Manager Alex Cora insinuated earlier in the week that the Red Sox would be getting creative with the use of the pitching staff.
That included using starters out of the bullpen, which is what happened on Saturday as Boston defeated the Orioles 9-3.
With starter Nick Pivetta going 3 2/3 innings and giving up three runs, manager Alex Cora went to the bullpen early. Reliever Darwinzon Hernandez gave up a hit and a walk to get Boston in a less-than-ideal situation, and the team turned to Tanner Houck for extended relief.
“Coming out with runners on is not what I’ve done in awhile, I think last time I did that was in ’19, whenever I first went to the bullpen for a little stint, so having that today was a different experience,” Houck said after the game. “But it’s still 60 feet, six inches. It’s about going out there and just putting the team in the best spot to win.”
That he did.
Houck went 2 2/3, giving up just one hit. He, Hernandez, Hansel Robles and Garrett Richards combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings with just two hits and two walks, totaling eight strikeouts between the four relievers.
“When we have to be aggressive, we’re gonna be aggressive, and today we needed to be aggressive,” Cora said after the game.
“It’s fun to manage that way. It’s great. I like it. We like it as a group.”
With the versatility they have in their pitching staff, it’s not hard to see why. Tanner Houck, Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez have both started and pitched out of the bullpen, while Garrett Whitlock also offers extended relief.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” Houck said. “Having guys in the bullpen and in the starting rotation that can fill both roles, whether it is coming in with runners on or starting games, I think we have a lot of versatility. Not only on the hitting side but a lot on the pitching side as well.”
In the final stretch of the season with a playoff berth at stake, throw anything at the wall and see what sticks.
This boded well for Boston in their 2018 World Series run. Maybe it will again here.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Orioles.
— It was another dominant day for the offense, as the Red Sox have scored at least seven runs in each of their four straight wins.
Saturday’s victory came by way of nine runs off 14 hits, with Xander Bogaerts leading the way.
“There’s a few guys that had good at-bats today,” Cora commended. “(Rafael Devers) hitting the ball the other way, (Kiké Hernández) getting on base, Xander obviously, he crushed the ball a few times — the home run was huge. But it was a good day offensively. They scored right away, we answer back, they score one more and we kept going. We didn’t stop playing. It was a complete game. We pitched, we played great defense and offensively we did a lot of good things.”
— Speaking of defense, the win over Baltimore suggested once again that great things happen for Boston when it plays solid defense.
Cora assured his players hear the criticism when they don’t, and gave praise for how hard the Red Sox have been working at it.
“They say they don’t read or whatever — they know,” Cora said. “They know what people think of our defense. They keep working at it, that’s something that you gotta give them credit regardless of how it looks sometimes. They keep doing their routines and they keep going out there and work. The last two days defensively have been very solid.”
— Houck finally earned his first win of the season on the mound. Naturally, it came with him pitching in relief.
“I wasn’t really worried about it at all,” Houck said about having not yet earned a win on the mound prior to Saturday.
“I’m only out there doing what I can to put the team in the best spot to get the W.”
— Boston will maintain the first American League Wild Card spot for now.
The New York Yankees fell to the Cleveland Indians in a matinee Saturday, and though the Toronto Blue Jays were on pace to beat the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox have some ground on them.
— The Red Sox and Orioles finish off the three-game set Sunday, with first pitch at 1:10 p.m. ET live from Fenway Park.