The Red Sox were shut out by the Twins on Wednesday night for their third straight loss. Boston fell to Minnesota by a final score of 11-0 at JetBlue Park to drop to 12-10-4 in Grapefruit League play.
Tanner Houck, making his fifth start of the spring, endured his fair share of struggles. The right-hander got rocked for eight runs (all earned) on 10 hits, zero walks, and three hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.
Surprisingly, Houck looked sharp out of the gate. He quickly retired the first two batters he faced in the first inning, but then gave up a solo home run to Trevor Larnach. Houck allowed the next three Twins hitters he faced to reach base on a single and two HBPs before yielding a bases-clearing, three-run double to Michael A. Taylor to give Minnesota an early 4-0 lead.
Having already thrown 29 pitches to that point, Houck was temporarily removed from the game so that Chase Shugart could record the final out of the first. He then came back out for the second and sat down the side in order before putting up another zero in the third. The fourth inning, though, is where things started to get away.
Again, Houck quickly recorded the first two outs of the frame before giving up a two-out single to Joey Gallo. Jose Miranda then crushed a two-run homer over the faux Green Monster. After Larnach reached on a two-out single of his own, Houck served up another two-run shot to Kyle Farmer to put the Twins up, 8-0.
If there was any consolation for Houck, it would be that he retired three of the last four batters he faced through the middle of the fifth. Still, it was a discouraging outing for the 26-year-old, who finished with 89 pitches and now owns an ERA of 8.31 across 17 1/3 innings this spring. He will make one more Grapefruit League start before taking the ball against the Orioles at Fenway Park on April 2.
In relief of Houck, Chris Martin received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora and got tagged for two runs on three hits (all doubles) in the sixth. He also struck out three batters. Kaleb Ort then worked his way around a two-out walk in a scoreless seventh inning before giving up a leadoff single to DaShawn Keirsey Jr. and a one-out RBI double to Mikey Perez in the eighth.
Following a 1-2-3 top of the ninth from Ryan Miller, the Red Sox were suddenly down to their final three outs and staring an 11-run deficit in the face. To that point, the Boston bats had been completely held in check by Joe Ryan and the rest of Minnesota’s pitching staff.
Ryan, who made his fourth start of the spring for the Twins, gave up just two hits and walked one over five scoreless frames. Those two hits came in the form of an Enrique Hernandez infield single in the second and a bloop single from Rob Refsnyder in the fifth. Neither Hernandez nor Refsnyder advanced past first base.
In the bottom of the sixth, with Ryan out and reliever Emilio Pagan in for Minnesota, Justin Turner reached on a two-out walk (his second of the night) and promptly went from first to third on an Adam Duvall double. But the threat was extinguished when Raimel Tapia flew out to the third baseman in foul territory.
Fast forward to the eighth, Chase Meidroth led off with a single and found himself at third base with two outs before Cole Sands ended the inning by retiring Narciso Crook. And in the ninth, Caleb Hamilton ripped a one-out double off Sands before Marcus Wilson and Bobby Dalbec each struck out to end it.
With the loss, the race for the 2023 Chairman’s Cup is now tied at two games apiece. The decisive rubber match will take place on Sunday afternoon back at JetBlue Park.
Next up: Winckowski starts in Bradenton
The Red Sox will travel to Bradenton to take on the Pirates on Thursday afternoon. Josh Winckowski will get the start for Boston opposite fellow right-hander Johan Oviedo for Pittsburgh.
First pitch from LECOM Park is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN360.
(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)