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Red Sox 5, Braves 3: A late-game push leads to a win

But Tanner Houck struggled.

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Red Sox have won a game for the first time since Saturday. We can all stop panicking! The main story of this game was actually a bit of a downer, but there was some good stuff too, I promise. Here are the notes from the contest:

A rough day for Tanner Houck

Tanner Houck only made three starts in 2020, but there’s a very good argument that he was the most exciting part of the season. Granted, that probably says a whole lot more about that season than Houck, but he really was electric in those three outings. It also placed some expectations on the young righty coming into this season, to the point that many have been disappointed to hear that he is almost certainly heading for the Alternate Site to start the season. The talent is very much there, as we saw in 2020, but there is still development that needs to be had. We saw some of that on display on Tuesday.

Houck was making his third appearance of the spring here against the Braves, and the command was not at its best in this start. It should be noted that this game was not on TV and I was unable to catch the radio broadcast, but the box score indicates his control was all over the place early, walking the first two batters he faced before hitting the next to load the bases with nobody out. To his credit, he did a great job of escaping the jam, getting a double play and another ground out to avoid any runs in that inning. He got another double play in the second to work around a one-out single for a three-batter inning, but the control issues re-emerged in the third. There, he walked two more before giving up a three-run shot to Marcell Ozuna. He’d allow a double as well before being pulled without finishing the inning.

In all, Houck made it through just 2 23 innings, allowing the three runs on a single, a double, a homer, four walks and just one strikeout. He’s now had two rough outings this spring with a good one sandwiched in the middle. In terms of what he can contribute this year, it’s really not a concern, particularly without being able to see. It’s hard to know what he was working on — i.e. how often he was throwing his splitter that is very much a work in progress — and if that had an effect on the command. Still, it’s a good reminder that the idea of sending him down to the Alternate Site to start the year isn’t just about roster flexibility, but also makes sense for his development.

Other Notes

  • We’ve talked a lot about Michael Chavis this spring and, well, it’s been deserved. He’s been putting good swings on the ball and hitting it hard on a nearly everyday basis, and that continued here on Tuesday. He got the start at first base for this game, and he had another extra base hit, this one with a double after which he came around to score. It’s particularly noteworthy because it apparently came against high heat, which has traditionally been his biggest problem spot. It’s getting harder and harder not to see him getting that Opening Day roster spot.
  • The best pitcher on the day was Matt Andriese, who has somewhat quietly looked really solid this spring. He’s going to serve in an underrated swingman role for the Red Sox this year, and while the ceiling is not very high they are just looking for solid innings. On Tuesday, he came in and tossed four scoreless innings on a double and a single along with a walk and two strikeouts. Overall this spring across three appearances, he’s allowed three runs (all in one outing) over nine innings of work on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
  • The big swing of the day came late in the game by one of the better prospects in the system. The Red Sox and Braves were all tied up at three apiece heading into the bottom of the eighth when Connor Wong came to the plate with the bases empty. He got a good pitch to hit and smashed one way out to center field for his first homer of the spring. Wong, who profiles as a good backup catcher who can also fill in at some infield spots for extra playing time if he makes enough contact to merit it, should start the upcoming season at Double-A.
  • Also getting hits in today’s game who have not been mentioned were: Marwin Gonzalez, who got the start in left field and went 1-2 with a run scored; Christian Vázquez, who went 1-1 with a double, a walk and a run scored; Bobby Dalbec, who started at third base and went 1-2 with a single, a walk, two runs, a strikeout and a stolen base; and Josh Ockimey, who came in as a late-game sub at first base and had an RBI double to extend Boston’s lead.
  • Also pitching in this game who have not been mentioned were: Phillips Valdez, who is fighting for one of the open bullpen spots and tossed an 1 13 (after finishing the third for Houck), walking one and striking out a pair; and Eduard Bazardo, who could be a sleeper for that last bullpen spot after and finished this game without allowing a run, giving up a single and a walk while striking out one over his single inning of work.