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Houck strikes for charity in Red Sox debut

Boston's No. 10 prospect fans seven over five scoreless innings
Tanner Houck scattered two hits and three walks over five frames in his first appearance of the season. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
September 15, 2020

Prior to his Major League debut Tuesday, Tanner Houck made it known that he wanted his first appearance on the mound to be about more than just baseball. He came through. Boston’s No. 10 prospect tossed five stellar innings in his first big league start, notching seven strikeouts -- and

Prior to his Major League debut Tuesday, Tanner Houck made it known that he wanted his first appearance on the mound to be about more than just baseball. He came through.

Boston’s No. 10 prospect tossed five stellar innings in his first big league start, notching seven strikeouts -- and making a charitable impact with them -- while allowing just two hits and picking up the win as the Red Sox blanked the Marlins, 2-0.

“The reality is definitely everything I could have imagined,” Houck told reporters after the game. “Especially now, getting to pitch for my cause and my charity is definitely a bonus on top of gaining this experience. It was … I can’t even put it into words.”

Houck threaded strikeouts throughout his start, recording at least one in each inning. The Missouri product said on Twitter on Monday that he planned to donate $100 to Pitch For Adoption for each whiff he racked up in the debut. The proceeds benefit Caritas Family Solutions in Belleville, Illinois, 10 miles south of his hometown of Collinsville. When he was a prep star at Collinsville High, Houck’s family adopted his then-4-year-old sister, Reanna, inspiring the pitcher to use his platform to advanced the adoption cause.

“Definitely having my sister come into my life was such a big thing for my whole family,” Houck said. “I’ll never forget the day that she came in. I was pitching in high school on the JV field as a freshman. I remember watching my mom walk up with a stroller and a little girl in there.

“I was like, ‘Who is that?’ She said, ‘It’s your new sister.’ Just being able to help her change her life was just so inspiring for me. I want to continue to do that for other kids. They’re our future. I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me everything I wanted and helped me get to this to live out my dream. I want to continue to help kids like that fulfill their dreams.”

Rarely challenged in his first start in The Show, Houck surrendered a leadoff single to left field by Corey Dickerson in the first inning, but the outfielder was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. After retiring the next four, the right-hander yielded a two-out single to center by Garrett Cooper and followed it with a walk to Miguel Rojas but fanned baseball’s No. 66 overall prospect Jazz Chisholm to escape the jam.

Houck only faced two more baserunners, issuing free passes to Matt Joyce and Cooper in the fourth. The 24-year-old finished on a roll, retiring the final four batters he faced.

“Getting that win was truly amazing,” Houck said. “The guys went out there and did what they had to do. Swinging the bat, they did absolutely everything they could, and then the bullpen coming in was amazing. But for me, getting to go out there, getting to warm up the first time, definitely had the heart pounding a little bit more than usual. It was a surreal moment.”

The 24th overall selection of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out climbed swiftly to Boston. Houck pitched in a combined 33 games (17 starts) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last year, going 8-6 with a 4.01 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. After the season, he went to the Arizona Fall League and compiled a 3-2 record and 3.47 ERA in six starts for Peoria before playing for USA Baseball at the Premier12 tournament in Mexico and Japan. Though he took losses in both of his starts on the international stage, Houck struck out 11 in 9 1/3 innings against Mexico and Australia and finished the tournament with a 3.86 ERA.

Houck’s United States teammate Bobby Dalbec went 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s win. The No. 3 Red Sox prospect is batting .277/.333/.681 in 13 games as a Major Leaguer.

In other action:

D-backs 9, Angels 8

Arizona's No. 3 prospect Daulton Varsho continued showing signs of life at the plate, belting his third home run of the season, all of them coming in his last eight games. Varsho has lifted his average from .108 to .152 over the past nine contests, pushing his OPS from .357 to .592. Box score

Reds 4, Pirates 1

Second-ranked Pirates prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes added to his extra-base output with a double on a 1-for-4 night. Hayes has 13 hits in 12 games as a Major Leaguer, and six have been for extra bases (two homers, two triples and two doubles). Box score

Rays 6, Nationals 1

No. 21 overall prospect Carter Kieboom posted his first multi-hit game in over a month with a 2-for-3 showing. Kieboom’s two singles marked his first two-hit performance since Aug. 14, and Washington’s top prospect added a walk. Second-ranked Luis Garcia chipped in two singles. No. 24 Ben Braymer, worked around two hits and a walk with three strikeouts in a scoreless inning out of the bullpen. Box score

Phillies 4, Mets 1

Out of the three-spot in the order, Philadelphia's top prospect Alec Bohm went 1-for-4 with a run scored. Third-ranked New York prospect Andrés Giménez went 1-for-3 and is hitting .286. Box score

Astros 4, Rangers 1

Texas’ No. 25 prospect Kyle Cody got the start and went three innings, allowing a run on four hits with two walks and a strikeout. Box score

Yankees 20, Blue Jays 6

New York’s third-ranked prospect Deivi Garcia made the most of his team’s offense en route to his second win four big league games. The 21-year-old righty scattered three runs on six hits and two walks, striking out six, over seven innings. The game’s No. 95 prospect sports a 3.28 ERA. No. 26 Michael King was tagged for three runs in the ninth, but left the bases loaded with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the plate needing a triple for the cycle. The righty allowed five hits and two walks while striking out one in two frames. Toronto’s No. 11 prospect Anthony Kay gave up two runs on four hits – including a homer by Gary Sanchez -- and two walks while striking out three in two frames. Sixth-ranked Alejandro Kirk went 1-for-4 in his second big league game. No. 21 Santiago Espinal, an infielder by trade, made his second relief appearance in the past week and served up a homer to DJ LeMahieu in one inning of work. Box score

Braves 5, Orioles 1

Huascar Ynoa posted his longest outing of the year. Atlanta’s No. 11 prospect allowed two hits over four scoreless frames to lower his ERA to 5.30. Ynoa struck out a season-high five and didn’t issue any walks. On the heels of a three-hit outing Sunday, fifth-ranked Baltimore prospect Ryan Mountcastle went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He’s batting .350 in 23 games. Box score

Tigers 6, Royals 0

Detroit’s No. 17 prospect Bryan Garcia allowed a hit while closing out the game for his second save. The 25-year-old righty hasn’t given up a run since his debut on Aug. 22, and his career has fallen to 1.47. Sixth-ranked Isaac Paredes picked up a hit in four at-bats, but left seven on base. No. 7 Daz Cameron went 0-for-4 and has only picked up one hit over his first seven big league games. Kansas City’s No. 22 prospect Edward Olivares was 0-for-4 and is batting .250. No. 28 Kelvin Gutierrez struck out in all three of his at-bats. Box score

White Sox 6, Twins 2

Chicago’s No. 7 prospect Dane Dunning picked up his second victory after giving up two runs – one earned -- on three hits and two walks while striking out seven over a career-high seven innings. Dunning (2-0) lowered his ERA to 2.33 in the process. No. 26 Matt Foster allowed a hit in two-thirds of an inning. He hasn’t given up a run in his last four outings. Third-ranked Nick Madrigal went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .338 in 18 games. Minnesota’s No. 18 prospect Travis Blankenhorn collected his first big league hit, a double to right in the ninth. Sixth-ranked Ryan Jeffers went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts and sports a .279 average. Box score

Rockies 3, A’s 1

Colorado’s No. 18 prospect Josh Fuentes continued his impressive sophomore campaign with a 2-for-2 showing featuring a double, a run and a sacrifice fly. Fuentes is 6-for-15 in his last four games, lifting his season slash line to .340/.353/.511 through 17 games. Oakland’s No. 9 prospect Jonah Heim went 0-for-3. Box score

Cubs 6, Indians 5

Cleveland's No. 17 prospect James Karinchak gave up a run on two hits and a walk while striking out one in the seventh, his first allowed run since Sept. 4. Box score

Tyler Maun is a reporter for and co-host of “The Show Before The Show” podcast. You can find him on Twitter @tylermaun.