Tanner Houck is so talented until he isn’t. He seems to cruise through three innings every outing before running head-first into an invisible, impenetrable wall. Tonight, his decline wasn’t drastic, surrendering a solo home run in the fourth, and a base hit in the fifth. Then, in the sixth inning, the baseball gods decided to hurl feces at the fan. It’s as if in his Little League days, Houck found a monkey’s paw and wished to throw 60 great pitches in every outing. Fast forward 15 years, when baseball games are nine innings, and Houck’s wish is now a limitation on his potential as a starting pitcher.
Of course, none of this matters when the offense only scores two runs. The approach at the plate just hasn’t been there over the last four games, leading to 10 + 47 strikeouts in that timeframe. Unless you’re drawing walks and hitting home runs that method isn’t going to cut it. This may be a take fit for an ESPN morning show featuring Stephen A. Smith but it’s one I believe in strongly: In order to score runs, you have to hit the ball. The Orioles did that consistently tonight, the Red Sox did not.
Connor Wong (2-2, HR, BB)
Wong recorded the first two Red Sox hits of the game, the second of which being a home run over everything in left field. He did have a passed ball in the 8th that allowed the Orioles to score a run. His defense has suffered lately, I’ll chalk that up to the workload he was saddled with when Reese McGuire went down earlier this summer.
Rafael Devers (0-4, K)
I know he didn’t reach base a single time, but every time he put the ball in play it was absolutely smoked. Exit velocities of 99, 108, and 106. Ryan McKenna (maybe) took away a home run with a spectacular catch in the eighth. If you just looked at the box score, you’d think it was a bad game for Raffy. In a sense it was, but if he hit the ball like that every night, he’d be in the MVP conversation. Sometimes luck just isn’t on your side.
Trevor Story (0-3, K)
I just like not having to worry when a ground ball is hit to shortstop.
Tanner Houck (5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 5 K, 2 BB)
As I said, Houck is a ticking time bomb every time he starts the game. To me, he seems like the perfect candidate to be the bulk guy after a left-handed opener, but we haven’t seen that attempted just yet. It can’t hurt, right?
Joe Jacques (1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 HBP)
With the rotation’s recent performance, I get that the bullpen is taxed and that you can’t afford to chase wins from behind. If you do, you’ll end up in a situation like a few weeks ago against Houston, where the only option outside of Martin and Jansen is Kyle Barraclough, leading to throwing games away. All that being said, Joe Jacques didn’t do his job. Enter the game, walk a batter, bean the next, and give up a sacrifice fly. The run is charged to Houck, but Jacques didn’t have it again tonight.
Mike Estabrook (Home Plate Umpire)
I’m not saying the result of the game would have changed with better umpiring, but it really is infuriating watching an umpire miss so many calls. Triston Casas was called out on strikes in his first two at-bats, both on pitches that appeared to be out of the zone. I’d like to understand when people talk about the game needing the “human element”, but I really don’t.