Red Sox aim to bounce back vs. Padres behind Tanner Houck

The Boston Red Sox will have right-hander Tanner Houck on the mound Saturday when they attempt to end the visiting San Diego Padres’ four-game winning streak.

Houck (7-5, 2.18 ERA) began the season battling to win the fifth spot in Boston’s rotation but has quickly become the team’s ace. He leads the American League in ERA and has 101 strikeouts and 18 walks in 103 1/3 innings this season.

Houck credited much of his 2024 success to Red Sox pitching coach Andrew Bailey, who suggested he overhaul his split-finger fastball.

“He came over and kind of gave me a few different grip ideas before camp,” Houck said on a recent NESN telecast. “I took it and kind of ran with it. I feel incredibly comfortable with that pitch now. It’s something that I’ve known for years I’ve needed to develop and get better with, but ultimately I feel like that’s kind of been my biggest weapon this year that’s taken the most steps forward.”

Houck has pitched at least 5 2/3 innings in each of his 16 starts. Saturday — his 28th birthday — will be the first time he faces the Padres in his career.

Right-hander Michael King (5-5, 3.75 ERA) is San Diego’s scheduled starter. King, who was with the New York Yankees the previous five seasons, is 2-4 with a 5.20 ERA in 12 career appearances (two starts) against the Red Sox. He is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five outings (one start) in Boston.

The Padres opened the three-game series with a 9-2 victory on Friday. San Diego did all of its scoring in the fifth inning, which included a two-run home run from Kyle Higashioka and a three-run home run from Jackson Merrill, who grew up rooting for the Red Sox.

“I don’t usually like to talk about something I do,” Merrill said. “I like talking about the wins and stuff. But that was probably the dopest moment of my baseball career.

“A nine-run inning. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Higashioka has three home runs in his past two games and eight home runs in June.

The victory was the eighth in nine games for the Padres, moving them four games above .500 for the first time this season.

X-rays were negative on Padres starting pitcher Randy Vasquez, who took a line drive off his right forearm in the fifth inning.

“A little bit of swelling right now, but hopefully I’ll be able to be out there for my next start,” Vasquez said.

The Red Sox have lost two straight for the first time since dropping the middle two games of a four-game series against the White Sox on June 7-8.

“We have a good baseball team that can do a lot of good things,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “There’s other stuff that we have to get better (at), but at the same time very pleased with the way we went about our business in the first part of the season and the way some guys progressed.

“We’re going to keep working hard to make them better, and we’re going to keep playing good baseball. I truly believe there’s going to be meaningful games here in September.”

–Field Level Media