Red Sox

McAdam: For Tanner Houck, the reality was even better than the dream

On Sunday, anticipating his first major league start that was then still two days away, Tanner Houck did little to hide his excitement.

"It's been a dream of mine since I  started playing baseball,'' said Houck.

We all want to realize our dreams. We all want our fantasies to come true.

But it doesn't always work that way. In fact, it seldom does. When something is years and years in the making, it can be difficult to meet expectations. And so, the dreams in the backyard sometimes give way to a much harsher reality. They're seldom as good as we envision.

Tanner Houck, however, was the exception to the rule. On Tuesday, his first major league start was all that he had hoped it would be -- and possibly more.

Five shutout innings, just two hits allowed, and a win -- for the team and himself -- to savor. Just trying topping that.

"Definitely right now, kind of high on life,'' conceded Houck after he and three other relievers shut out the Miami Marlins 2-0. "The win was truly amazing.''

From his pre-game warmup in the bullpen to sweating out the final four innings in the dugout, Houck experienced a variety of emotions: from apprehension to exhilaration and everything in between. Energized from the beginning, he eventually settled in and went on to become the first Red Sox rookie starter to win his debut since Eduardo Rodriguez in 2015.

But there were, as expected, challenges on the way. He twice had to extricate himself from two-on, two-out jams. Impressively, both times he finished the inning with a swinging strikeout.

His fastball played well, occasionally touching the mid-90s and featured its trademark movement. His splitter, still a work in progress and mostly reserved for lefthanded hitters, was uneven but suitable when it needed to be.

Mostly, Houck flourished with