Tanner Houck appears close to solidifying his role with the Boston Red Sox, who look for a sweep of their three-game series against the host Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
The 25-year-old right-hander has bounced between the majors and minors this season, but he was given a regular spot in the rotation last week.
Houck could serve a key role for Boston, which is looking to extend its winning streak to four games after posting a 10-inning, 5-3 win on Saturday.
Houck (0-3, 3.43 ERA) has recorded six strikeouts in five of his last six starts and walked only six batters over that stretch.
“He’s been awesome,” manager Alex Cora said. “Looking forward to him staying with us and pitch every five days and be part of this, finally, on a more consistent basis. He earned it. He deserves it, and I think, you know, obviously, he’s been helping us to get better and he will keep doing that.”
Houck is looking to improve on last Tuesday’s outing, when he surrendered three runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings against Minnesota.
The Red Sox received a spark Saturday from outfielder J.D. Martinez, who entered the contest mired in a 0-for-20 skid.
Martinez had three hits in the win, including a three-run homer in the 10th inning against Nick Wittgren.
The four-time All-Star hit third on Saturday behind Kyle Schwarber, who went 3-for-5 with a homer and is batting .385 (15-for-39) with two homers since joining the Red Sox.
The Red Sox have played the past two games without infielders Enrique Hernandez and Christian Arroyo, who were placed on the COVID-19 injured list before Friday’s series opener.
The Indians will turn to right-hander Eli Morgan (2-6, 5.98 ERA), who is looking to close out the month on a high note. He allowed four runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 frames in last Tuesday’s 7-3 loss to Texas.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound rookie has settled into the Indians’ rotation this month, going 1-3 with a 4.28 ERA in five starts across 27 1/3 innings.
Morgan, who is making his first appearance against Boston, owns a 7.67 ERA in seven home starts this season compared to a 4.00 mark in five outings away from Progressive Field.
The Indians optioned right-hander James Karinchak to Triple-A Columbus before Saturday’s contest and activated first baseman Bobby Bradley from the injured list.
Karinchak has served as a high-leverage relief option this season, but he has gone 0-2 with two blown saves and an 11.00 ERA in his last 12 appearances.
“We made the decision on what is best for James Karinchak and how can we get him back to himself,” said pitching coach Carl Willis. “This is a moment to catch his breath. To be able to work on some things without having to hold back because he needed to be available that night or the following day in the game.”
Bradley, who was on the injured list with a strained left knee, started Saturday at first base and went 2-for-5 with an RBI while batting sixth.
–Field Level Media