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Houck's debut nets win, $700 donation

@IanMBrowne
September 15, 2020

The taste of promise that Red Sox No. 10 prospect Tanner Houck delivered at Marlins Park on Tuesday night was exactly what his team needed. Let’s face it: The 2020 season has not been pretty for Boston in any way, shape or form. Challenged by season-long injuries to their top

The taste of promise that Red Sox No. 10 prospect Tanner Houck delivered at Marlins Park on Tuesday night was exactly what his team needed.

Let’s face it: The 2020 season has not been pretty for Boston in any way, shape or form.

Challenged by season-long injuries to their top two starters (Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez), the Sox have been lacking in pitching.

Box score

For a night, Houck changed that with a tremendous effort in his MLB debut in which he fired five innings, holding the Marlins to two hits while walking three and striking out seven in Boston's 2-0 victory over Miami.

“Big game, big [first] impression. It was something we needed,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “We needed to see a starter go like that and throw up all those zeros. Pretty cool.”

There was also a cool human-interest component to the performance. The seven punchouts means Houck will donate $700 to his Pitch for Adoption campaign.

“The reality is definitely everything I could have imagined,” Houck said of getting a win in his debut. “Especially now, getting to pitch for my cause and my charity is definitely a bonus on top of gaining this experience. It was … I can’t even put it into words.”

Houck has held adoption near and dear to his heart, ever since he gained a sister named Reanna when he was a freshman in high school.

“Definitely having my sister come into my life was such a big thing for my whole family,” Houck said. “I’ll never forget the day that she came in. I was pitching in high school on the J.V. field as a freshman. I remember watching my mom walk up with a stroller and a little girl in there.

“I was like, ‘Who is that?’ She said, ‘It’s your new sister.’ Just being able to help her change her life was just so inspiring for me. I want to continue to do that for other kids. They’re our future. I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me everything I wanted and helped me get to this to live out my dream. I want to continue to help kids like that fulfill their dreams.”

Without question, it was a dream-like debut for the 24-year-old Houck, a first-round Draft pick by the Red Sox out of the University of Missouri, a program that also produced Max Scherzer and Kyle Gibson among others.

His performance was the best for a Red Sox starter making his MLB debut since Rodriguez fired 7 2/3 scoreless innings at Texas on May 28, 2015.

Houck showed poise wiggling out of traffic, stranding two Marlins in both the second and fourth.

“Getting that win was truly amazing,” Houck said. “The guys went out there and did what they had to do. Swinging the bat, they did absolutely everything they could, and then the bullpen coming in was amazing. But for me, getting to go out there, getting to warm up the first time, definitely had the heart pounding a little bit more than usual. It was a surreal moment.”

Houck was able to mix it up, utilizing 35 fastballs, 30 sliders, 15 sinkers and six changeups, inducing nine whiffs in his 86 pitches.

“It seemed like we didn't see that breaking ball very good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You didn't see too many good swings on the breaking ball. The guy is halfway, effectively wild. He can be a little bit all over, and then he is throwing strikes. We didn't do a whole lot with him.”

The Red Sox weren’t able to get much offense going against talented Marlins righty Sandy Alcantara, who allowed just one run in six innings, but they produced enough to win. Jackie Bradley Jr. belted an RBI double to break a scoreless tie in the sixth. Christian Vázquez added an insurance RBI single in the eighth.

More important than the win, however, was that Houck provided hope that he can be of help in 2021 and beyond.

“That’s why we have him pitching right now is to see what he’s like and see if he would fit in next year, or what we think of him,” Roenicke said. “So it’s good to have him out there and yes, if we could get him a couple more [starts this season], that would be great. So we’ll see what happens. But what a great start for him. You want to make an impression, and he made an impression on all of us.”

Even on a night he was successful, Houck grasped what he needs to improve on.

“Definitely it’s more executing pitches. Up here, you’ve got a fine line, and I know that and I’ve got to continue to hone in,” Houck said. “I definitely didn’t execute all my pitches to the best of my ability. I left some a little bit more middle. I got lucky enough that I got the ball back sometimes. Yeah, I’ll definitely be able to take it all in and embrace it all and grow from this.”

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