Alex Cora explains why he pulled Tanner Houck in the middle of a perfect game


It's that time of year where the unexpected is almost expected.

That summed up what transpired during the Red Sox' 5-3 win over the Nationals Saturday.

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With starting pitcher Tanner Houck retiring all 15 batters he faced, striking out eight of them, Sox manager Alex Cora decided enough was enough. Houck's day was done after five frames, giving way to reliever Garrett Richards.

Was it a tough decision? Evidently, not.

"I didn’t struggle at all," Cora said. "He threw 40-something pitches (41) the other day and today, actually, the plan was to see where Soto was and see where we went. He did an amazing job. Fastball command. Slider was great. He gave us five solid. We had AD (Austin Davis) up a few times during the game but we were waiting for the right time to bring him in against (Juan) Soto and it just happened we had bases loaded and one out against one of the best if not the best hitter in the big leagues. It’s one of those I was telling Bobby like in the sixth or seventh inning, as a manager you want to manage with your heart but you have to be smart, too. It might look bad outside our world but the kid threw 40-something pitches the other day and today it felt like that was good enough for us to give us a chance to win. I’m glad we ended up winning the game."

Houck, who hadn't started since Sept. 15, said after the Sox win he was ready or anything.

"For me, I was planning on going out there and throwing 100 pitches," the pitcher said. "I’m not scared to do that by any means. It's only been about two weeks since I made a little entrance in the bullpen but in that timeframe, I was still doing a little bit of long relief as well, about 40 pitches. For me, I wasn't nervous about 100 pitches at all. That was my game plan – go in there, go as long as I can, and held the team out as much as I can."

While part of the equation might have been the fact that Houck was due up first in the top of the sixth - ultimately being pinch-hit for by Christian Arroyo in what was a 1-0 game at the time - Cora said that dynamic wasn't a major factor.

"Not really because where they were in the lineup was actually quote-unquote a better pocket for him than previous innings," the manager said. "For us, it was enough. Five innings and what he did the other day in Baltimore. You add that and this guy is very important for us, not only today but he will be important for us, let’s see what happens tomorrow but in the upcoming days."

As for how Houck weaved his way through the Nationals' lineup, the righty ended up primarily dominated with a slider he threw 27 times. His fastball, meanwhile, maxed out at 96.2 mph. He also tossed his split-fingered pitch six times, getting three swings.

"I would definitely say it's my best mix of all my pitches," Houck said. "Really I had everything working today – two-seam, four-seam, slider, splitter. It’s not very often that you have that. You take advantage of the day that I did have it. It’s top of the line. That’s the goal that I shoot for every time I go out there and pitch, A-plus stuff. I had it today and was able to be in the zone, get some weak contact and some swings and misses, and help the team in the best possible way. That’s all I was thinking."

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports