BOSTON -- After sweeping three games from one potential postseason opponent, the Boston Red Sox host another when the Houston Astros invade Fenway Park for three games this weekend.
David Price, 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break, returns from a one-game absence with a wrist contusion to pitch the series opener for Boston against 13-game winner Gerrit Cole as two teams go at it for the second time this season.
From May 31 to June 3, the teams played four games in Houston -- the Astros winning the first two before the Red Sox rebounded with two wins.
Now they come in with the Astros having won 12 of their last 15 games and leading the American League West by 3 1/2 games. The Red Sox, who swept three games in their interleague series in Atlanta this week, capped by a wild 9-8 victory Wednesday -- are 9 1/2 games ahead in the East.
The Red Sox, playing a wacky lineup Wednesday as Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts rested, trailed the Braves 7-1, scored six in the eighth, fell behind again and then got a two-run homer from Brandon Phillips -- capping his first game with his new team.
"We were all in at one point, like here we go," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game. "It was fun. Honestly, that was the most fun I've had all season, watching the last few innings.
"They could've folded and said, 'you know what let's go home. It's been a productive road trip. People are talking about leads and where we are in the standings and all that. So whatever, let's go home, enjoy the off day and we get Houston on Friday.' But there was no sense of that. Everybody was pulling for each other. I pinch hit for a lot of guys and nobody was upset."
The win was Boston's 97th of the season, the seventh time the franchise has won at least 97. They need only nine wins to break the 1912 team record of 105.
The Astros just finished a 7-3 homestand with five straight wins, capped by a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins as Alex Bregman continued his torrid hitting. The third baseman has reached base in 33 straight games, four shy of Lance Berkman's club record.
"He's putting up so many quality at-bats, one after another," manager AJ Hinch said. "It's hard to expect it at this level because it's not as easy as these guys make it look sometimes, but he's getting great pitches to hit and not missing them, and doing damage."
Price is 14-6 with a 3.60 ERA coming in. Since the break, he has an 0.92 WHIP and has walked seven while striking out 43 in 44 1/3 innings.
The left-hander defeated the Astros on June 2 in Houston and is is 6-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 13 games (nine starts) counting postseason against Houston.
Bregman is 2-for-5 (.400) against Price, Brian McCann is 11-for-32 (.344) with three home runs and Jose Altuve 8-for-22 (.364). On the flip side, Josh Reddick is 0-for-9, Martin Maldonado 3-for-13 (.231) and George Springer 5-for-21 (.238).
Cole is 13-5 with a 2.86 ERA in his first season in Houston. He defeated the Red Sox with a quality start on June 1 and is 2-1 with a 4.74 ERA in three career starts against Boston.
Phillips is 11-for-25 (.440) with a homer and J.D. Martinez 3-for-9 (.333) against Cole, and Bogaerts is 0-for-8, Ian Kinsler 2-for-22 (.091) and Mitch Moreland 1-for-8 (.125).
The Astros didn't have a starter listed for Saturday's game, but Charlie Morton (13-3, 3.15 ERA) is expected to come off the disabled list to face Eduardo Rodriguez (12-3).
Morton threw a bullpen session Tuesday and was on target to return.
"Unless something unforeseen happens, he's on track to be the starting pitcher," Hinch said Wednesday.
Astros visit Red Sox for matchup of division leaders