Henry Owens wasn't the problem on Tuesday night in New York. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Closing Time: Henry Owens pitches well in debut, then everything else was awful in loss to Yankees

John Tomase
August 04, 2015 - 6:36 pm

Henry Owens may not have aced his big league debut, but there's nothing wrong with a solid B-plus. Making his first start in a park known for its offense against a lineup that recently exploded for 21 runs in one game and later reached double digits twice in three days against the pitching-rich White Sox, Owens did more than enough to justify another turn in the Red Sox rotation. Overcoming a slow start that saw him fall behind frequently en route to a run in the first, Owens left in the sixth with two runners on and the Red Sox leading 2-1. Both inherited runners scored in the span of three Robbie Ross pitches to put Owens on the hook for the loss, but the Red Sox are well beyond caring about wins and losses ... which is good, since the Yankees teed off on the bullpen en route to a 13-3 win. What mattered was how Owens looked, and the answer was simple -- like he belonged. "I was anxious to be out here," Owens said. "Very excited. I was pleased with the opportunity, and I tried to seize it the best I could. I ran into a couple of tough innings, but hopefully there's more to come." Featuring a fastball that touched 94 mph late in the game but generally sat at 91-92, the 23-year-old left-hander kept the Yankees off-balance with a changeup and sweeping curve. He ended up allowing five hits and three runs in his five-plus innings, walking one and striking out five. Lanky and angular, Owens did enough to suggest that as he grows and matures physically, his stuff could be tough to handle, especially for left-handed hitters. He started strongly, striking out Jacoby Ellsbury swinging to open the game. But then he struggled with  his command, bouncing curveballs, missing up in the zone, and falling in frequent 3-1 holes. Chris Young beat out an infield single to deep short and Alex Rodriguez walked to put Owens in immediate trouble. A Mark Teixeira single made it 1-0 before Owens even knew what had happened. He settled from there, however, with Brian McCann flying to center and Carlos Beltran popping out. "I felt like they were off balance for the most part," Owens said. "A few of their hits weren't necessarily hard contact. When pitches were up in the zone, some pitches were hit hard for outs. Alex found a gap for that double." Owens tried not to be starstruck. "I looked around when I was warming up, like, 'Here I am,'" Owens said. "I tried to embrace it the best I could and have fun at the same time." After Chase Headley led off the second with a single, Owens found his groove, retiring 12 straight before Young singled and A-Rod doubled leading off the sixth. That was it for Owens, who watched his lead evaporate in short order. "You can talk all you want, but what he's going to experience for the first time on this stage, you just hope he's out there controlling the environment and ultimately controlling the baseball," said manager John Farrell before the game. On that score, consider the night a success -- maybe not a rousing one, but encouraging nonetheless. PLAYER OF THE GAME: Yankees outfielder Chris Young is a former All-Star who has emerged as New York's lefty killer, and he lived up to his advanced billing by going 3-for-4 with a homer, four runs and three RBIs. WHAT WENT RIGHT -- Owens did not look overwhelmed against a good lineup. That's a good sign. -- First baseman Mike Napoli remained hot at the plate, recording a pair of doubles against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, though one of them was aided by a miscommunication in the Yankees outfield. -- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval matched his July home run total with one swing against Tanaka in the seventh, blasting a solo shot to right that pulled the Red Sox within a run at 4-3. -- Blake Swihart continues to look more comfortable at the plate, going 1-for-4 with a sharp RBI single and a lineout to end the game. WHAT WENT WRONG -- Oh, bullpen. First Robbie Ross gave away Owens' win by allowing two inherited runners to score in just three pitches. Then newly acquired Jean Machi and veterans Craig Breslow and Alexi Ogando combined to allow nine runs in the seventh as the Yankees put it away. "Well, every guy that we brought to the mound, some pitches found the middle of the plate and they didn't miss them," Farrell said. "A nine-run inning,  that's a rough night. Obviously, we're looking for better. Their lineup had their way with our bullpen." -- Shortstop Xander Bogaerts made a low throw on Jacoby Ellsbury's leadoff grounder in the seventh. Mike Napoli probably should've scooped it, but Bogaerts was charged with the error and the floodgates opened. "I should have just thrown that ball in his chest and maybe we have a different result," Bogaerts said. -- Second baseman Brock Holt went 0-for-4 and left three runners on base. -- Did we mention the bullpen?