BOSTON (AP) — Clay Buchholz knew he had it going right away.
Buchholz pitched a six-hitter to win his fourth straight start, coming within one out of a shutout as the Boston Red Sox rebounded from a tough loss with a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.
Mookie Betts drove in three runs and made a leaping catch in center field to help the Red Sox snap Houston’s five-game winning streak.
Buchholz (7-6) struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in his ninth career complete game. He is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four starts against the Astros.
“I could throw just about any pitch I wanted to today. It doesn’t happen often like that,” he said. “The first inning I threw some good pitches and they don’t always happen that way. After the second inning, I felt like I was going to have good command of my fastball on both sides of the plate. When you have that you can throw everything off of that, and that’s what I was able to do.”
Luis Valbuena’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth broke up the shutout.
“A complete game is a complete game,” Buchholz said. “A shutout is a little different. It’s pretty hard to do.”
Betts hit two RBI doubles and a sacrifice fly. Sandy Leon had three singles for the Red Sox, and Xander Bogaerts drove in two runs.
Unlike Friday night’s extra-inning game that featured three Boston comebacks before the Astros pulled out a 12-8 victory in the 10th, the Red Sox scored early and won for the fifth time in seven games.
A couple of early runs were more than enough the way Buchholz was pitching. He has a 0.87 ERA in his last four starts.
“He’s been on a run,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s in such a good place mentally where he’s completing his delivery for strikes, and he was in control again today.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch was impressed.
“He pounded the strike zone with a couple different pitches. He had a really good changeup, a really good cutter,” Hinch said. “This game was almost entirely about him.”
Boston grabbed a 1-0 lead against Collin McHugh (9-4) three batters in on Bogaerts’ RBI single. Betts’ sacrifice fly made it 2-0 in the second.
McHugh gave up four runs — three earned — and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
“Fastball was sporadic, especially early on,” he said.
In the fifth, the Red Sox turned catcher Hank Conger’s throwing error into an unearned run. Brock Holt hit a dribbler in front of the plate and Conger fired the ball down the right-field line. Bogaerts followed by hooking a low, outside pitch into the left-field corner for an RBI double.
Betts hit a run-scoring double just inside third base to make it 4-0 in the sixth. His second RBI double came in a two-run eighth.
Betts also made a nice grab of Jose Altuve’s drive on the warning track after a long run for the first out of the game.
Red Sox 3B Pablo Sandoval made a catch of a foul pop near the Astros’ dugout before falling over the railing. His right cleat struck pitcher Vincent Velasquez on the left side of the head. He had a couple of scratches, but wasn’t injured.
“The railing’s still up,” Farrell joked. “He’s fearless.”
Buchholz had a funny line, too.
“That’s a big man going over a small railing,” he said.
Astros: Colby Rasmus started in center field and went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in his first game since June 26 due to a skin infection on his left wrist. Hinch said Rasmus will probably play every other day for the next week. … After the game, Houston activated OF Jake Marisnick (hamstring) from the disabled list and sent OF Domingo Santana to Triple-A Fresno.
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring, hit in the cage after increasing his running a day earlier. Farrell said the club is still trying to decide if Pedroia will be activated for a series against the New York Yankees next weekend.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (4-2) is slated to start the series finale Sunday. He threw seven innings of one-run ball in a win over Kansas City on Wednesday.
Red Sox: Rookie LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2) is scheduled to start. He’s allowed one run or none in four of his six starts.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press