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Rookie makes Red Sox history, rattles Yanks

@IanMBrowne
September 20, 2020

BOSTON -- Tanner Houck has created a late-season buzz for the Red Sox by putting together back-to-back stellar performances in his first two Major League starts. The latest was his strong work against the Yankees on a crisp Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, when Houck opened with five no-hit innings

BOSTON -- Tanner Houck has created a late-season buzz for the Red Sox by putting together back-to-back stellar performances in his first two Major League starts.

The latest was his strong work against the Yankees on a crisp Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, when Houck opened with five no-hit innings and departed having allowed just one hit over six innings en route to a 10-2 victory.

Box score

Considering he was pitching at Fenway for the first time and facing the Yankees for the first time, Houck showed nerves of steel.

“Great experience,” said Houck. “It’s a great rivalry that I remember watching growing up. Being able to be a part of it was really amazing.”

Houck snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Yankees, who are jockeying for playoff position. And he ended the 0-12 skid the Red Sox had against their rivals that dated back to Sept. 7, 2019.

In the finale of their 10-game season series against the Yankees, the Red Sox avoided going 0-fer against their rivals for the first time in franchise history.

“As far as beating the Yankees, we know what kind of team they have. We know we have to play a really good game,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “We did a great job pitching today against them, and some guys busted out today offensively.”

The offensive outburst was all well and good, but the story was the kid on the mound.

While Boston’s farm system has churned out several impact hitters in recent years, the Red Sox haven’t had a homegrown starting pitcher win as many as 10 games in a season since Felix Doubront did so in 2012 and ‘13.

The 24-year-old Houck -- ranked 10th among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline -- looks poised to break that drought perhaps as early as next season.

He is the eighth pitcher -- and sixth starter -- since 1901 to throw as many as five innings while allowing two hits or fewer in his first two MLB starts. And he’s the first pitcher in Red Sox history to achieve that feat.

Houck is just the third pitcher in franchise history to go five innings or more in his first two starts without allowing an earned run. The others were Boo Ferris (1945) and Vaughn Eshelman (1995).

Interestingly, Houck averaged just 91 mph on his heater against the Yankees -- down significantly from his 93.6 mph average in his debut against Miami.

“I know velocity was quite a bit different today, but movement was tremendous, sliders were good, so he just followed his first one, which was outstanding, with another great one,” said Roenicke. “So, very happy to see that.”

Houck will pitch again on either Friday or Saturday of the season-ending series in Atlanta.

Without a doubt, he has created excitement for what he can bring to a Red Sox team that has heavy question marks in the rotation.

“We’ll go through the offseason and figure out what the rotation will be, and there’s no doubt his name will be mentioned,” said Roenicke. “We’ll talk about him quite a bit.”

Until Tyler Wade ended Houck’s bid for a no-hitter by lining a double to right to lead off the sixth, it was easy for Red Sox fans to flash back to Clay Buchholz, who fired a no-hitter in his second Major League start back in 2007.

“Yeah, I mean the game plan every time I go out, it is to go nine innings, complete game, perfect game,” said Houck. “Obviously it doesn’t happen all the time, but going deep in the game with a no-hitter is truly an unbelievable experience. It all goes back to following the game plan and executing the pitches when I needed to.”

Young bats clutch, too

It wasn’t just the young arm that stood out for the Red Sox on Sunday. The young power bats came to play also.

Michael Chavis, who has had a disappointing sophomore season, launched two homers and had five RBIs. Bobby Dalbec, Boston’s No. 3 prospect, belted his seventh homer in 61 Major League at-bats.

“Chavis had an unbelievable day,” said Houck. “And Bobby came up with another Bobby Bomb. We need those two to get hot and hopefully that propels them in the right direction.”

Chavis admitted after the game that this season has been a mental struggle for him.

“The swings I was taking today, the at-bats I was having today, I didn’t change anything mechanically or anything I was trying to do within my swing or while I was hitting,” Chavis said. “It was really just getting out of my own way, mentally. I just had a lot of stuff crowding and clouding my thoughts and I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t enjoy good moments, if that makes sense.

“I’m just trying to be honest. It was just a weird time, honestly. I’m not proud of it. I kind of hate that it happened, because I take pride in being positive. I’m a really happy person and when I’m not myself, I honestly don’t like that. I just want to have fun, man. I want to have fun playing baseball. I had fun today.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.