Sox can't make numbers work their way

HOUSTON -- If you pit the league’s best scoring team against the league’s worst pitching team, what do you get?

Not the result the Red Sox were looking for on Monday night.

The Red Sox missed one opportunity after another in a 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros.

The Red Sox entered the game leading the league with 568 runs, just over five runs per game. The Astros, on the other hand, entered with a 4.86 ERA.

All of the cards were in favor of the Red Sox, right?

Not necessarily.

“They have talent,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “This is the major leagues -- anybody can beat anybody on a given day.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell said he’s starting to notice a trend developing since the All-Star break. Four of his team's seven losses since the break have come against left-handed starters.

“It’s been lefties that throw consistent strikes where the issues come with us,” Farrell said. “We’re also a team that’s leading baseball in runs scored. While we might not be a perfect team, we’ve had some success against left-handers, and yet there are some that have given us issues.”

When asked to place a finger on why the Red Sox have had trouble hitting left-handed pitching lately, Pedroia seemed genuinely surprised.

“We haven’t? I didn’t even know that,” Pedroia said.

His confusion might have something to do with the fact that he entered the game hitting .315 against lefties and .283 against righties. He went 2-for-4 in Monday night’s 2-0 loss and hit the ball hard in the two times he was retired.

But as a team, the Red Sox entered the game hitting .284 against righties -- first in all of baseball -- and .251 against lefties -- 15th in the league.

Granted, three of the four losses since the break have come against Tampa Bay southpaws David Price and Matt Moore.

But on Monday night, the Red Sox were blanked by Brett Oberholtzer, who was less than one week removed from his first career start.

Oberholtzer went seven innings, allowing just four hits and two walks. He became the first major league pitcher to pitch seven or more scoreless innings in his first two career starts since Marty Bystrom did it for the Phillies in 1980.

While Pedroia said Oberholtzer did a solid job of keeping the Red Sox hitters “off-balance,” Farrell gave the 24-year-old rookie even more credit.

“He’s a guy that’s proven, in a short period of time, that he’ll throw strikes,” Farrell said. “In the opportunities that we did have, which were not too often, he was able to get a strikeout in key spots.”

The Red Sox stranded eight runners in the game, including two in the second, sixth and eighth innings. They scattered opportunities across several frames and squandered them just as the heavily Red Sox-backing crowd at Minute Maid Park got some momentum going.

The scrappy Astros, on the other hand, fought tooth and nail for both of their runs.

Houston broke a scoreless tie in the fifth after L.J. Hoes singled to right, stole second and later scored on a single by Robbie Grossman.

The Astros added an insurance run in the seventh as a leadoff double from Hoes was followed by a bunt single by Jonathan Villar and a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Barnes.

The Astros swiped six bases, the most the Red Sox have allowed in a game since Tampa Bay stole seven in September 2011.

Although Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught two runners trying to steal, the Astros’ aggressive style seemed to catch the Red Sox off guard. Saltalamacchia has thrown out just 18.4 percent of baserunners attempting to steal this season.

“They’re really aggressive, but I like that,” Saltalamacchia said. “It gives us some opportunities to do things. They’re aggressive, which is good because they’re trying to make things happen.”

The loss was particularly tough to swallow for starter John Lackey, who limped heavily around the clubhouse after the game after awkwardly rolling his left ankle while fielding a ball in the second inning.

Lackey was asked by reporters if he would prefer to sit or stand for postgame interviews, and his gruff answer seemed to reflect his feelings on the disappointing night.

“Ahh, I’ll live,” Lackey said. “It definitely didn’t feel real great, but I wasn’t going nowhere.”

Lackey said he doesn’t expect the ankle to prevent him from making his next start.

“He pitches with a lot of heart,” Farrell said. “He’s a tremendous competitor that never wants to come out of a game. Tonight was another example of that. Unfortunately, it came on a day where we come up on the short end.”