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HOU@BOS: Castro smokes an RBI single to right field

BOSTON -- As his teammates quietly shuffled between the shower and their lockers inside a cramped visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park, Astros starter Philip Humber sat alone and stared at the ground while obviously engaged in some deep thought.

These are trying times for the veteran right-hander, whose season has suddenly gone awry following three strong starts to begin the year.

After allowing eight runs and not being able to survive the first inning in his previous start on Saturday, Humber struggled out of the gate again Thursday and was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 7-2 loss to the Red Sox.

Humber was his own worst critic postgame, saying he didn't know what has gone wrong. "It's pathetic," he said. "I didn't give our team a chance to win the game before and definitely not this time. I'm definitely not doing my job right now."

Humber, who signed to a one-year deal with an option after being claimed off waivers from the White Sox, had a solid spring and owned a 2.89 ERA in his first three starts this year, though he didn't have a win to show for it because the Astros didn't score a run in any of those outings.

In his past two starts, he's allowed 18 hits and 15 earned runs in five innings.

"It's tough," catcher Jason Castro said. "He's one of those guys who's going to give you everything he's got when he's out there. To see him kind of go through what he's going through right now, it's tough to see. He's trying to sift through some mechanical things right now, and I really think that's all it is."

The Red Sox jumped on Humber (0-5) in the first, getting RBI hits from Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Carp and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to build a 4-0 lead. Ortiz hit his first homer of the season in the third inning, and Boston chased Humber from the game with a pair of runs in the fifth.

"It's not fun to go out there and get hit around like that, but if I had an answer, I would have already done something different," Humber said. "Give credit to their hitters. They have some good hitters and they didn't miss the pitches they should hit, you know?"

Castro remains confident Humber will right the ship.

"In the bullpen before the game, he had great stuff and he started pressing a little bit when he started falling behind," Castro said. "I think with a little bit of work in between his next start he'll bounce back and be right where he wants to be. He's so close, and in his next few starts, we'll see a different guy out there."

The big first-inning deficit has been a recurring theme this year for the Astros, who have been outscored 28-13 in the first and have yet to win a game (0-11) when their opponent scores first.

"It's definitely not fun," manager Bo Porter said. "It's hard when you fall behind early in a game against one of the better pitchers in our league, and when you're on the road you're fighting an uphill battle. It would be much more efficient to get a quick 1-2-3 inning and get back into the dugout."

The pitcher Porter was referencing was Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who improved to 5-0 by allowing six hits and two runs while striking out 10 batters in 7 2/3 innings.

"It's tough with this league change early, not really being familiar with all the guys we're facing," Castro said. "It's something we're working through and watching video and doing all the things to be prepared from that standpoint, but once you put it into practice and step in the box and see what it's like coming out of his hand, it's a little different. We'll keep battling through it."

The Astros finally scored a run with Humber on the mound for the first time this season when Chris Carter trotted home from third on a Matt Dominguez double-play grounder in the second. Castro's RBI single in the second cut the lead to 4-2, but Buchholz got stronger as the game progressed.

"I was having trouble gripping the ball there for a little bit," Buchholz said. "Just that cold and no moisture in the air. It's happened a couple times this year. Finally was able to get a grip consistently, and I think that allowed me to speed up a little bit in between pitches rather than having to find a way to get a grip on the ball."

Fernando Martinez had three of Houston's seven hits to raise his batting average to .357 and said the adjustments he's made since returning from the disabled list on Sunday are paying off.

"I've tried to keep my head down to keep the ball better," Martinez said. "I didn't play for two weeks and lost my timing and want to try to see the ball better."

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