Total domination: Houck tosses MLB's fastest game in nearly 14 years

Righty cruises with MLB's first 'Maddux' of 2024

April 18th, 2024

BOSTON -- In a topsy-turvy homestand for the Red Sox that has included a barrage of injuries, sloppy defense and some tough late-inning losses, restored order on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

Not only did he hurl a shutout, but Houck completed a “Maddux" in a 2-0 victory over Cleveland that took just 1 hour, 49 minutes to complete -- the shortest nine-inning game since June 2, 2010 -- since Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game for Detroit.

That term, in honor of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, refers to a shutout accomplished in fewer than 100 pitches.

Houck did the honors in 94 pitches, 69 of them strikes. It was the first shutout by a Red Sox pitcher since Michael Wacha on June 6, 2022 in Anaheim. And the first “Maddux” by a Boston hurler since Clay Buchholz on Aug. 31, 2014.

“I love it. It’s definitely a compliment. Obviously everyone knows Maddux and what he did for the game and how special he was,” Houck said. “To have that terminology used is definitely fun.”

In his three-hitter, Houck walked none and struck out nine. He faced 29 batters, two above the minimum.

In actuality, Houck took his "Madduxing" to another level with the speed and efficiency of his incredible outing.

The last pitcher to throw a “Maddux” with nine strikeouts or more in a game played in 1:50 or less? That would be Maddux himself on Aug. 20, 1995 in St. Louis.

Knowing what they were witnessing was something special, the Fenway crowd of 32,024 gave Houck a standing ovation when he came out for the ninth inning.

“He went out and he got a standing ovation,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “That's cool. That's what it's all about. And he deserves it. We’re very proud of him.“

Houck was so locked in he didn’t even hear the ovation.

“I just went out there business as usual,” Houck said. “Go out there and get strike one, strike two and get these guys out. You can bask in that stuff after. But definitely just going out there focused and knowing what I had to do.”

When you hear athletes talk about being in the zone, Houck was the definition of that on Wednesday.

“I think this is one of those nights where you'd probably get one, maybe two of these a season, if you're lucky,” Houck said. “To where you just go out there and you feel like you can do no wrong, you can throw no wrong pitch in any count.”

After years of trying to fulfill his promise and define his role, the 27-year-old is doing both thus far this season. Through four starts, Houck is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA.

The Red Sox (10-9) improved to 3-6 on the homestand heading into Thursday afternoon’s finale and Cora acknowledged that Houck’s masterpiece changed the vibe after a tough last week.

“Huge,” said Cora. “Win one [Thursday] and we [split] the series. The bullpen needed it. We all needed it. “

The last pitcher to set foot on the bullpen mound for the Red Sox on Wednesday was Houck, when he was finished with his warm-up pitches.

It was pretty clear early on that Houck had everything working.

Houck threw 37 sliders, 32 splitters, 22 sinkers and three cutters, generating 19 swings and misses.

“He was throwing strikes,” Cora said. “And the stuff. The slider was really good. The split was great. He induced weak contact early on and he was in control too. I was just talking to Kenley [Jansen] and we said how it just seemed like was just playing catch with [catcher] Connor [Wong]. Some quick outs.

“There was never a thought of going to the bullpen to be honest with you. That was his game and whatever happens, happens. So we decided to just roll with him and it was really good.”

Wong, who belted a solo homer for Boston’s biggest hit of the night, had the best seat in the house.

“It was just a lot of fun,” said Wong. “He had all his pitches and mixed it really well. Really well. Really excited for him and happy for him. It was a fun nine innings.”

Houck was the first Red Sox starting pitcher to step on the mound in the seventh inning this season. It was the first time in Houck’s career he recorded more than 21 outs in a game.

Best game of his life?

“I’ll definitely put it in the top two. I think pitching in the playoffs in ’21 is definitely up there for me. That’s an experience I’ll never forget,” said Houck. “This was definitely number one for sure.”