BOSTON -- A rain delay, four wild pitches and a walk-off win in extra innings. There was a lot to keep track of in Thursday night’s opener between the Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park.
Making his first start at Fenway since April 18, Boston’s No. 6 prospect gave the Red Sox 4 2/3 solid innings, proving to be a solid option for a rotation in need of reinforcement entering the second half. Houck held the Yankees to one unearned run on two hits, striking out eight and walking two before a rain delay cut his outing short.
“Outstanding,” manager Alex Cora said after the win. “Just the rain delay killed us right there. We had to go to J.T. [Josh Taylor] early, but good stuff, he made some good pitches. Even when he was behind in the count, the 2-0 slider to [Brett] Gardner that he swung and missed and I think the ball hit him, I guess, he made some good hitters look bad. The stuff, the fastball up, the sinker, the slider were on point. He threw a few splitters. He was good.”
“I felt pretty good going into the game,” Houck said. “Early on in the bullpen, I kind of questioned my fastball command a little bit. But I knew right away the slider was feeling right on point. ... You’re not going to wake up every day and feel your best with everything, so [I] went out there and competed with what I had, and I’m pretty happy with it.”
Houck found his groove early, retiring nine of the first 10 Yankees he faced, including three strikeouts in the second. The right-hander opened the fifth striking out Greg Allen on a 2-2 slider. Houck got the next batter to ground out and then gave up a single to Tyler Wade before a sudden heavy rain arrived and halted play. The game resumed after a 55-minute delay, at which point lefty Taylor took the mound to close out the inning.
“Can’t control Mother Nature by any means,” Houck said. “Wish I could have finished the inning, but I knew the team had to do what they had to do. They felt that they had to take me out at that time, and I agree with them. It was a decently lengthed rain delay, and glad to hand the ball off to the guys in the 'pen. They’re a superb team out there, and I knew they could get the job done.”
Despite the rain, the energy at Fenway Park was on par with a late-season Sox-Yanks series, with a crowd of 34,761 -- nearly full capacity. If anything, the weather only intensified the energy from the fans.
“That atmosphere, there’s nothing else like it,” Houck said. “The comradery on this team, to have that happen in this ballpark, have the fan support in that way. Truly amazing. It was a great introduction to having full capacity here at Fenway.”
Aside from the numerous comps to some of the best shortstops in the league, Cora on Friday noted other attributes that drew the club to Mayer. Like the importance of him being bilingual (speaking both English and Spanish), and how that factors into the 18-year-old shortstop becoming a key leader within the organization.
“You know, when you are the fourth pick in the Draft or you were going to be the first pick in the Draft, I think those things are very important,” Cora said. “For stuff in the clubhouse, now he’s going to see kids from the Dominican Republic. ... They don’t speak the language, they don’t speak English and he’s going to be one of those guys that can help us, to help these kids to get better. So there’s a lot of positive things besides the package, we’re very thrilled. He’s a good kid.”