Red Sox starting pitcher Tanner Houck put together an excellent performance against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, and it helped Boston claim a 4-0 shutout at Fenway Park.
Houck threw a scoreless 5 2/3 innings with two hits, three walks and four strikeouts.
“I felt really good being out there again,” Houck said after the game, bouncing back from a three plus-inning start in his first outing this season. “Made some adjustments that I’m super happy with, pounded the zone a lot more, obviously continuing to grow and take steps in the right direction. So super happy with how it went tonight, get ready for five days from now.
“I felt pretty good with all the pitches — four-seam, two-seam, slider, had some really good splits today, as well,” Houck added. “So super happy with where everything’s at. Like I said, mechanics are coming along where I feel a lot more confident, easy to repeat, and just really excited for what the season has to bring.”
Houck specifically noted one area where he was trying to improve, and it came down to the speed in his delivery after allowing six hits and three walks against in Boston’s opening series against the New York Yankees.
“Just taking a minute. Truly just stepping off, just gathering myself, take a deep breath and sit there and just tell myself over and over again ‘Pound the zone. Pound the zone,’ ” Houck said. “After that and a few slight adjustments, talking with (pitching coach Dave Bush) between innings, everything started to finally click.”
The Red Sox now are 2-0 in games where Houck starts this season with his first victory on the campaign coming Saturday. Houck, of note, pitched deeper into Saturday’s game than he had at any time last season.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Twins:
— Houck did benefit from some solid defensive play around him, along with a pair of two two-run home runs by Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts. The right-hander knows Boston’s infield, on display during an impressive Bogaerts-to-Trevor Story double play, will be there to pick him up.
“Yeah, double plays are huge,” Houck said. “… Helps pitch count having (Christian Vazquez) strike them out throw them out there, (Bogaerts) making incredible plays. It’s just truly amazing having an incredible infield like that. You know that they’ll scoop up anything back there.”
— Garrett Whitlock came in for the save while throwing 2 1/3 innings and tallied five strikeouts (23/30 strikes). Whitlock’s now 26 scoreless appearances of more than one inning (dating back to last season) are most in the majors, as shared on the NESN broadcast.
“I mean, he’s Garrett. Everyone knows he’s going to go out there and pound the zone. He has incredible stuff to be able to do that,” Houck said of Whitlock. “He’s an incredible friend, easily my best friend on the team, so we banter back and forth, have fun with it all, but to see him go out there whenever he does and do what he does every single time is truly incredible.”
— It remains unclear when James Paxton will make his debut with the Red Sox, but manager Alex Cora indicated before the game how the organization is happy with the way he’s trending. Paxton threw a bullpen session Friday with Cora and company “very excited” with his progress.
— Michael Wacha, who gave up one earned run in his April 11 start, will get the start Sunday against the Twins. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET, and you can watch it on NESN following an hour of pregame coverage.