For the second straight year, the Boston Red Sox’s final games of September have been more about finding optimism for future seasons than fighting for a playoff spot.
And in the waning days of the 2020 campaign, the Red Sox are getting that hope from their newest starting pitchers.
Tanner Houck has impressed in the first two starts of his MLB career. The 24-year-old has tossed a combined 11 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts to earn wins in outings against the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees.
And in his Red Sox debut, Nick Pivetta showed what Chaim Bloom valued in him. In an 8-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, striking out eight over five innings with four hits and three walks, allowing one run.
Poetically, it happened on a night where Brandon Workman gave up a walk-off home run, continuing his disastrous run with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The sample size for Pivetta and Houck in Boston is small, sure. But it gives some hope for the Red Sox to cling to in a campaign in which the pitching was a disaster — in part because they didn’t have their top two starters.
“I think we’re gonna be great with those two guys,” Sox catcher Christian Vazquez said of Houck and Pivetta to NESN’s Guerin Austin after the game. “Those two guys and Eddie (Rodriguez) healthy and (Chris) Sale back, I think we’re going to be strong in the rotation.”
Pivetta figures to be a back of the rotation option for the Red Sox in 2021, though he isn’t a complete roster lock. Same goes for Houck, who probably will spend at least some of next season in the minors.
Red Sox brass are insistent that the subpar play on a display in 2020 will be short-lived, and that the goal is to compete next season. Having Rodriguez back will help that cause, and same goes with Sale, though he likely won’t return until months into the season.
Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi will be in Year 3 of his four-year deal, and Martín Pérez has a team option this offseason that he deserves to have picked up.
With that in mind, a Rodriguez-Eovaldi-Perez-Pivetta-Houck rotation that gets a jolt from Sale in the middle of the season is, as Vazquez indicated, a potentially strong unit.
Again, we’re talking about three outings here between Pivetta and Houck. By the time the season ends, the sample size likely will be five. But in a season that has lacked bright spots, this is something to hold onto in the closing days of a disappointing 2020 campaign.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images