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HOU@MIN: Cosart works seven strong, strikes out four

It's early August, but the Red Sox have already tied their season total in wins from last season with their 15-10 decision over the Astros on Tuesday.

Boston will look to swiftly move past that mark in the rubber match of its three-game set at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday.

Trying to get the Red Sox's 70th win of the season will be a man who was on the Rangers at this time last year, Ryan Dempster.

Dempster came to Boston as a free agent in the offseason, and he has been fairly consistent since a tough May. However, the right-hander was roughed up for seven earned runs by the Mariners on Thursday.

The 36-year-old struggled badly with his command, and as a result gave up nine hits and five walks over six innings.

He'll be up against rookie Jarred Cosart, who's allowed only three earned runs over his first four Major League starts.

Against the Twins, the 23-year-old's ERA actually rose to 0.96 despite giving up just one earned run over seven innings, while striking out four. It also marked his best outing in terms of base on balls, where the right-hander allowed only one walk.

"I try and learn from the past start and work on stuff in the bullpen with [pitching coach Doug Brocail] and the other coaches and take it into the next start," Cosart said. "We didn't want to walk anybody, and I walked one. … [That's] what I'm trying to build on going forward, is limit the walks. I was able to make some big pitches tonight out of the stretch, and it got me through seven innings."

Making Cosart's triumphant start to his big league career is that three of the four teams he faced are in the top third of the league for runs scored.

He won't get a reprieve Wednesday when he faces the league leaders in the Red Sox, who are coming of a night when they scored 15 runs and chased starter Jordan Lyles in the fifth inning.

Red Sox: Buchholz making progress after a series of setbacks
Clay Buchholz threw 27 pitches off the mound on Tuesday for the first time in three weeks.

"He came out of today's mound work feeling pretty good about himself," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "More importantly, he's built up enough of a foundation that we can build a mound progression for him to follow. That's still in the works, what makes the most sense."

Buchholz is nearing two months on the disabled list with a neck strain. An MRI revealed no structural damage, but the right-hander did have inflammation in the bursa sac area of his shoulder.

"It's just progression," Buchholz said of what he's looking for. "I'm trying to build up more pitches, obviously. I'm not sure how long it's going to take."

Although the progress was good news from a setback in Oakland, there's still a long road until the 28-year-old can return to the Majors.

"There's going to be a progression of bullpen [sessions] before anything else happens," Buchholz said. "The bullpen [sessions] are pretty normal, then some simulated stuff and rehab [games]."

There's still no timetable for Buchholz's return, but at least on Tuesday there were some signs of encouragement for the first time in awhile.

"Today was 27 pitches of decent intensity, with all his pitches thrown," Farrell said. "He felt nothing [in pain] compared to his last bullpen session in Oakland. Today was a good step for him."

Astros: Youth on display in Houston
It's funny how quickly things change. Those words may have been written exclusively for this Astros squad.

Over the past two weeks, Houston has seen a drastic overturn of its roster, with youth being the primary supplement.

After a series of trades, an injury and a pair of veterans removed from the roster, Houston is getting a first-hand look at the depth and talent they have in their system.

The Astros have 11 players on their 25-man roster that have played in Triple-A Oklahoma City since Memorial Day.

"A lot of these guys are growing together, so it's a close-knit group," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "They're anticipating being here for a long time. You can see the camaraderie on our bench. They're watching the game intently. As a manager, we sit here and think, 'This is the start of something good.'"

Having long been one of the youngest club's in the big leagues this season, the Astros now have an average age of 25.7, more than a full year younger on average than any other team.

The influx of youth has allowed Houston to fully take stock of what they have in store for the coming years.

"The maturation that's taken place with our ballclub backwards in age, it's actually a good thing to evaluate the number of players we've been able to evaluate," Porter said. "The questions we had as a staff, we're allowing the players to answer those questions. The big leagues don't lie. We're seeing the answers as this season goes."

Worth noting
• The Red Sox hold an all-time record of 12-3 record against the Astros after Tuesday's victory. All of Boston's losses have come in Houston.

• Dempster will be making his 27th start and 53rd appearance of his career against the Astros on Wednesday. He's 7-12 with a 4.28 ERA with 164 strikeouts.

• Cosart has posted a 0.96 ERA in his first four Major League starts. He is only the second pitcher since earned runs became an official statistic 100 years ago to go six or more innings and allow fewer than two earned runs in each of his first four starts in the Majors. The first to do so was Wayne Simpson of the 1970 Reds.

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