JP France allows 10 runs in the shortest career start against the Red Sox

HOUSTON — About two hours before the first pitch on Sunday afternoon, Astros manager Dusty Baker sat on the back of the bench in the dugout and stressed how much his team needed rookie GB France to work deep in the series finale against the Red Sox.

The Astros’ bullpen has already been “upside down,” as Baker likes to say, which means relievers have carried so much weight lately that there have been more relief pitchers unavailable than there have been available. Houston called up Triple-A starter Brandon Belak from Sugar Land before Thursday’s game in hopes he wouldn’t have to use it on relief.

Belak ended up pitching more innings pitched (5 1/3) in Thursday’s 17-1 loss to Boston than France, rocking 10 innings and 11 strikeouts in the shortest start of his young career — 2 1/3 innings pitched. The Red Sox survived Minute Maid Park by splitting after losing the first two games of the series, resulting in the Astros losing 1 1/2 behind the first-place Rangers.

France said: “There is not much that can be said.” “It’s just a bad game. It seems like everything I threw hits them, whether it’s breakers, or heaters, or heaters. Just one of those days.”

The Red Sox put seven balls into play off France that were hit at over 100 mph, all of which went to base batters. This included a second-inning single by Rafael Devers that was 111.3 mph, and home runs by Alex Verdugo (107.2 mph to start the game) and Willer Abreu (108.7 mph to second). Boston went 11-for-19 against France with an average exit speed of 94.8 mph.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of France: “In the movie, it looked like his skills were better early on. Maybe today was a bad day for him. But he’s one of the better players. This change-up is good. This ‘cutter is a good one.'” will bounce back. I think he will probably play against us next week. So he will make adjustments. We just have to make sure we’re ahead of that.”

France has been one of the Astros’ biggest surprise stories this year and has been among the rookie leaders in innings pitched, ERA, wins and quality starts.

“We knew they could strike, and when the strikes started coming in, it was hard to stop,” Baker said. “It seemed like he and (catcher) Yeiner (Diaz) hadn’t been on the same page for a while. You could kind of tell they were out of sync. That’s the hardest thing he’s had this year.

Belak came up with the bases loaded in the third inning and allowed all three runners to score, but he threw a career-high 112 pitches and enabled Baker to walk away from all of his key relievers. He is the second pitcher in Astros history to comfortably throw 112 home runs, joining Bob Forsch (114) on August 3, 1989, in Cincinnati.

“I came in with the bases loaded and didn’t do the job there,” Bellak said. “The game went straight out at that moment. We didn’t have any players available on the pitch and I knew that was my game from then on, I had to do my best and give everything I had for the team.

Rafael Montero earned the final out of the eighth, and catcher Martin Maldonado earned the ninth. He threw 30 pitches (14 strikeouts) and averaged 49.1 mph. Maldonado’s max was a fastball at 86.3 miles per hour. His only previous appearance was on April 30, 2014 for Milwaukee in St. Louis.

Astros relievers (32 1/3 innings) have thrown more innings than Astros starters (31 2/3 innings) in the past seven games. The Houston freshmen have an 8.81 ERA in that span, including six scoreless innings by Justin Verlander on Tuesday.

Baker will hand the ball to left-hander Framber Valdez in Friday’s series opener against the Tigers in Detroit in the hopes that a deep walk will put the Bulls back where they need to be.

“We need to get a good start out of Framper and then hopefully get back into sync over the next six days,” Becker said. “We’ve got six days before the day off. We’ve got some good horses in Detroit. We’ve got Frimper, we’ve got (Hunter) Brown (on Saturday), we’ve got Verlander (on Sunday). Hopefully everything will be back to normal.”

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