Johnny Cueto vs. Henry Owens. It's not a matchup that inspires confidence, at least not for Red Sox fans. Owens entered Friday night's game against Kansas City--a team with nearly 20 more wins than Boston--a promising youngster with, if his first three outings were any indication, plenty to figure out. He would leave a winner.
Coming off a complete disaster against Seattle, Owens had a lot to prove, and if it's going to take a lot more than one game for any rookie to truly prove themselves, he's at the very least off to a good start. Perhaps because he had been so badly bruised in his last outing, Owens started off the game with a four-pitch walk.
Not an auspicious start, but on some level, that plate appearance does a good job of demonstrating the young lefty's approach today. Owens wasn't interested in challenging the Royals tonight. Instead, he pitched to the edges...or pretty far off them in some cases. But he hit those edges when it mattered, and sometimes, with his off-speed stuff drawing a nearly 20% whiff rate, the Royals couldn't lay off it. That leadoff walk was the only one Owens would surrender on the night to four strikeouts, with the two coming on the secondary offerings looking awfully ugly.
That does leave a lot of outs leftover, and the Royals did manage to test Boston's outfield. But thankfully they largely kept the ball in center field, allowing Mookie Betts to handle the work instead of, well, Hanley Ramirez. Who, in a rare fielding opportunity, failed to cleanly field a low line drive on two hops, allowing Ben Zobrist to score the first Royals run of the night in the fourth. The only earned run to Owens' name would come on a Alcides Escobar homer in the sixth.
By then, though, the Red Sox had already gotten Owens five runs, which just seems to be what they do against the best pitchers in the game for some reason. Travis Shaw had sparked a second-inning rally with a double to right, moving to third on a bloop single from Rusney Castillo and then scoring when Blake Swihart picked up his first of four hitts on the night, with Castillo also coming in from third as the throw into the infield got right past Escobar. Mookie Betts would follow up with a line drive to left that Paulo Orlando could not make the sliding play on, allowing Swihart to score as well.
The Sox would enjoy a similar rally in the fourth. This time, though, Travis Shaw would open the frame with a rare out, leaving it up to Rusney Castillo to set the stage with a triple. Blake Swihart would once again drive him in, and once again Score as Mookie Betts' hit bounced off a glove, this time that of Lorenzo Cain, allowing Swihart to score all the way from first as he had to chase the loose ball down.
Josh Rutledge would add two more runs in the sixth on his first homer of the year, Swihart scoring for a third time in the process, but Owens would need no more help. He would finish the eighth before handing the ball off to Heath Hembree, who turned in a 1-2-3 ninth to end things in Fenway.