Battle of aces set for Phillies-Red Sox rubber game

Thu Jun 13 2:41am ET
Field Level Media

An outstanding pitching duel is on tap as the Boston Red Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies in the rubber game of a three-game series on Thursday.

With right-hander Tanner Houck (6-5, 1.91 ERA) on the mound, the Red Sox will look to take the series after storming back in the middle innings for an 8-6 win in the second game on Wednesday.

Philadelphia will counter with fellow right Aaron Nola (8-2, 2.77 ERA).

Houck is in the midst of an outstanding run in Boston's rotation, pitching at least six innings in four straight outings while allowing just four total runs in that span.

"I want to go six, seven or eight (innings)," Houck said. "That's when you separate yourself as a pitcher. You want the other team to think it's going to be a long day. That's how I look at it."

Houck is coming off his fourth game of the season with at least nine strikeouts. He gave up just two runs on three hits en route in seven innings against the White Sox in Chicago on June 6 to win his third straight decision.

Solid starts have been a season-long theme for the Red Sox, led by Houck, the American League leader in ERA.

"I was asking for five (innings) from all of (the starters)," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "They've been awesome (at) giving us more. So we still have work to do? Yeah. There are a few guys who are struggling. But the bad (starts) are a lot better than last year."

The current series started with Kutter Crawford allowing just two earned runs in a six-inning start on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Boston offense picked up Nick Pivetta -- who was tagged for four runs on six hits and four walks in four innings -- with a 13-hit effort.

"They have a good team," Cora said of the Phillies, "but we play hard and we're talented."

David Hamilton went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run that helped to highlight Boston's eight-run spurt. He has recorded multiple hits in five of his past six games.

Houck is heading into his second career start against Philadelphia. He lost to the Phillies on May 7, 2023, after surrendering three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Nola is enjoying a similar run to Houck, having gone five straight starts without a loss. The Toronto Blue Jays handed him his most recent defeat on May 8.

Most recently, Nola spun seven shutout, two-hit innings with five strikeouts and no walks on June 5 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"His breaking ball was really sharp, his command was really, really, really good," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. "I thought in that seventh inning, he sort of emptied the tank, even though he only had 93 pitches."

The Phillies are 11-2 in Nola's starts this season.

Despite the Wednesday loss, Philadelphia still holds the largest division lead in baseball at 10 games over the second-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper both went 2-for-4, but the Phillies took their second defeat in three games following a 7-1 run.