Tanner Houck has the Red Sox' attention. Even chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is grinning, according to manager Ron Roenicke.
In his major league debut recently, he went five scoreless against the Marlins and struck out seven. Then he followed that by tossing six innings of scoreless baseball against a formidable foe in the New York Yankees. Keep in mind, he made easy work against two teams that would ultimately punch their ticket to the postseason.
On Saturday night, Houck made it three straight impressive outings against a playoff team, pitching the Red Sox to an 8-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
In six innings, Houck fanned 10 and allowed just three hits. The only run he allowed — his first of the season — came in the fifth when he left a four-seamer over the heart of the plate to Dansby Swanson, who parked it in the left-center-field seats. He’ll finish the season with a 0.53 ERA, striking out 21 batters in 17 innings. Houck joined Eduardo Rodriguez as the only Red Sox starter to allow one or no runs in each of their first three major league outings. Additionally, he’s just the ninth Red Sox ever with a 10-plus strikeout game in one of his first three starts.
“It’s better than I could have written up myself,” Houck said afterward. “It all comes down to how you present yourself and your confidence. If you treated it like it’s a bigger moment I think you’ll fall into that pattern of trying [to do too much]. You just got to settle down and realize, ‘alright, I got here for a reason.’”
Houck didn’t have his best command. He elected to go with his four-seamer 43 times in his outing. Instead of his two-seamer, Houck felt he had the best feel with the four-seamer.
“I felt like I was commanding it really well today,” Houck said. “I felt like I had a lot of ride and a lot of pop on the ball. They are an aggressive low-ball hitting team. I kind of just went out there and kind of just rode the fastball up.”
He walked three, including back-to-back passes issued to Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna to open up the bottom of the fourth. But Houck dug deep, striking out Travis d’Arnaud and Ozzie Albies for the first two outs of the inning and then induced an Adam Duvall groundout to end it.
On the offensive end, the Sox scored all their runs in the second inning.
Bobby Dalbec pounded his eighth homer of the season (a two-run shot) off Atlanta’s Tucker Davidson, who made his major league debut. Then, with the bases loaded, Rafael Devers brought in a run with a fielder’s choice grounder and Xander Bogaerts drove in another with a single.
The Braves replaced Davidson with Grant Dayton, but with two outs in the inning, Christian Vazquez barreled a grand slam to left to make it 8-0.
“We haven’t had many [innings] like that this year,” Roenicke said. “It’s so nice to see the guys getting on base. I know the home runs were good but we walked. We got on base because we had some good at-bats.”
For Houck, he can ride into the offseason knowing he left his stamp on the season. It still isn’t determined how the Sox will utilize Houck, but you can bet, based on what he’s shown, that he’s certainly a part of this team’s future.
“It’s still a short sample,” Roenicke said. “But it’s against three good teams that we feel pretty good that this guy can do this against the best hitters in the game. When you’re looking at trying to fill in spots for a home-grown rotation and then you see that from a young guy it’s pretty good.”