Astros rookie Henry Sosa tossed six stellar innings on just three days’ rest Thursday night en route to his first career big league victory, as Houston cruised to a 3-1 win over the San Francisco Giants in the opener of a four-game series at AT&T Park.
Although Houston continues to hold the worst MLB record, they improved to 3-1 this season against the reigning World Series champs.
The Astros snapped a four-game losing streak and finally got in the win column on their current seven-game road trip after being swept by the Colorado Rockies over a three-game set at Coors Field.
It was a sloppy offensive game across the board for both teams, as evident with Houston going a horrendous 1-for-12 with runners in scoring positions, with San Francisco going 0-for-3 while leaving four on base and failing to record an extra-base hit.
Ultimately, the bats of rookie J.D. Martinez and center fielder Jordan Schafer pushed Sosa over top and proved to be the difference maker.
“To be able to come in here to a hostile environment against the defending World Series champions and get a win is big for us,” Schafer said. “We’re heading in the right direction. Sosa pitched a really good game. Everything together pretty much carried us.”
Schafer led off the game with an infield single, stole second and came around to score on Martinez’s RBI double to deep right.
Martinez, who had two doubles, made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly in the third.
The young left fielder entered Thursday tied with Reds right fielder Jay Bruce for third in the National League with 21 RBI in August.
San Francisco cut the lead to 2-1 on Orlando Cabrera’s RBI grounder to shortstop that pushed Eli Whiteside across the plate.
Sosa (1-0) allowed an earned run on four hits — all singles — with three walks and three strikeouts over 78 pitches (47 for strikes).
“It was real outstanding the way he went after hitters,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “The first couple of times out, he was just trying to get his feet wet. He wasn’t feeling for it. He was letting it go. We saw the arm that everybody had seen at Double-A and heard about. He came out and went right after the guys with all of his pitches. It was impressive. He wanted to stay in the game, but after talking about it, we thought it would be best to take him out. He had done such as good job for us.”
The 26-year-old rookie signed with San Francisco as a non-drafted free agent and then spent six seasons in their minor league system before getting traded to Houston on July 19 as part of the deal for Jeff Keppinger — thus making his first win extra special.
“I wanted to pitch more than five innings and by throwing the ball right there,” Sosa said. “I felt real good and had good defense behind me. I threw strikes and had plenty of help behind me.”
Schafer added an insurance run in the seventh with a solo homer — his first home run in an Astros uniform — to make it a 3-1 game.
He tied Martinez and Keppinger for a game-high two hits, but ultimately finished as Houston’s standout offensive performer with the solo home run, three runs scored and a stolen base on a night in which the Astros recorded a season-high four steals.
“There were a lot of good things tonight,” Mills said. “What a great night Schafer had scoring all three runs. J.D. drove in a couple of runs. The homer by Schafer gave us the extra run, which was huge.”
Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong (10-4) allowed three earned runs on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings.
Astros reliever Wilton Lopez made a significant impact with two scoreless innings before turning the ball over to closer Mark Melancon, who worked around Carlos Beltran’s leadoff single in the ninth by getting Pablo Sandoval to ground into a double play.
Melancon retired first baseman Aubrey Huff on a fly out to left to end the game and record his 14th save of the season in 18 opportunities.
Houston will attempt to make it back-to-back victories Friday night when J.A. Happ (4-14, 6.26 ERA) gets the starting nod against Giants standout lefty Madison Bumgarner (7-12, 3.68 ERA).
First pitch is scheduled for 9:15 p.m. CT.
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