NEW YORK — Red Sox closer Tanner Houck needs a nickname after Friday night’s victory against the Yankees.
Houdini Houck? That seems to fit.
Houck escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning then did it again in the 10th. That enabled the Sox to beat the Yankees, 5-4, in a game that was equal parts agonizing and thrilling.
Houck inherited a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning and allowed a leadoff single by Gleyber Torres. He then hit Matt Carpenter with a two-strike fastball.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa tapped a ball back to the mound. Houck had an easy out at third but made a wild throw and the tying run scored.
“It wasn’t perfect,” manager Alex Cora said magnanimously. “I was thinking about all the mistakes over the course of the season.”
Said Houck: “It wasn’t over yet. Had to finish the inning.”
Cora had Aaron Hicks intentionally walked to load the bases. What was he hoping for?
“A triple play, actually,” Cora said.
How about a double play? Houck located a sinker and Jose Trevino grounded into a 5-2-3 twin-killing swiftly turned by Christian Vazquez. DJ LeMahieu followed with a one-hopper back to the mound and Houck this time made a careful throw to first.
The inning, somehow, was over. The sellout crowd of 47,573 at Yankee Stadium, the largest of the season, groaned in frustration.
“It worked out in the end,” Houck said. “Took a step back, took a deep breath. Kind of what I had to do. Thankful for the team to pick me up, back me up.”
Then came the jam in the 10th inning. With one out and the ghost runner on second, Cora had Anthony Rizzo walked to set up a double play. Giancarlo Stanton ruined that with a single to load the bases.
Houck again spotted a sinker and Torres grounded into a double play started by rookie Jeter Downs with a slick flip to Xander Bogaerts.
The Yankees were 2 for 15 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
That gave the Red Sox another chance and Bogaerts scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. They’re now 4-4 against the Yankees this season and have been outscored by only three runs.
As well as the 62-28 Yankees have played, it has been an even matchup on the field against the 48-43 Red Sox.
Credit the win to Houck, one of the wildest of his career. It was a credit to his maintaining his composure while in the middle of a storm.
“Control the heart rate. Understand that you have to continue to work, continue to do your thing and not let your emotions overtake you.”
Houck is 1-0 with six saves and a 2.13 ERA in 11 games since he became closer on June 10. It’s not always easy but he has made it work.
“The slider is nasty but the [sinker] is real,” Cora said. “There’s a lot of mis-hit balls and ground balls. It’s hard to hit the ball in the air against him. That’s the reason I like pitching him late in games.”
There’s been a lot of debate this season about what is the best role for Houck. It seems like he’s found it.
“Going out there in the bullpen, I’m just having fun,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve tried to do this year along with last year is go out there and have fun no matter what the role is.”
Houck was in the dugout watching when Bogaerts scored the go-ahead run. Then Ryan Brasier got the final three outs for his first save since 2019.
“It’s a great team win,” Houck said.