Veteran Houston catcher Martin Maldonado had no issue acknowledging that the Astros' play over the weekend against Seattle was unacceptable and that an impromptu team meeting was held after the Mariners' three-game sweep.
What the Astros sought against the Mariners they manifested in a 7-3 victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, a win that earned at minimum a split of the four-game series after a 9-4 win on Monday. The teams will meet again on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Houston received a strong pitching performance from veteran right-hander Justin Verlander, production from up and down the lineup and a relatively clean defensive effort save for a sixth-inning error that didn't prove costly.
One play, in particular, encapsulated the Astros' focus.
With Houston leading 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Mauricio Dubon scored from second base on Maldonado's sacrifice bunt that trickled up the first base line. Dubon ran hard the entire play, and with Red Sox catcher Connor Wong running out to retrieve the ball and throw to first, Dubon was able to get to the plate before any Boston player could.
"I can't remember the last time I've seen it," Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Dubon scoring from second on a ball that didn't leave the infield. "But that was heads up baserunning because if Dubon is not running hard, then (third base coach) Gary (Pettis) can't send him.
"That was a big run for us."
Jose Urquidy (2-3, 5.21 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Wednesday.
The right-hander has made three appearances since his return from a three-month stint on the injured list caused by right shoulder discomfort. Most recently, he worked two scoreless innings in relief on Friday, recording three strikeouts in the Astros' 2-0 loss to the Mariners. Urquidy yielded six runs in 10 1/3 innings over those three appearances (two starts).
Urquidy is 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA over three career starts against the Red Sox. In his latest appearance against Boston, on Aug. 3, 2022, Urquidy allowed two hits and recorded 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings while earning a 6-1 home victory.
Chris Sale (5-3, 4.50 ERA) will get the ball for the Red Sox on Wednesday.
The left-hander took a loss in his most recent outing, against the Washington Nationals on Thursday, after allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits and three walks with three strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Sale is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in two starts since returning from a 59-game stint on the injured list prompted by left shoulder inflammation. He was 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his six most recent starts prior to landing on the IL.
Sale is 5-3 with a 2.20 ERA over nine career starts against the Astros.
One night after Red Sox manager Alex Cora lamented a sloppy defensive performance in the series opener, Boston committed three errors on Tuesday. Throwing errors by reliever Mauricio Llovera and right fielder Wilyer Abreu helped the Astros produce a four-run seventh.
The Red Sox have committed 90 errors, the highest total in the majors. Further undermining their effort thus far in the series is a 4-for-28 showing with runners in scoring position.
"It's hard (to not capitalize). We had such a great weekend doing that, putting (together) good at-bats and grinding at-bats," Cora said of Boston's series sweep of the New York Yankees. "I think we did a good job with Verlander early. We felt like we put pressure on him. We just weren't able to finish it."
—Field Level Media