HOUSTON (AP) - J.A. Happ's victory drought continued against the Red Sox.
The Houston left-hander gave up five runs in 6 2-3 innings, and lost his sixth straight decision in Boston's 10-4 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night.
Hunter Pence homered and Michael Bourn tied a career high with four hits, including a first-inning triple. But the Astros were down 3-0 before their first at_bats, never led and lost for the ninth consecutive time when Happ starts.
``I felt good,' said Happ, who threw 117 pitches. ``Unfortunately, we got in that hole. But I kept battling and felt like we were in that game the whole way.'
Happ (3-10) came in with a 5.09 ERA in his last 10 starts, and got into immediate trouble after allowing a leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury.
Dustin Pedroia then beat out a bouncer to shortstop Clint Barmes, and Ellsbury took third when Houston first baseman Carlos Lee bobbled Barmes' throw.
Major League RBI leader Adrian Gonzalez drove in Ellsbury with a single to right, and Kevin Youkilis singled to load the bases. Happ walked David Ortiz to force in Pedroia, and Gonzalez scored when Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounded into a double play.
Happ threw 33 pitches in the inning. He's given up 15 of his 59 earned runs in the first inning this season, and can't pinpoint the reason for the slow starts.
``If there was,' he said, ``I would've been able to figure that out by now.'
Bourn extended his hitting streak to 11 games when he led off the bottom of the first with a triple to left center off Boston starter Andrew Miller (2-0). Angel Sanchez singled up the middle to make it 3-1.
Happ allowed only one hit over the next three innings, then gave up back-to-back doubles by Ellsbury and Pedroia in the fifth for a 4-1 Red Sox lead. Pedroia has 28 RBIs in his last 34 games.
Pence led off the Houston sixth with a solo homer, his 10th of the season. Houston manager Brad Mills said Bourn and Pence deserve consideration for the All-Star game.
``To see Bourn and Pence have the at_bats, and swing the bats like they are,' Mills said, ``that sure is nice.'
Yamaico Navarro, recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, pinch-hit for Miller in the seventh and drove his first career homer into the left-field porch. It was the second pinch-hit home run for Boston this season.
Happ struck out Ellsbury before Mills brought in Wilton Lopez to relieve. Lopez got Pedroia to ground out.
The Astros loaded the bases in the seventh against Alfredo Aceves, and Boston manager Terry Francona called on Daniel Bard. Pence walked, and Jeff Keppinger trotted home to cut the deficit to 5-3. Lee then grounded into a fielder's choice, ending Houston's chances for a rally.
``We battled them, we hit the ball hard sometimes,' Bourn said. ``We could've gotten a break, that could've started something. Other than that, we've got to find a way to just learn. That's it.'
The Houston bullpen came in with an NL-worst 4.84 ERA, and Boston loaded the bases in the eighth against left-hander Fernando Abad. Saltalamacchia drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to left, and Darnell McDonald followed with a three-run homer off the railroad tracks above left field.
Bobby Jenks retired the Astros in order in the eighth, and the Red Sox added another run in the ninth off Aneury Rodriguez.
Bourn singled and scored in the ninth against former Houston reliever Dan Wheeler. Pence flew out to end it.
NOTES: Ellsbury returned after sitting out Friday's game due to illness. ``I don't think he feels great,' Francona said, ``but he's good enough to play.' ... Ortiz came into Saturday's game in an 0-for-18 rut, but Francona is encouraged by how the All-Star slugger is swinging the bat. ``He's got his stroke,' Francona said. ``I'm thrilled about that.' ... Boston OF Carl Crawford jogged and took batting practice before the game, as he continues to recover from a strained hamstring. Crawford is due to come off the disabled list on Sunday, but Francona said Crawford isn't ready to play just yet. ``He's building,' Francona said, ``and it was a really productive day.' ... Astros C Humberto Quintero played seven innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City as he continues his rehab assignment. Quintero has been out since May 28 with a sprained right ankle.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved