Henry Owens, considered the second best prospect in the Boston Red Sox minor-league system, went into the belly of the beast in the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees in his debut as a starter. Talk about pressure, to go up against the club’s biggest and most hated rival in Yankee Stadium, in front of over 48 500 people, to match up against their prized starter Masahiro Tanaka. However, Owens’ courage did not falter, as the young lefty had an excellent evening. That is, until the Red Sox bullpen reminded everyone, once again, why the Red Sox are the worst team in the American League.
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it wasn’t like Tanaka was this unbeatable force. He was 1-1 and allowed a combined seven runs in his last two starts. Still, some people were nervous that Owens wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. The California native had a 3-8 record and a 3.18 ERA in 21 starts for the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket. Not exactly dominating numbers to inspire confidence that Owens could keep the A.L. East division leaders off of the scoreboard.
And, with one out in the first inning, Owens couldn’t stop the Yankees from drawing first blood. After a single and a walk, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira singled to center field, which scored Chris Young. A quick coach’s visit to the mound was needed to see if the youngster was rattled; however, Owens stepped back onto the rubber and got the next two Bronx Bombers out to end the threat.
After that, it was pretty clear sailing for Owens. For the next four innings, Owens only allowed one hit, making fast work of some of the most dangerous batters in the majors.
His own team helped him out, at least with the bats, in the top of the fifth inning. Fellow prospect-turned-starter Blake Swihart put his catcher’s mitt down and let his bat do the talking, as he hit a liner hard to left field, scoring Mike Napoli. The next batter was another youngster Jackie Bradley Jr., playing in center field for the concussed Mookie Betts. Bradley smacked a sacrifice fly ball to left field, far enough back to score Alejandro De Aza from third base. At the end of the frame, the Red Sox had put Owens in line for the win against the Yankees and their Japanese star.
But, like most things for Boston this season, the lead and the hopes of Red Sox Nation were quickly dashed in the top of the sixth inning. Owens allowed a lead-off single and a double knock him out of the game, leaving two men on second and third with none out. Red Sox manager John Farrell decided to relieve Owens with Robbie Ross taking the mound to mop up. Two pitches later, Teixeira knocks a fat-looking 93-mph fastball to left field, scoring Young. The next pitch, a 77-mph curveball didn’t fool Yankees catcher Brian McCann at all, as he drilled it to center field for a double that scored Alex Rodriguez. At least Ross’ battle with Carlos Beltran took seven pitches before the Yankee hitter grounded out to third base, but the play scored Teixeira in the process.
After a Chase Headley ground out, Ross walked Didi Gregorius on four pitches, three of them were fastballs that couldn’t find the strikezone if they had a map, a GPS, and a wife navigating them. Farrell replaced Ross with Jean Machi, but the damage was done. Owens was now in line for the loss.
Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval tried to make up for the bullpen by smashing a lead-off home run off of Tanaka over the right-field fence, bringing the score back to a one-run game, in the top of the seventh inning. The blast knocked Tanaka out of the game; however, unlike the Red Sox bullpen, the Yankees bullpen stepped up for their starter and ended any hopes for another Red Sox comeback. The Yankee relievers only allowed another two hits and one walk for the rest of the game.
If that wasn’t enough, the Yankees put an exclamation point on the night by answering with an offensive barrage in the bottom of the seventh. After a fielding error, by the normally-sure-handed Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and a walk, Machi had a single hit by Rodriguez fly into center field, which scored former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
That took Machi out of the game, replaced by Craig Breslow who didn’t fair much better. After a strikeout, McCann drilled his 18th homer of the season to right field, cashing in Young and Rodriguez. Beltran was next up and hit a double, which brought another coach’s visit to the mound, but no Breslow exit. That decision was costly, as Headley took Breslow’s straight-looking fastball to left field for a double that scored Beltran. A fly out and a walk later, Ellsbury singled to left field to score Headley.
Mercifully, Farrell replaced Breslow with Alexi Ogando. More merciful for Breslow than the team itself, though, as Ogando’s first pitch was smoked by Young for a home run over the left-field fence. By the time that Ogando got the final out, the Yankees had scored nine runs in the frame to lead 13-3.
The game was much closer, with both starting pitchers giving it their best effort. Owens took the loss and Tanaka took the victory; however, if the Red Sox bullpen didn’t implode, we could be discussing another Red Sox prospect having a glorious debut.
- The Red Sox were 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position, leaving five men on base. The Yankees were 8-for-15, leaving six on base.
- Rusney Castillo came in to pinch-hit for De Aza, and went 2-for-2 at the plate to raise his batting average to .270. Castillo also stole a base.
- The top four Red Sox batters of Brock Holt, Bogaerts, David Ortiz, and Hanley Ramirez went 0-for-4 at the plate.
It took 96 pitches, 59 for strikes, for Owens to prove that he can hang in the majors with the big-name pitchers. The stats after the game said that Owens allowed three runs on five hits, one walk, and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings of work. However, before Owens left the game, the Red Sox had the lead and were relatively safe. Even though Ross inherited Owens’ base runners, the most that should have happened is one run, tying the game. Owens showed much poise for a youngster on the mound, much like Eduardo Rodriguez did in his debut, this season. Let’s hope the performance was a hint at more to come than just a trend that will disappear with time.
Does this really need more description? They gave up 10 of the 13 runs that the Yankees scored, nine of them were earned. Two of the eight hits were home runs. Owens struck out more than the bullpen’s combined effort, which walked one batter for each reliever. That’s not going to get it done, regardless of any runners Owens gave them to work with to start.
Swihart, Castillo, and Bradley combined for the majority of the offence. Napoli had two hits and Sandoval had the solo home run to add to the effort. However, the kids were the ones showing how to get the job done for most of the game. The future is now. Let’s starting playing them like starters, instead of backups to the veterans, whose bats seem to be very cold for a number of games.
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