The 24-year-old who was deemed either not good enough to help the Red Sox win games or not ready to compete in the big leagues until six days ago took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Sunday.
Tanner Houck, one of the many prospects the Sox kept in Pawtucket for the majority of their 2020 campaign while they've raced to the bottom of the MLB standings, took another step forward with a tremendous start in the Sox' 10-2 win over the Yankees.
Against a Yankees team that entered Sunday on a 10-game winning streak while scoring more than 8.5 runs per game in that stretch, Houck stood on the mound for his Fenway Park debut and might as well have been smoking a cigar.
He looked as cool, calm and confident as anyone to ever stand on the bump. He had the lowest velocity he's had in some time, but adapted on the fly and carved up the Yankees with two-seam fastballs and sliders.
"I think that's kind of his personality," said manager Ron Roenicke, who's team finished 1-9 against the Yankees this year. "He's kind of a laid-back guy, so that's what I would expect from him out on the mound. He doesn't get keyed up. He doesn't rush things. He tries to keep everything loose with a good rhythm."
Houck didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when he allowed a double to Tyler Wade and an unearned run to eventually score after a Rafael Devers error. It was the first run allowed in two brilliant starts thus far.
He finished six innings with one hit, the unearned run, three walks and four strikeouts. He's now allowed just three hits total over 11 innings with 11 strikeouts to begin his career.
"Getting to play behind Houck has been incredible," utility man Michael Chavis said. "I didn't get an opportunity to play with him through the minors but I got to see him in spring training and you can just tell from watching that the dude's got some special stuff.
"Having gotten to play behind him a couple of times now, it's fun to watch and it's fun to play behind him just because he keeps you in the game, he competes, and just the way he approaches his pitching, it's fun to be behind."
While Houck was kept at the alternate site in Pawtucket for the majority of this season, the Sox had used 14 other starting pitchers on their way to a 6.18 ERA that would've registered as the worst by any MLB team in 25 years.
In two starts since the Red Sox called him up, Houck has become the eighth MLB pitcher since 1901 to debut with two starts of at least five innings while allowing two hits or fewer.
"He'll have one more outing, so it will be nice to see him one more time," Roenicke said. "And when we'll go through the offseason and figure out what the rotation will be. And there's no doubt his name will be mentioned. We'll talk about him quite a bit."
They sure better.
As much as the Red Sox spat in the face of their fan base by providing a non-competitive product on the field and keeping good players in Pawtucket this season, at least they know they have an interesting prospect to get excited about next year.
Houck was probably more impressive Sunday than he was in his debut, when he struck out seven. With only a low-90s heater in this one after flashing 97 mph in his debut, Houck turned to the two-seamer and kept spinning it by the potent Yankees' bats.
"Whenever velo is down like that, I typically lean on the two-seamer," he said. "It's moving a lot more than usual. Just went out there and attacked with that."
Sounds simple. And he looked like a veteran working his stuff around the zone, getting the Yankees to chase and inducing weak contact.
Asked if he thinks he's made drastic changes in development since the season started or he's just fine-tuned some things, he said "a little bit of both."
The time in Pawtucket did allow him to get his delivery more consistent and "make small minor adjustments," he said.
"I think a little bit of time definitely helped me," he said. "It slowed me down a little bit and was truly able to just refine the mechanics and get them to where I believe was a repeatable and successful way of me pitching."
Watching him through two starts, it's hard not to wonder how the Sox' season would've gone differently had he begun the year in the big league rotation.