Tanner Houck looks to lock up a permanent spot in the rotation and pitch the host Boston Red Sox to a series victory against the American League East rival Tampa Bay Rays in the finale of a three-game series on Thursday afternoon.
Houck (0-2, 2.45 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Worcester to make his sixth start of the season. Boston manager Alex Cora recently demoted veterans Martin Perez and Garrett Richards to the bullpen, giving Houck a chance to prove his mettle.
“Where we’re at right now, we can use them (all) as multiple-inning guys in high-leverage situations, or in close games that we’re down,” Cora said Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot of games to play, and there’s stuff that can happen and adjustments that we might make.”
Boston’s bats came to life in a 20-8 rout of Tampa Bay on Wednesday after dropping the series opener 8-4 on Tuesday. Bobby Dalbec drove in five runs, and Xander Bogaerts had a three-run homer and four RBIs as the Red Sox pounded out a season-high 19 hits while also notching a season high for runs.
“Look, Boston’s a very good hitting team. They’re gonna jump on pitches they can handle, and generally if they’re in the zone and in those kind of sweet spots, they’ve got a bunch of guys with a track record that can hit the ball really hard,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “They just really didn’t let us up.”
Trailing 20-1 entering the ninth, the Rays showed life with seven runs in the final inning — including Brett Phillips’ third career grand slam and a solo homer by Mike Zunino. Brandon Lowe also hit a solo blast for his team-leading 26th homer.
Houck has faced the Rays only once in his short career, giving up a run on one hit and striking out two over one inning in a 6-5 win on April 6.
In five prior starts and seven appearances overall, Houck has exclusively faced AL East opponents this season. Houck has not allowed an earned run in four innings as a reliever this season, but is pitching to a 2.91 ERA with 31 strikeouts over 21 2/3 innings as a starter.
Tampa Bay right-hander Drew Rasmussen will also be looking to prove himself to be rotation-worthy.
Rasmussen (1-1, 4.15 ERA) is set to make just his third start of the season after pitching 25 games out of the bullpen.
He has struggled in a starting role this year, pitching to a 5.40 ERA while allowing three runs in five innings. Rasmussen has fared much better as a reliever, posting a 3.97 ERA with 45 strikeouts over 34 innings.
This will be Rasmussen’s first start since July 24 at Cleveland when he allowed a run on one hit — a home run — while striking out three over three innings in an eventual 8-2 win for Tampa Bay.
Rasmussen has faced the Red Sox twice in relief this season, posting a 3.38 ERA against them with three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. Most recently, Rasmussen allowed a run on two hits with two walks and a strikeout in 2 1/3 innings of a 3-2 win against Boston on Aug. 1.
–Field Level Media