Red Sox

Red Sox-Rays takeaways: Houck bails Sale out in Game 2

Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox responded perfectly after being shut out in Game 1 of the American League Division Series by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Game 2 was just about the opposite of what we witnessed the night before as the Red Sox offense exploded for 20 hits and 14 runs. Chris Sale lasted only one inning in a dismal outing, but he was bailed out by the offense and right-hander Tanner Houck who pitched five brilliant innings in relief.

Before we look ahead to Game 3, here are a few immediate takeaways from the Red Sox' 14-6 win:

Red Sox offense bounces back

The Red Sox exploded for 12 runs a day after being shut out in Game 1. It all started with a two-run top of the first with RBI singles from Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo.

Bogaerts and Verdugo did the damage again in the third inning, blasting back-to-back homers to bring Boston back within one run.

Kiké Hernandez's solo shot in the fifth made it a brand new ballgame. The Red Sox super utility man finished with five hits -- a single, three doubles and the homer.

J.D. Martinez returned to the lineup after missing Game 1 with an ankle injury and went 4-for-5 with three RBI that came from this go-ahead blast:

There has been speculation about Rafael Devers playing through an arm injury, but he looked healthy Friday night with a near-home run early in the game and then a two-run shot in the eighth.

The Red Sox ended with 20 hits in the victory, carrying all of the momentum heading into Game 3 in Boston.


Chris Sale doesn't look like Chris Sale

It wasn't looking good for the Red Sox early on as Chris Sale was chased from the game after only one inning. The left-handed ace allowed five runs, four coming on a grand slam from Jordan Luplow that made Sox fans quickly regret celebrating their two runs in the top frame.

Sale's poor performance comes a few days after he only got through 2 1/3 innings vs. the Washington Nationals.

Simply put, this is not the Sale the Red Sox hoped they'd be getting when the veteran returned from Tommy John rehab. It'll be interesting to see how manager Alex Cora uses him going forward in the playoffs. The guy who replaced him in Friday night's game might be the better starting option at this point.

Tanner Houck does look like Chris Sale

The guy who replaced Sale was Tanner Houck, and the right-hander looked like the pitcher everyone was hoping Sale would be. The 25-year-old often is referred to as the "right-handed Chris Sale," and he showed why with only two hits and one earned run allowed in five innings. He struck out five with help from his filthy wipeout slider.

Houck has been virtually unhittable over his last three appearances. He became the first pitcher to retire at least 27 batters in a row within a single season (regular and postseason) since at least 1961, per Elias Sports Bureau.

If the series goes five games, we wouldn't be surprised to see Houck get the Game 5 starting nod given his outstanding performance in this one.

Hunter Renfroe is due

While the rest of the lineup raked, Hunter Renfroe's struggles continued. The Red Sox right fielder went 1-for-5 on the night and grounded into two double plays, once with the bases loaded. Since Boston's Wild Card win over the New York Yankees, Renfroe is 3-for-12 with zero home runs, zero RBI and three strikeouts.

Don't expect the slump to last much longer. Renfroe was one of Boston's most reliable bats all season long with 31 homers, 96 RBI and a .816 OPS. He's due for a big hit, and that could come as soon as Game 3 on Sunday at Fenway Park.