Red Sox

Pedro Martinez praises Tanner Houck for Game 2 performance out of the bullpen

Houck pitched five innings out of the bullpen in the Red Sox' Game 2 win over the Rays.

Tanner Houck pitches in the Red Sox' Game 2 win over the Rays. AP Photo/Steve Helber

Tanner Houck’s Game 2 performance in the ALDS matched a pair of other playoff outings in Red Sox lore.

The rookie right-hander pitched five innings out of the bullpen, allowing just one run to cool off the Rays’ bats after Chris Sale gave up five runs in the first inning. In his outing, Houck gave up just two hits and didn’t walk a batter, striking out five to earn the win in the Red Sox’ 14-6 drubbing of the Rays.

With his five innings out of the bullpen, Houck joined Nathan Eovaldi and Pedro Martinez as the only other Red Sox pitchers to pitch at least five innings out of the bullpen in the playoffs over the last 100 years, per the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

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Eovaldi’s bullpen performance came in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, when he tossed six innings in the 17-inning loss to the Dodgers. Martinez’s came in the deciding Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against the Indians, in which he threw five perfect innings. The latter had some nice things to say about Houck’s performance on Friday.

“[Kudos] to Tanner Houck for picking up the @RedSox tonight,” Martinez wrote on Twitter Friday night. “…you were 3 years old when I did the same in 1999!! Awesome work on the mound kid!”

Houck was impressive from the start on Friday, retiring the first 11 hitters he faced. Dating back to his perfect five-inning start against the Nationals on Oct. 2, Houck retired 29 straight batters, including a perfect inning in relief against the Yankees in the Wild Card Game.

“What he has done this week has been amazing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Houck. “And, you know, he has grown. He is getting better and better and better.”

Houck’s most impressive inning came in the third. After the Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the inning to cut the lead to 5-4, Houck struck out the Rays’ 3-4-5 hitters. He got Brandon Lowe to strike out looking at a slider on the edge of the plate. He followed that up by getting Nelson Cruz to strike out swinging at a slider on the edge of the plate after the slugger fouled off two fastballs. He closed out the inning by getting Yandy Diaz to strike out swinging at a sinker out of the zone.

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While the Red Sox bats went off in the middle innings, Houck made sure the Rays’ bats were kept at bay.

“What happened, I think, was Tanner Houck,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He was really tough. … He came in and did a tremendous job for them.”

Giving up just one run and two hits over 11 innings, Houck said he feels “really locked in the last few outings with everything.”

With Sale struggling in his last two starts and Eduardo Rodriguez looking unimpressive in his Game 1 start, Houck’s been one of the few Red Sox pitchers who’s looked impressive with the season on the line. Despite being a rookie, Houck said he’s ready for the moment.

“I live for those moments where you’re in a different stadium, people yelling at you, all that stuff. I love that environment, and I love going out there and competing with my brothers,” Houck said.

“I remember growing up as a kid and just dreaming about pitching in games like these and just pitching in moments like that. So having that moment become real, I was like, all right, let me take a step back, let me soak this in, but then let’s get to work.”

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