Tanner Houck being unvaxxed is killing the Red Sox on this road trip

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The Red Sox suffered maybe their worst loss of the season Tuesday, and the blame falls on one pitcher who can’t be with his teammates right now: Tanner Houck.

Boston placed Houck and reliever Kutter Crawford on the Covid restricted list heading into its series in Toronto against the Blue Jays, due to their unwillingness to be vaccinated. Canadian regulations require visitors, including athletes, to be fully vaccinated upon arrival.

Houck’s absence means Garrett Whitlock is taking his turn in the rotation this week, instead of closing games, which is why acting manager Will Venable summoned Jake Diekman out of the bullpen Tuesday to secure the Red Sox’ victory.

Of course, that did not happen. Diekman got smacked around and surrendered three runs, including a game-tying two-run homer from George Springer. The Jays went on to win the game in extras, nullifying the Red Sox’ four-run rally in the eighth.

Since Whitlock started Sunday and is slated to take the mound Thursday, he was unavailable. What a shame.

We can debate the merits of Canada’s vaccination policy for visitors, but bloviating about mandates doesn’t change the fact that Houck is letting his team down. The Red Sox woke up Wednesday with 11 losses, tied with the Orioles and Rangers for most in the American League. The AL East is expected to be a dogfight this season, and a mere few games could mean the difference between qualifying for the playoffs and sitting at home.

Even in April, every win and loss matters.

It’s apparent multiple players got vaccinated over the offseason so their availability wouldn’t be hampered. Xander Bogaerts, who’s publicly encouraged his teammates to get the shot, could be one of them.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, this won’t turn into a Kyrie Irving situation, since Toronto is the only MLB city with stringent vaccination requirements. But the Red Sox make two more trips to Canada this season, including a potentially crucial series from Sept. 30 — Oct. 2.

It would be nice if Houck and his filthy slider were available. The Red Sox could use him on this trip.