Triston Casas and Christian Arroyo combine for 4 hits, Tanner Houck records 4 strikeouts as Red Sox top Braves, 10-2

An hour-long bus ride from Fort Myers to North Port could not prevent the Red Sox from rolling over the Braves on Tuesday night. Boston defeated Atlanta by a final score of 10-2 at CoolToday Park to improve to 8-0-3 in Grapefruit League play.

Tanner Houck, making his second start of the spring for the Red Sox, was able to bounce back from a shaky 2023 debut last Thursday. Although the right-hander gave up two runs on three hits and two walks, he also struck out four of the 13 batters he faced over three innings.

Both of the runs Houck gave up came on one swing of the bat in the third inning. After stranding one runner in the first and facing the minimum in the second, the 26-year-old issued a leadoff walk to Marcell Ozuna to begin the third. He followed that up by serving a booming two-run home run to Kevin Pillar, which gave the Braves an early 2-0 lead.

Houck walked another batter, but he managed to escape any further damage in what would prove to be his third and final frame of work. The righty finished his evening having thrown 41 pitches. He also committed two pitch clock violations.

Though the Red Sox found themselves trailing 2-0 heading into the fourth, they quickly got both of those runs back with some added insurance. After being held in check by Braves starter (and New Bedford native) Jared Shuster, Boston mounted a rally against veteran reliever Jesse Chaves. A leadoff walk from Rob Refsnyder and a groundball single from Triston Casas put runners on the corners for Christian Arroyo, who drove in his side’s first run on a sharply-hit single of his own.

Bobby Dalbec then nearly grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, but his groundball was misplayed by Braves shortstop Vaughn Grissom, which allowed all three of Casas, Arroyo, and Dalbec to reach base safely. Reese McGuire capitalized on that fielding error by plating Casas from third on a sacrifice fly to right field. Daniel Palka followed with a line-drive single off new reliever Victor Vodnik to drive in Arroyo. Dalbec scored the fourth and final run of the inning when Ceddanne Rafaela grounded into a force out at second and beat the throw at first.

In relief of Houck, Bryan Mata received the first call out of the Boston bullpen. Mata, the organization’s top pitching prospect, worked his way around a Sam Hilliard double in an otherwise clean fourth inning. The Red Sox then tacked on two more runs in their half of the fifth on back-to-back two-out RBI doubles from Casas and Arroyo. Mata, meanwhile, retired the side in order in the latter half of the fifth and capped off his outing by fanning Matt Olson.

The Red Sox and Braves proceeded to trade zeroes over the next two innings. John Schreiber walked the first two batters he faced in the sixth but got out of trouble by getting Michael Harris II to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and Grissom to fly out to right field. Schreiber recorded the first two outs of the seventh as well before making way for Matt Dermody, who punched out Forrest Wall to end the frame.

To lead off the eighth inning, Stephen Scott — who replaced McGuire at catcher in the middle of the seventh — came through by taking Brian Moran way deep to right field for his first home run of the spring. Dermody then struck out two more Braves in the bottom of the inning before the Red Sox put up a three-spot in the ninth.

With one out and one runner (Gilberto Jimenez) on, Atlanta reliever Danny Young plunked Ryan Fitzgerald and Eddinson Paulino in consecutive order. That loaded the bases for Nick Sogard, who promptly scored Jimenez and Fitzgerald on a two-run single to left field. Paulino, who advanced to third on the play, then scored his side’s 10th and final run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Scott.

Taking a commanding 10-2 lead into the last of the ninth, Dermody sat down the final three Braves hitters he faced in short order to secure yet another spring victory for the Red Sox. This one took two hours and 27 minutes to complete.

Other notable observations:

Out of the bullpen, Mata, Schreiber, and Dermody combined to strike out six of the 20 batters they faced while combining for six scoreless innings of relief.

Jimenez and David Hamilton, two of the fastest prospects in the organization, each stole a base and scored a run in Tuesday’s win.

Batting third and fourth in starting lineup, Casas and Arroyo went a combined 4-for-7 with three RBIs, three runs scored, and one walk (which belonged to Casas). Palka also went 2-for-3 while driving in a run out of the seven-hole.

Next up: Taking on Team Puerto Rico

The Red Sox will take on Team Puerto Rico in an exhibition contest on Wednesday night ahead of the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Left-handed pitching prospect Brandon Walter will get the start for Boston. It is not yet known who he will be going up against.

Regardless, first pitch from JetBlue Park is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)


Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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