In their penultimate game of the regular season, the Red Sox will turn to Tanner Houck to start Saturday afternoon’s contest against the Nationals at Nationals Park.
The Sox came into the weekend having not named a starter for Saturday’s game, likely under the assumption that Houck could be needed out of the bullpen on Friday if Eduardo Rodriguez was unable to pitch deep into his final start of the year.
Instead, Rodriguez provided Boston with five-plus scoreless innings before five different relievers (Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Adam Ottavino, and Hansel Robles) combined to close out a much-needed 4-2 win over Washington.
Houck, meanwhile, last appeared in a game this past Tuesday, allowing one earned run on three hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts in a 4-2 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore.
The 25-year-old right-hander needed 41 pitches (27 strikes) to get through those two frames, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Eagle-Tribune’s Mac Cerullo) that the club will be treating Saturday as a normal start for Houck even though he will be working on just three days rest.
Since making his major-league debut last September, Houck has only pitched in a National League ballpark on two separate occasions — both of which came against the Marlins and Braves during last year’s COVID-shortened campaign.
Major League Baseball adopted the universal designated hitter rule for the 2020 season on account of the pandemic, meaning pitchers in National League ballparks did not have to hit for themselves.
That is no longer the case this year, though, as Houck will step up to the plate for the first time in his big-league career and bat out of the nine-hole for Boston on Saturday.
Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will line up behind Houck as they go up against fellow rookie right-hander Josiah Gray for the Nationals.
First pitch from Nationals Park Saturday is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “a Red Sox win would mean Boston is guaranteed to play past Sunday, either in a tiebreaker game or the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night. If the Sox win their last two games, they are guaranteed a spot in the Wild Card Game.”
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Abbie Parr/Getty Images)