I am a curse on Henry Owens.
Living only about an hour drive from Portland, I love to go up and see for myself the players in the Red Sox farm system that could contribute to the big league club one day. I chronicled my first adventure to Hadlock here, in April.
I mainly bought the ticket to Hadlock to see Owens, partly because he’s only 21 years old, which I can relate to, and two, I’ve heard so much hype surrounding the guy because of his talent. Plus, on Twitter I discovered we both have the same awesome pair of Larry Legend socks.
The southpaw is tall, 6-foot-6, and stays between 90-92 on his fastball. He mixes in his lethal curve ball, around 68-70, to fool hitters late in at bats. I was excited to see it in person.
And I did see it, but only in flashes.
The outing I saw him pitch in Portland was his worst of the season. In five innings pitched, he yielded six runs – all earned – across nine hits, one of which was a dinger, and three walks. He labored through with 90 pitches, and only struck out four.
This is the guy who threw a rain-shortened no-hitter in his season-debut against the Reading Phillies, and gave up three or fewer runs in 16 of his 20 starts with the Sea Dogs this season. This is the guy who finished his Double-A, Eastern League season first in wins (14), first in strikeouts (126), and third in ERA (2.60), despite his call-up Pawtucket at the end of July.
So, you get it, the guy is really good.
Side note to the story: In April, I decided to go to Syracuse University for this fall.
Fast forward five months.
I turn on the TV in in my dorm room one night and I’m surfing channels, trying to acclimate to the new station IDs in Syracuse. I see that the Rochester Red Wings game is on an obscure channel. They’re just beginning a game against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Who’s pitching? Henry Owens. How’s he doing? Not well. Three hits and two walks turns into four earned runs over six innings pitched. He records nine strike-outs, but still, the line is tied for the worst Triple-A start of his career to that point.
Then, about a week later, I’m sitting my dorm room on a Friday morning, finished with class at 10:30, when hear that the local team, the Syracuse Chiefs, are hosting a playoff game that night. Syracuse was hosting it’s first playoff game in 16 years, facing elimination down 2-0 in the series, winner advancing to the Governors’ Cup. To whom is Syracuse down to in the series? Of course, the Pawtucket Red Sox. As I’ve written here, I love minor league baseball for it’s reasonable pricing and quality of talent. So I bought tickets to go with three of my friends. On the way to the ballpark, my friend Tim Scott, a fellow Red Sox fanatic, mentions that Henry Owens will start tonight’s game.
I was pumped. I hoped I could see vintage Owens in this game, having missed out on it against Trenton back in April, and on TV against Rochester. Third time is a charm right? Wrong.
The lede really spoiled any drama I could muster. Owens got shellacked.
He gave up five earned runs, the most in any of his Triple-A outings, and only threw four innings of work, the fewest of his Triple-A career thus far. He walked three and gave up eight hits, tied for his high in a PawSox uniform.
It could have been a lot worse, though. Owens displayed his great off-speed stuff again getting out of one particular jam in the top of the fourth where he had the bases loaded with no one out, but gave up only one run.
Still, Owens was roughed up by many of the Chiefs hitters who made solid contact, and he was especially terrorized by Emmanuel Burriss, with two bunt base-hits, a home-run, and a double.
I’m usually not a superstitious fan. I don’t believe that my team lost because the couch was six inches to the right of where it normally is, or that I didn’t put on my left sock before my right that day, or even that I didn’t eat a quarter-pounder precisely a quarter of an hour before game time. Nearly all of the time, I go to a game and believe that the players on the field, and their actions, are completely independent from my presence.
But now it’s three times that I have been and each time, it’s been…not great.
How badly has it gone?
His ERA nearly quadruples, he gives up double the amount of home-runs and his hits-per-nine-innings balloons to twice it’s normal size. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is also better when I’m not there, but it’s less drastic.
So it’s not just a psychological thing, he actually performs worse when I’m in the bleachers.
So when Henry Owens makes his major league debut next season, for his sake, and though I’d like to, I won’t be watching.