Tanner Houck ends spring on sour note as Red Sox muster just 4 hits in 6-1 loss to Braves

The Red Sox were held to just four hits by the Braves in their penultimate game of the spring on Monday afternoon. Boston fell to Atlanta by a final score of 6-1 at CoolToday Park to drop to 14-13-4 in Grapefruit League play.

Tanner Houck once again struggled in his sixth and final start of the spring for the Sox. The right-hander surrendered six earned runs on five hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts over just three innings of work.

The Braves first got to Houck in their half of the second. After Michael Harris reached base via a one-out triple, Ozzie Albies drew a walk and stole second. With runners at second and third now, Houck promptly served up a towering three-run blast to give Atlanta an early 3-0 lead.

Houck ran into more trouble in the third by walking leadoff man Ronald Acuna Jr. He then gave up a two-run home run to Matt Olson, who has now taken the righty deep three times this spring. After getting Austin Riley to ground out, Houck yielded a solo shot to another former Oakland Athletic in Sean Murphy.

Having already reached 60 pitches, Houck did not come back out for the fourth. Instead, the 26-year-old hurler finishes his spring with a 9.74 ERA, a 25:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .325 batting average against over 20 1/3 innings. Despite those struggles, Houck is still lined up to make his first start of the regular season against the Orioles at Fenway Park on Sunday.

In relief of Houck, Kenley Jansen received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Making his first appearance since leaving Friday’s game against Atlanta with lightheadedness, the veteran closer worked into and out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting Olson to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Chris Martin took over for Jansen in the fifth and retired three of the four batters he faced. The Red Sox then picked up their first hit of the day in the sixth inning when Yu Chang — who was making his Grapefruit League debut — ripped a two-out double off Braves reliever Joe Jimenez. But Chang was stranded at second as Alex Verdugo grounded out to end the inning.

After Josh Winckowski tossed two more scoreless frames of relief, the Sox finally got on the board in their half of the eighth. There, Niko Goodrum led off with a double, Chang reached on a fielding error, and Rob Refsnyder reached on a two-out infield single. With the bases loaded, Niko Kavadas was hit by a Luis De Avila pitch, which allowed Goodrum to score from third and make it a 6-1 game.

That is where the score would remain, though, as Oddanier Mosqueda struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth inning and the Red Sox went down quietly in the ninth. All told, Monday’s contest took two hours and 25 minutes to complete.

Verdugo’s assist

After getting taken deep by Eddie Rosario in the second inning, Tanner Houck gave up a line-drive hit to Sam Hilliard. Right fielder Alex Verdugo fielded the ball cleanly and made an accurate throw back to the infield in time to get Hilliard — who tried to extend his single into a double — out at second.

Next up: Crawford gets the ball in Grapefruit League finale

The Red Sox will return to Fort Myers to host the Braves in their final game of the spring on Tuesday afternoon. Kutter Crawford will take the mound for Boston while fellow righty Charlie Morton is slated to do the same for Atlanta.

First pitch from JetBlue Park is scheduled for 1:05 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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