For the second consecutive day, the Red Sox failed to capitalize on a strong outing from their starter as they dropped their second straight to the Orioles by a final score of 4-2 on Saturday afternoon.
Tanner Houck was that starter for the Sox in this one, and the right-hander impressed in his 2021 debut by yielding three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over five innings of work.
The first two of those three Baltimore runs came in to score in the top half of the fourth, when after retiring 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced, Houck issued a two-out walk to Rio Ruiz, which was followed by a single from Austin Hays that put runners on the corners due to a Rafael Devers throwing error.
Kevin Plawecki, catching in place of Christian Vazquez on Saturday, then proceeded to allow a passed ball by him, and Maikel Franco took full advantage of that by ripping a two-run single through the left side of the infield to get his side on the board first.
An inning later, more sloppy defense from the Sox infielders did them no favors, as Xander Bogaerts struggled to field a two-out ground ball off the bat of Anthony Santander that in turn allowed Pedro Severino to score from third to make it a 3-0 contest.
Houck managed to fan the final man he faced in fellow rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle on five pitches to retire the side, but the damage had already been done.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 85 (54 strikes), the 24-year-old hurler turned to his slider and four-seam fastball a combined 76% of the time he was on the mound Saturday. He induced six swings-and-misses with his slider and topped out at 94.7 mph with his four-seamer.
Ultimately hit with his first career losing decision despite the strong showing, Houck’s next start for Boston might not come for a while seeing how he was filling in for Eduardo Rodriguez in this one.
In relief of Houck, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and tossed a scoreless sixth inning, while left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez surrendered one run on two hits in the seventh and Phillips Valdez worked two perfect frames in the eighth and ninth in what was his 2021 debut.
All in all, the Sox pitching staff had themselves another decent day, but their lineup — in addition to their defense — did them no favors.
Coming off an Opening Day loss in which they were held to one hit by O’s starter John Means, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey on Friday.
Like Means, Harvey was solid to start things out in this one as he stranded just a pair of base runners through his first three innings of the afternoon.
Unlike Means, though, the 32-year-old hurler finally cracked in the bottom half of the fourth when a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzalez brought in J.D. Martinez from third to plate Boston’s first run of the contest — and the new season — to cut their deficit in half at 2-1.
Martinez came through once more in his next trip to the plate an inning later, as the slugger managed to drive in Plawecki all the way from second base on an infield RBI single.
Martinez’s first run-scoring knock of the year brought Boston back to within one run of Baltimore at 3-2, but two runs was all they could manage the rest of the way despite making things interesting in the ninth. 4-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox are off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2012. They went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are being outscored by an average score of 3.5 to 1 thus far.
J.D. Martinez has collected four hits through his first two starts of the season. Bobby Dalbec, meanwhile, has struck out four times through his first two starts of the season.
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday.
Right-hander Garrett Richards will be making his Sox debut after signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the club in February. He will be opposed by Orioles rookie left-hander and Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann.
First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will once again be going for their first win of the season.
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)