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Apr 1, 2024 8:26 am

Red Sox look to pick up steam in opener against A’s

Boston Red Sox

Two teams that used strong starting pitching as the foundation for series-ending wins in their most recent outings will look for more of the same Monday night when the Boston Red Sox visit the Oakland Athletics.

A pair of tall Missouri natives are the projected starters for the opener of the three-game series, as 6-foot-5 right-hander Tanner Houck of the Red Sox will square off against 6-7 righty Joe Boyle of the A’s.

The Red Sox managed a split in their season-opening series in Seattle despite putting up just 14 runs in the four games. Fortunately for the visitors, the Mariners countered with just 10, which was good enough for two Seattle wins thanks to 1-0 and 4-3 decisions in the middle two games of the set.

Houck (6-10, 5.01 ERA in 2023) has some big shoes to fill as he follows Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford and Garrett Whitlock to the mound. The top four pitchers in Boston’s starting rotation limited the Mariners to just 14 hits and five runs (four earned) in 22 innings.

Most impressively, the foursome stuck out 27 and walked just one.

Houck had good control in the spring, issuing just three walks in 15 innings. He went 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five appearances, striking out 16.

The 27-year-old has made just one previous appearance against the A’s, facing four batters and giving up two hits and no runs out of the bullpen in 2022.

The Red Sox managed the split in Seattle despite not having new closer Kenley Jansen available because of back tightness. He hopes to be ready to go by series end in Oakland.

“Nothing I can do about it. Tried to come into the ballpark and tried to get ready, but they wouldn’t allow me,” Jansen said of the team’s conservative approach over the weekend. “So got to be smart. I go out there and aggravate it, then it could be worse for a week or two. I’d rather lose one day or two so I can be back.”

The A’s are expected to counter with Boyle (2-0, 1.69 in 2023), who has yet to face the Red Sox in his career.

In fact, the 24-year-old has seen just three teams on a major-league diamond in a regular-season game — the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels last September — and impressed everyone with 15 strikeouts in 16 innings.

Boyle will be backed by a team feeling a whole lot better about itself than the one that walked off the field Saturday. Oakland had lost a third straight game to the Cleveland Guardians by a total score of 26-7.

One day later, the A’s were rushing onto the field — instead of slumping into the clubhouse — at game’s end to celebrate Abraham Toro’s walk-off walk that produced a 4-3 win.

“Nobody wants to start 0-4,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “I was proud of the effort there and proud of the fight-back that we showed after the eighth inning (in which Cleveland tied the score). That’s a good sign — not just folding or not having the energy to fight back from what was pretty ugly and turn things into a positive day.”

–Field Level Media

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