The Red Sox and Yankees will wrap up their three-game set Wednesday afternoon when rookie Henry Owens toes the rubber against Masahiro Tanaka.
Owens has lived up to his billing through five big league starts. Projected as a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm to potential No. 2, he’s gone 2-1 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.
Over his last couple of outings, Owens has settled in to his spot on the big league staff. In his last 13 innings, he’s given up just nine hits and two earned runs while striking out 10. Those numbers are good enough for a 1.38 ERA and a .191/.269/.298 opponent slash line. After Owens beat Johnny Cueto and the Royals with an eight-inning, two-run performance, interim manager Torey Lovullo lauded the left-hander’s chemistry with fellow rookie Blake Swihart.
“Quality outing for Henry,” Lovullo said. “What’s there not to say about what he did? Eight innings, one earned run, got into a great rhythm. Him and Blake were solid together. A two-pitch, at times three-pitch mix. It just seemed to really all click for him. He got into a great flow and a great rhythm. We wanted him to touch the eighth inning, those were some of the conversations we were having in the dugout, but he was so efficient that he worked through the eighth inning. That was a special night for him.”
Against the Mets last Friday, Owens was ineffective but successful. In five innings of work he scattered five hits and four walks that produced just two New York runs. He did, however, strike out six and draw 15 swinging strikes, his second most during his limited time in the majors.
Owens won’t have an easy path to a win Wednesday as Tanaka takes the bump for the Yankees. The Japanese right-hander is 23-11 in his two-year career with a 3.17 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. This season he’s regressed a bit, but it could be due to a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow. He sports a 10-6 record and a 3.62 ERA in 2015, while his strikeouts per nine have dropped a full whiff since last year, from 9.3 to 8.1.
Tanaka, 26, had his ups and downs early in the year, but he has been a model of consistency in the second half. In eight outings since the All-Star break, he’s allowed more than three earned runs just once, on July 29 vs. the Rangers when he allowed four. His ERA over this span reflects this consistency as its identical to his season mark, 3.62. One issue area Tanaka has struggled with since the break is the long ball. He’s served up 10 in 54 2/3 innings of work.
Tanaka’s last outing was less a reflection on his aptitude and more a tribute to the Yankees‘ explosive offense. Facing the Braves last Friday, he went seven innings and gave up three runs. Meanwhile, the Bronx Bombers plated a whopping 15 in a 15-4 victory and Tanaka’s 10th win. Before the game began, Tanaka explained what he needed to do to get his team back in the plus column.
“[I] just basically have to try to go out there and to give the best to always give the chance for the team to win,” he said.
Tanaka has won both of his starts against the Red Sox this year, despite a less-than-mediocre 4.91 ERA. In his latest outing vs. the Sox, he posted a quality start by giving up three runs over six innings in a 13-3 drubbing.
Yankees vs. Owens (LHP)
Jacoby Ellsbury (3 plate appearances): .000 AVG/.000 OBP/.000 SLG, 2 strikeouts
Alex Rodriguez (3): .500/.667/1.000, 1 double
Chris Young (3): .667/.667/.667
Carlos Beltran is 0-for-2 against Owens.
Didi Gregorius is 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against Owens.
Chase Headley is 1-for-2 against Owens.
Brian McCann is 0-for-2 against Owens.
Brendan Ryan is 0-for-2 against Owens.
Mark Teixeira is 0-for-2 with one RBI against Owens.
No other Yankees have faced Owens.
Red Sox vs. Tanaka (RHP)
Xander Bogaerts (13): .154/.154/.231, 2 RBIs, 3 strikeouts
David Ortiz (13): .182/.308/.545, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Brock Holt (10): .200/.200/.300
Jackie Bradley Jr. (8): .143/.125/.143
Hanley Ramirez (6): .200/.167/.800, 1 HR, 2 RBIs
Pablo Sandoval (6): .333/.333/.833, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts
Mookie Betts (5): .500/.600/.750, 1 double
Alejandro De Aza (5): .250/.400/.250
Ryan Hanigan (5): .200/.200/.200, 2 strikeouts
Blake Swihart is 1-for-2 with an RBI against Tanaka.
Rusney Castillo has a walk in one plate appearance against Tanaka.
Josh Rutledge and Travis Shaw have not faced Tanaka.