Red Sox Notes: Tanner Houck’s ‘Fearless’ Demeanor Key In Late Innings

Houck earned the save in Boston's 4-3 win on Friday


June 11

As much as Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora raved about Tanner Houck’s pitching repertoire, it’s the right-handed pitcher’s attitude on the mound leading Cora to use him in high-leverage situations late in games recently.

Cora went to Houck in the ninth inning Friday night against the Seattle Mariners to preserve a one-run lead, and Houck walked a tightrope to secure the save and 4-3 win for Boston. It was the Red Sox’s fourth win of their West Coast trip by a single run, as Houck recorded his first save of the season and just the second of his career.

Houck showcased tremendous poise going up against the heart of Seattle’s lineup. After hitting Ty France to begin the inning and allowing a bloop single to J.P. Crawford, Houck struck out Eugenio Suarez and got Adam Frazier to line out to strand two runners in the scoring position.

“He doesn’t change on the mound,” Cora said, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “He seems like he’s always in control. He wants this. He wants to pitch in situations like this, he likes it and he’ll be ready for his next inning whenever it is.”

This was Houck’s second big-time moment out of the bullpen on the road trip. He pitched two frames of scoreless relief to earn a win against the Los Angeles Angels in a game that was decided in extra innings.

While Rich Hill also marveled at Houck’s arsenal of pitches, he agreed with Cora that Houck being unfazed in the pressure-packed moments is making all the difference.

“He’s got some of the best stuff I’ve seen in the league, and his ability to go out there and be fearless,” Hill said, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “I think that really speaks to the roles that he’s incorporating as the season is growing.”

Even with Houck’s success in the late innings recently, Cora wouldn’t name him the full-time closer following the contest. Cora said the Red Sox need to be “responsible” with Houck in terms of not pushing him too much in his new-found role.

Cora added that he will give Houck two days of rest anytime he pitches at least two innings, but could use him on back-to-back days if he throws only one inning.

Here are more notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Mariners game:

— Bobby Dalbec sure likes hitting in his hometown of Seattle. Dalbec launched a solo home run to left field in the top of the seventh off hard-throwing righty Andres Muñoz. Dalbec has turned it on of late at the plate, as it was his fifth straight game with a hit. The first baseman also has five RBIs over his last four games.

“Little by little you can see that he’s making strides, he’s been on time with pitches, dominating the strike zone, and when he does that, he becomes very dangerous,” Cora said.

— Cora inserted Rob Refsnyder immediately into the lineup at the top of the order, as the outfielder was called up from Triple-A Worcester on Friday. Refsnyder reached base three times in the win and scored run.

— Hill couldn’t make it two strong outings in a row as his night ended with one out in the fifth inning after he allowed a two-run home run to Jesse Winker. Hill ended up pitching 4 1/3 innings and gave up two runs, five hits and two walks while striking out six.

— John Schreiber continues to show he can be trusted in high-leverage situations. He worked his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning.

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