It was bound to happen eventually, but Garrett Whitlock finally gave up his first major-league run as a member of the Red Sox in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to the Rangers.
The right-hander came into the weekend having tossed 13 1/3 scoreless innings over six outings to begin his big-league career. The Rangers got to him for one run on two hits and a strikeout on Sunday.
Working in relief of Garrett Richards and Darwinzon Hernandez, Whitlock got the call to work the seventh inning of what at the time was a 3-1 game in favor of Boston.
Matched up against the bottom third of Texas’ lineup, Whitlock served up a leadoff home run to the first man he faced in Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a 1-1, 83 mph changeup down the heart of the plate.
Prior to making his first career appearance at Globe Life Field, the 24-year-old hurler had yet to allow a hit on his changeup this season, as opponents were 0-for-12 with six strikeouts against it.
So not only did Sunday mark the first time this season the righty had given up a run, it also marked the first time the opposition had reached base off of it.
Whitlock did allow a one-out single following the home run to Kiner-Falefa, but he retired the final two hitters he faced in order to end the seventh inning, preserve a 3-2 lead, and lower his ERA back down to 0.63 while picking up his fourth hold of the season.
Of the 15 pitches the Georgia native threw on Sunday, 12 were sinkers, two were changeups, and one was a slider, per Baseball Savant. He induced two swing-and-misses and topped out at 98.1 mph with his sinker.
Immediately after giving up the home run, the very next pitch Whitlock threw was a 96.4 mph sinker at the top of the zone that induced a flyout off the bat of Brock Holt.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora liked that aggressive approach, and he did not seem all that concerned about Whitlock’s ERA no longer being spotless.
“I mean, he’s only human, man,” Cora said with a chuckle during his postgame media availability. “The fact that he gave up the home run [and] the next pitch was 96 mph right down the middle, it tells you a lot about him. So, we’ll keep running him out there and he should be OK.”
Through seven appearances now in what his rookie season, the 2020 Rule 5 Draft pick has put up an 0.67 ERA and a .157 batting average against to go along with two walks and 19 strikeouts over 14 1/3 total innings of work.
As noted by Red Sox Stats on Twitter, Sunday marked the third time this season that Whitlock has been used on three days rest. He has been used on four days rest on two occasions and on five days of rest just once.
For Whitlock, who before joining the Red Sox over the winter was primarily a starting pitcher in three seasons in the Yankees organization, it’s probably safe to assume that some adjustments have needed to be made as he acclimates to his new role.
But after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019, he really is just someone who is happy to be pitching in the majors.
“I just try to be a good rookie,” Whitlock said on Friday. “Everyone’s got a role to play on the team. So I told (bench coach) Will (Venable) when I first showed up, I said, ‘Shoot. I’ll be the janitor on this team if that means I get to be in the big-leagues.’ Whatever the job is that I can do to possibly help the team out, that’s what I’m glad to be doing.”
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)