a little bit later in the game. But I thought he did a good job. They got four straight hits and then he retired the side without them opening it up too big, which we held the lead, we held the runners in scoring position." More >
Kelly inconsistent in return: Kelly was sharp for stretches in his return to the Majors, but also made some mistakes. Over 5 1/3 innings, the righty gave up six hits and four runs while walking one and striking out six.
"I thought he made some big pitches with his fastball," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He gets a couple of called strikes looking. I thought he changed eye level with some fastballs. But a couple pitches out over the plate. And in an unforgiving ballpark such as this, you pay for it." More >
Tucker goes Bam Bam: Living up to his nickname "Bam Bam," Tucker recorded his first career multi-homer game when he blasted a solo shot to left field in the first and two-run homer to right field in the fifth. His eight homers this season are tied with Carlos Correa for most on the club by a rookie.
"Just trying to simplify things," Tucker said. "Hit the ball hard, you know, stay short and get a good pitch to hit and I think when things kind of click, things start working out and I had a good rhythm tonight." More >
Boston bats come up short: Prior to the All-Star break, the Red Sox had gone on a pretty nice run offensively. But that has changed since the break. While going 0-6, Boston has scored a total of nine runs.
"We just haven't put it together," Pedroia, who broke out of an 0-for-20 drought with a double to right-center. "That's basically it. When we get guys on, haven't been able to find a way to get 'em in. It's not like guys are pressing or anything. We've hit some balls good. I mean, our at-bats aren't bad. We just haven't found holes, haven't clicked together." More >
Astros manager A.J. Hinch successfully challenged a call at first base in the seventh inning. Tucker was originally called out for what would have been a 3-6-1 double play, but the replay showed he beat the throw at first by a hair. Tucker was safe on a fielder's choice.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Lefty Wade Miley (8-8, 4.49 ERA), fresh off one of his strongest performances of the season, closes out this three-game series for Boston at 8:10 p.m. ET on Thursday. Miley took a no-hitter into the seventh in Anaheim, but wound up taking a no decision.
Astros:Rookie right-hander Lance McCullers (4-3, 2.52 ERA) will make his first start since July 12 when he faces the Red Sox in Thursday's 7:10 p.m. CT series finale at Minute Maid Park. McCullers has 71 strikeouts -- the second-most ever recorded by an Astros pitcher through his first 10 career games. He took the loss in his last start, a return to his hometown area of Tampa Bay, where he allowed a career-high four earned runs in six innings.