The Boston Red Sox could have lost 100-3. It wouldn’t have mattered.
Henry Owens’ major league debut was the most important aspect of Tuesday night’s series opener against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Everything else was noise. So while the Red Sox suffered an ugly 13-3 loss in which the bullpen again showed it’s simply not a very good unit, one shouldn’t lose sight of Owens’ performance, which was impressive for a first-timer.
“He should take away from this a solid feeling that he’s going up against an explosive lineup (Tuesday) and kept it in check for the first time out,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in the Bronx after Tuesday’s game, which slipped away after Owens exited the contest with Boston leading 2-1.
Owens lasted five-plus innings. The left-hander was charged with three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five. He threw 96 pitches (59 strikes) and, most importantly, didn’t look rattled by the prospect of making his first big league start under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium, an environment capable of chewing up and spitting out some of Major League Baseball’s most seasoned hurlers.
“What was impressive was that he seemed to keep the emotion of the moment under control, made some quality pitches,” Farrell said. “He settles down and gives us five solid innings of work, gives us a chance.”
It wasn’t perfect. Owens labored through a first inning in which he allowed a run on two singles and his lone walk. He needed 34 pitches to complete the frame, suggesting there might have been some early jitters. But the lanky lefty ironed things out in short order, retiring 12 consecutive batters after surrendering a leadoff single to Chase Headley in the second inning.
“I thought he used his entire pitch mix,” Farrell said. “He used his fastball and changeup combination in good spots. First time, it was a solid performance by him.”
Of Owens’ five strikeouts, four were swinging, with three coming via his new-and-improved slider. His nastiest slider of the night was a 3-2 offering to Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth inning. New York’s $153 million man flailed at it helplessly for his second strikeout of the game.
“I thought he mixed and matched through the four innings of work — from the second through the fifth — well,” Farrell said. “I thought he and (catcher) Blake (Swihart) were reading some swings good via constant mix and changing speeds.”
Owens’ four-inning stretch of dominance came to a screeching halt in the sixth inning, when Chris Young singled and Alex Rodriguez doubled, prompting Farrell to turn to Robbie Ross Jr. with two runners in scoring position and nobody out. Ross allowed both inherited runners to score, kicking off a brutal collapse by Boston’s bullpen, which allowed nine runs in the seventh inning alone.
On another night, certainly if the Red Sox still were in contention, such an implosion might be the story. And sure, it’s still worth noting, even with the Sox sitting 13 games under .500. But from a bigger picture standpoint, Tuesday night was all about grading Owens’ first test at the major league level.
The 23-year-old passed with flying colors.
Thumbnail photo via Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports Images