Red Sox Rookie Tanner Houck Planning on Attacking Strike Zone Against Yankees in First Fenway Park Start

Red Sox rookie right-hander Tanner Houck is coming off a superb major-league debut against the Marlins last Tuesday in which he collected seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings en route to picking up his first career victory.

Following that impressive showing, a new challenge for Houck awaits on Sunday, as the 24-year-old hurler will be going up against a red-hot Yankees team in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

With a 6-5, 12-inning win over Boston on Friday, New York extended their current winning streak to a season-best nine consecutive games. Over that dominant stretch, which goes back to September 9, the Bronx Bombers are slashing an absurd .314/.401/.711 against opposing right-handed pitchers while clubbing 25 home runs and posting a 194 wRC+. These numbers are something Houck will have to keep in mind when he takes the Fenway Park mound for the first time.

“For me, nothing really changes,” Houck said of his mindset going into his first home start of the season. “As long as you go out there and attack the zone, I think good things happen. If you go right at people, get them on their heels early, it sets up a lot more. Typically, whenever you’re behind in the count, a lot of people become more dangerous. So, go out there, attack right away and I’ll definitely real confident.”

In his debut against Miami last Tuesday, Houck faced 19 batters. Among those 19 batters, the former first-round pick fell behind the count on several occasions, but he did manage to limit the opposition to just three walks while mixing in his four-seam and split-finger fastball as well as his sinker and slider.

Limiting traffic on the base paths could prove to be pivotal for the Illinois native on Sunday, as the Yankees have accrued the second-highest walk percentage in the American League (11.9%) going back to the start of their current winning streak.

To construct a proper game plan for a team as dangerous as New York, Houck will need to be diligent in his preparations. He does however have one tool that he did not have available to him in the minor-leagues: advanced analytics.

“It’s definitely got its new challenges with everything,” the Mizzou product said of his introduction to the majors. “There’s a lot more scouting report info to take in, which I love. Being able to go out there and know my opponent just a little bit more helps me set up a game plan a lot.”

On top of the insights he has received from the Red Sox’ analytics department, Houck has also gotten some helpful advice from fellow former Missouri Tigers in the majors, such as Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson.

“Having guys like that reach out is truly an honor,” Houck added. “I’m truly blessed to be a part of that brotherhood. I’ve definitely gotten to talk to Gibson and Scherzer over the years having that Mizzou connection, and just kind of bouncing ideas off them is truly great. It’s more people to learn from and this is a game that you got to learn from your elders a little bit, see what they’ve done and just try to learn from that.”

Houck will get the ball against the Yankees and fellow rookie righty Deivi Garcia on Sunday afternoon.

Red Sox Bounce Back, Break out for Nine Runs to Take Competitive Series from Twins

After dropping a 17-inning marathon game earlier in the morning, the Red Sox bounced right back Wednesday night, topping the Twins 9-4 in nine innings to both take the three-game series from Minnesota and cap off a solid 5-1 six-game road trip.

Making his 14th start of the season for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered Wednesday fresh off seven quality one-run innings in his last time out against the Baltimore Orioles.

This time around, against a much more superior opponent, the left-hander once again worked seven full frames, as he surrendered four runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits and three walks to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.

From the jump, it looked as though Rodriguez was not going to go too deep into this one. That much was evident with how three straight Twins reached in the first and scored their first run on an Eddie Rosario RBI single.

It could have been worse though, had Jackie Bradley Jr. not snuffed out CJ Cron trying to go from first to home on a Nelson Cruz double in the previous at-bat.

Walks became an issue for Rodriguez in the third, when with two outs and Cruz and Sano on base following a pair of free passes, Luis Arraez plated Cruz from second on another RBI single to make it a 3-2 contest.

An inning later, and it was the home run ball that bit the Venezuela native, with both Willians Astudillo and Max Kepler teaming up for two solo shots to put their team ahead 4-3.

Fortunately for Boston, Rodriguez flipped a switch and settled in a bit from the middle of the fifth on, as he sat down nine of the final 10 Twins he faced to end his outing on a much more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 111 (72 strikes), the 26-year-old relied on his two-seam fastball more than 34% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing four swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 95.4 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 31 times with Sandy Leon behind the plate.

Ultimately improving to 8-4 while slightly raising his ERA on the season to 4.71, Rodriguez continues to be the benefactor of run support from his lineup. His next start should come against the Chicago White Sox sometime next week.

In relief of Rodriguez, the Red Sox bullpen was not as heavily taxed as they were on Tuesday, with just two relievers, Matt Barnes and Marcus Walden, combining for two scoreless frames of relief to wrap up this 9-4 victory.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, owner of a career 2.68 ERA in six prior starts against Boston.

Through 13 starts on the season coming into Wednesday, Gibson was averaging just two walks per nine innings, but that was not the case in this particular contest as he gave out a season-high five free passes.

Kicking off the scoring for the Sox was Brock Holt, who came to the plate for the first time in the second inning with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers at first and second and no outs.

On the third pitch he saw from Gibson, a 95 MPH fastball on the bottom half of the strike zone, Holt grounded an RBI single back up the middle to get his team on the board.

Michael Chavis followed that up with an RBI knock of his own to drive in Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts also came through with a run-scoring single to drive in Holt. Just like that, the Red Sox were up 3-1.

Fast forward to the fifth, after Minnesota responded and took a one-run lead of their own, the Boston bats answered with another three-run rally, which was started by JD Martinez drawing a leadoff walk off Gibson.

Two batters later, Bogaerts stayed hot by plating Martinez from second and advancing Devers to third on an RBI line-drive double to left to knot things up at four runs each.

The stalemate would not last long, however, not with Eduardo Nunez pinch-running for Devers at third and Holt scoring him on an RBI sacrifice fly deep enough to center to make it a 5-4 game.

Another run-scoring single from Chavis, the last hitter Gibson faced, allowed Bogaerts to come in from third after that sac fly, and the Red Sox had themselves a brand new two-run advantage they would not have to look back from.

That being the case because in the top half of the eighth, with Harvard alum Scott Poppen on the mound for Minnesota, back-to-back RBI knocks off the bats of Andrew Benintendi and Martinez allowed the Sox to double up the Twins at 8-4.

And finally, still in the eighth, Holt essentially put this one to bed by drawing a four-pitch, bases loaded walk off Poppen to score Martinez from third and give his team the 9-4 led, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

Rafael Devers has been ruled day-to-day with right hamstring tightness. He probably won’t play Friday, per Sox manager Alex Cora.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

The Red Sox with runners in scoring position on Wednesday: 7-for-14

Michael Chavis during his nine-game hitting streak: 13-for-41 (.317) with one double, two home runs, and six RBI.

So, the Red Sox went into enemy territory against the team with the best record in the American League and came out with a series win, with the one loss coming in that 17-inning debacle on Tuesday.

Prior to this series, the negativity towards this Red Sox team was based around the idea that they could not beat other competitive clubs. Given what just went down this week, that narrative may be going by the wayside soon enough.

Next up for the Sox, it’s a well-deserved day off on Thursday before a six-game homestand begins back at Fenway Park on Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Left-hander Chris Sale is set to get the ball for Boston in the opener of that three-game weekend set, while rookie right-hander Trent Thornton will do the same for Toronto.

Since the start of June, Sale has allowed a total of two earned runs in his last 22 innings of work to go along with 32 punchouts in that same span.

In his career against the Jays, the 31-year-old has posted a lifetime 2.67 ERA over 16 appearances (13 starts) and 91 innings pitched.

Thornton, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive outing in his last time out against the high-octane Houston Astros, as he held the class of the American League West scoreless over 6 2/3 impressive innings while also fanning seven in the process.

Making his first Opening Day roster with Toronto back in March, the 25-year-old has never faced the Red Sox nor pitched at Fenway Park.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to start another winning streak.

RECAP: Kyle Gibson Outduels Brian Johnson as #RedSox Drop Series Opener to Twins in 2-1 Loss.

Coming off a five-game road trip in which lousy weather followed them from Detroit the Baltimore, the Red Sox headed home for the first time since the All-Star break to welcome the 47-53 Minnesota Twins into town. After their game against the Orioles got rained out in the second inning on Wednesday night, one might have expected the team to come out firing against the Twins on Thursday, but that simply was not the case.

In what might be his last start for the forseeable future with RHP Nathan Eovaldi being added to the 25-man roster earlier in the day, Brian Johnson made his sixth start of the year in this one, and he was solid yet again.

Pitching nearly six full innings, the lefty held the Twins scoreless while scattering four hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts, something he has done in three straight starts.

Despite the goose egg in runs allowed, Johnson certainly was far from perfect and found himself working around a healthy amount of traffic in the first and last innings he appeared in.

The first lot of traffic on the base paths came in the first, as two of the first three Twins the Florida native faced in this game reached base on singles.

With runners on first and second, another single off the bat of Eduardo Escobar to center field looked like it was going to be good enough to score Joe Mauer from second for the first run of the evening. Luckily for the Red Sox, a cannon from Jackie Bradley Jr. to nab the Twins third baseman at the plate put a temporary hold on any immediate danger.

Two batters later though, the bases were loaded for the Twins after DH Mitch Garver had a drawn a seven pitch walk.

Faced with yet another tough spot early on, Johnson buckled down by striking out the next batter he faced in Robbie Grossman on another seven pitches to escape the jam and send this thing to the middle half of the first.

Including the strikeout of Grossman, the 27-year old starter/reliever hybrid went on to retire 14 straight Twins hitters from the first all the way to the top half of the sixth.

Once Eddie Rosario broke that streak by drawing a five pitch walk, Johnson’s night would soon come to an end, but not before a wild sequence took hold on a Brian Dozier single.

As can be seen in the video, Jackie Bradley Jr. gets this ball in as soon as possible to try to nab Eddie Rosario at third.

That did not pan out, and neither did Rafael Devers’ throw to Brock Holt at second to catch Dozier advancing to second.

What did work out here was someone on the left side of the infield communicating to Holt that Rosario was headed towards home.

After recovering from the attempted tag out of Dozier, the Red Sox utility man got up quickly, turned, and darted a near-perfect throw to Blake Swihart to get the out at the plate and prevent the Twins from getting on the board. A very well executed 8-5-4-2 play on the second out of the inning.

Following another walk of Eduardo Escobar, Johnson’s eventful night came to an end with the chance to get the win, as he was replaced in favor of Heath Hembree.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 84 (53 strikes), the former Florida Gator relied on his four-seam fastball 43% of the time while on the mound on Thursday and topped out at 91 MPH with it on his 67th pitch of the contest.

In terms of innings pitched, 5.2, this is the deepest Johnson has pitched into an outing since he tossed six one-run innings in his first start of the season back on April 2nd against the Miami Marlins.

Lowering his ERA to 3.45 and WHIP to 1.33, the left-hander came away with a no-decision on Thursday, and as I had already mentioned, will return to the bullpen within the next few days.

In relief of Johnson, Heath Hembree got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the sixth and retired the lone batter he faced in the inning.

Coming back out for a second frame of work with a one run lead to protect, the South Carolina native served up two straight hits to start out the seventh.

After a GDIP off the bat of Ehire Adrianza tied the game at one run a piece, Hembree gave up his third hit of the inning against the last batter he saw.

Matt Barnes came in to clean the mess that Hembree had made with two outs, ended the inning by striking out Joe Mauer, but surrendered the go-ahead run on a two out Mitch Garver RBI double in the eighth. Charged with his third loss of the season, last night marked the first time since July 12th in which Barnes had given up an earned run.

From that point on, Ryan Brasier continued his run of quality relief work with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to keep his team within striking distance, which nearly worked out for them.

On the other side of things, Twins starter Kyle Gibson was DEALING last night. He needed 120 pitches to get through eight innings, but he was excellent.

The only run the Red Sox could muster in this one came in the second, when, with one out and Blake Swihart at third and Jackie Bradley at first, Mookie Betts grounded out to short, which allowed Swihart to easily score from third.

However, on the throw from shortstop to first base, Bradley tried to advance all the way from first to third on a pretty agressive move and ultimately paid the price for it, as he was tagged out to end the inning thanks to a fine throw from Joe Mauer. Betts did come away with an RBI, but that was all the scoring the team could come up with.

I mean, they certainly had their plethora of opportunities, like loading the bases on multiple occasions in the first and ninth innings, but had nothing to show for it.

Speaking of the ninth inning, I need to know why Mitch Moreland was not pinch-hitting for Jackie Bradley Jr. in that spot.

Bases loaded, one run game, two outs, Twins closer Fernando Rodney on the mound, a pitcher Moreland has hit at a .600 clip over his career, and he is nowhere to be found.

Alex Cora said after the game that there was no reason in particular why Moreland did not come on to hit for Bradley. It was just a matter of the team being in favor of the way the lineup was matched up against Rodney.

And ultimately, that decision did not pan out. As the Red Sox center fielder, fresh off making two fantastic plays with his glove, fanned for second time to wrap this frustrating 2-1 loss up.

Some notes from this one:

In 14 at bats this month, Blake Swihart is slashing .417/.500/.625 with one home run and two RBI to go along with a current eight game hitting streak as well.

Since joining the big league club on July 28th, Ryan Brasier owns an ERA of 0.00 in eight innings pitched. With the recent struggles from the bullpen, perhaps it’s time to give Brasier some more high leverage opportunities.

This is just my opinion, but the Red Sox should probably upgrade their bullpen.

Dropping two consecutive games for the first time since June 19-20 against these Twins, the Red Sox will look to even things back up tomorrow to kick off what should be a fun weekend for the team. Chris Sale gets the ball for the Friday start and he will be matched up against veteran righty Lance Lynn for Minnesota.

In his only other start against the Twins this season, Sale struck out 11 batters in seven innings pitched back on that June 19th game at Target Field.

First pitch of the second game of the series is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET Friday.

RECAP: Rick Porcello Tosses Seven Shutout Innings, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi Homer, and #RedSox End Road Trip with a 9-2 Win in Minnesota.

Having dropped the first two games of a three game series to the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox looked to end their ten-game road trip with a win and head back home 6-4 in their last ten.

With Rick Porcello on the mound and making his 16th start of the season, they did what they had to do to clinch a winning trip.

In seven masterful innings, the Red Sox righty held the Twins scoreless while giving up just one hit, one walk, and one HBP. The most high stress situation Porcello ran into came in his first frame of work, when he hit Eduardo Escobar and Logan Morrison ripped a single off of him to put runners on first and second with two outs. After getting Robbie Grossman to groundout to end the inning, the New Jersey native walked another batter in Ryan Lamarre with two outs in the second. From that point on, he sat down the next 16 Twins he faced from the second up until the conclusion of the seventh.

Finishing with five strikeouts on the day, Porcello needed just 97 pitches (65 strikes) to get through seven scoreless frames. Out of those 97 pitches, the 29-year-old hurler utilized his slider the most, as he went to it 25 times on the day. His four-seam fastball, which he threw 24 times, topped out at 93 MPH in the first inning.

In four starts in the month of June, Rick Porcello has actually been quite good. In those four starts, the Cy Young Award winner is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA and .191 BAA in 25.1 innings pitched. He’ll look to build on this successful run as of late in his next outing against the Anaheim Angels early next week.

In relief of Porcello and with a nine run lead to work with going into the bottom half of the eighth inning, Hector Velazquez was responsible for wrapping this thing up. The righty held the Twins scoreless in the eighth, but got beat up a bit for two runs in the ninth. Those runs were meaningless, but after yesterday, Velazquez has given up 10 hits in his last seven appearances. His numbers still look respectable, but I can understand why we really have not seen him in all that many high leverage situations this season. Like I said though, they got the win, their 50th of the season, ensuring a happy flight back to Boston.

On the other side of things, it was looking as if it was going to be another frustrating day for the Red Sox lineup.

Facing off against Twins starter Kyle Gibson, the Red Sox were held scoreless until the fourth inning, when, after Mitch Moreland led things off by drawing a walk and advanced to second on a Brock Holt single, Sandy Leon came through with an RBI single, his second of the series, to drive in Moreland from second and put his team on the board first.

An inning later, Mookie Betts awoke from a little power slump my mashing his 19th home run of the season, a rare opposite field blast hit into the right field seats.

Fast forward to the top of the seventh, with Gibson out of the game now, the Red Sox had the chance to separate themselves by adding on some insurance runs and that’s exactly what they did.

A one out single off the bat of JD Martinez followed by a Mitch Moreland walk led to a two-RBI double from Xander Bogaerts. Having advanced to third base on the throw back to infield, Bogaerts came into score on a Rafael Devers RBI groundout. 5-0.

In the seventh, the Red Sox tacked on another three runs thanks to Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland. For Benintendi, he collected his second hit of the afternoon by blasting a two-run home run, his 13th, 417 feet to right field.

Back to back doubles from JD Martinez and Mitch Moreland after that Benintendi bomb put the eighth run of the day on the board for the Red Sox.

And in the ninth, with an already commanding eight run lead, Jackie Bradley Jr. got in on the action and did something productive at the plate by notching his 18th RBI of the season to score Brock Holt from second and make it a 9-0 game.

Some notes from this win:

The Red Sox improved to 15-3 in series finales on the season yesterday.

In his last four games started, Mitch Moreland is 6/14 with three RBI and three walks.

Brock Holt is slashing .297/.374/.414 in 44 games this season. Eduardo Nunez is slashing .247/.277/.348 in 64 games this season. I think I know who deserves more playing time at second base.

At 50-26, no team in Major League Baseball has more wins than the Boston Red Sox. Despite all the freaking out this past week, that fact remains true.

Also, shout out to Mookie Betts showing off his scouting report after playing a ball perfectly in the shift.

Heading into the weekend with a three game set against a familiar foe in the Seattle Mariners on deck, the Red Sox will turn to knuckeballer Steven Wright for the series opener. He’ll be matched up against M’s righty Wade LeBlanc, who tossed seven shutout innings against Boston last Saturday in Seattle. In three career starts against the Red Sox , LeBlanc owns a 3.24 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched. Hopefully, with more information on him, the lineup will be able to get off to a quick start and backup what should be another fine night for Steven Wright. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.