The Red Sox have been pretty good so far this year at not letting bad games snowball, something that was very much not the case in 2020. And early on in Thursday’s game, which was following a loss, things looked good. Nick Pivetta had a no-hitter through five and the offense put a couple runs on the board. In the back half of the game, things changed. Pivetta had a tough sixth that was punctuated by questionable defense. The offense was totally stymied by the Seattle bullpen. Adam Ottavino had a tough night with both control and defense. This was a game the Red Sox could have, and probably should have, won. But they did not.
After Wednesday night’s loss that was at least in part due to the poor start from Garrett Richards digging the team into an early hole, the Red Sox were looking for a strong outing from Nick Pivetta. Or, at the very least, they were hoping for him to be competitive. The righty has been good to start this season, but some of his command issues have suggested trouble could be around the trouble. That was very much not the case on Thursday, as he had no trouble at all against this Mariners lineup and was very easily the story of this game.
It was an interesting start from Pivetta, as it wasn’t really anything looking like what we’ve seen from him so far this year. In his prior starts in 2021, he had pitched a lot out of the zone, generating enough swings on those pitches to induce some weak contact while getting whiffs. In this start, he worked a ton in the zone, getting a few whiffs but also plenty of called strikes.
All of it added up to a cruise control type of start, especially early on. In fact, there was no trouble at all the first time through the order with Pivetta retiring all nine batters he faced in the first three innings, going with a contact-oriented approach. He struck out only one batter in those first three innings.
Perfection wouldn’t last too long for the righty, though, as the Mariners were able to get their first runner on base to start the fourth inning when Mitch Haniger led things off with a walk. Pivetta was still able to maintain facing the minimum number of batters, getting a double play in the very next at bat and allowing only three Mariners coming to the plate. He’d come back out in the fifth with his best inning to that point in the game, striking out two in his fourth perfect frame of the evening.
Over on the other side, the Red Sox were going up against a local kid in Justin Dunn who was a first round pick after a stellar career at BC. Although to this point in his career he’s had major issues with control, that wasn’t really the case too much in this one as his command was largely on point, at least in terms of hitting the zone. He did have some trouble leaving a few flat fastballs right over the heart of the plate, including in the first when Alex Verdugo smacked a one-out triple. The Red Sox would not make him pay, however.
The offense would make him pay soon after that. Rafael Devers came up to lead off the second inning, and like Verdugo he got a fastball down the heart of the plate. He was all over it, sending it over the bullpens in right field for a solo shot, giving the Red Sox the early 1-0 lead.
That was all they got in that inning, and then in the third they failed to capitalize after getting a pair of two-out baserunners. They would continue to get traffic on the bases in the fourth, and this time they’d do a little more with it. Devers got things started again, this time with a leadoff single. After stealing second base — the Red Sox were running all over Dunn, who allowed the most stolen bases in the American League last season — and moving over to third on a ground ball, Marwin Gonzalez drew a walk to put runners on the corners. They had a chance for a big inning, but instead settled for one run on a Hunter Renfroe RBI single to make it a 2-0 game.
So now we fast-forward to the sixth inning, with Pivetta still cruising to this point, having not allowed a hit to the Mariners. He cruised through the first two outs of the inning, but then totally lost his control, walking two straight batters. That brought Ty France to the plate, and he’d rip a line drive out to left field. It’s not really clear to me how easy the play should have been for Franchy Cordero, but it certainly should have been easier as he took a terrible route. As a result, the ball got over his head to the wall, allowing both runners to come in and tie the game on Seattle’s first hit of the night. The one silver lining is that France was cut down between second and third to end the inning.
Now, there was suddenly a little more urgency for the Red Sox offense as Seattle turned to the bullpen. They wouldn’t make good on that in the sixth, however, as Christian Vázquez drew a leadoff walk but nothing materialized beyond that.
For the seventh, Pivetta’s night had ended and Matt Andriese entered to try and keep the game all knotted up at two. Similarly to the Red Sox, Seattle got the leadoff man on after a hit by pitch, but that was all they’d get and the tie score would indeed remain.
In the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox offense got the start they needed with Kiké Hernández leading off the inning with a Fenway special triple. This time it was a ball off the Monster and it was clear the Mariners outfield does not have experience at this park. Boston would then catch a break to re-take the lead when a ball in the dirt got by Luis Torrens and all the way to the backstop, allowing Hernández to come in and make it a 3-2 ballgame. They’d also get a single in the inning, but no more runs.
With the lead back in hand, Alex Cora was able to turn to his late-inning arms, starting with Adam Ottavino in the eighth. It was not the start to the inning the righty wanted, as he got ahead 1-2 before issuing a walk, and then the runner quickly stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. Ottavino then issued a four-pitch walk to put the go-ahead run on base. That brought J.P. Crawford to the plate, and he dropped a bunt back to the mound. Ottavino got a little over-excited and thought he had a play at third base, but instead he threw it away and allowed the tying run to come around to score.
Fortunately, Ottavino somehow managed to get out of that inning with only the one run coming across thanks to a pair of ground balls, and so the game was tied heading into the bottom of the eighth. The offense went down in order, bringing Matt Barnes into the game for the ninth. He had a perfect inning of his own, giving his team a chance to walk it off before heading to extras. They couldn’t do it, and it was to extras we would go.
For the tenth inning, the Red Sox somewhat surprisingly didn’t go back to Barnes after throwing only 12 pitches in the ninth, instead turning to Darwinzon Hernandez. With the runner starting on second thanks to the absurd extra inning rules, Taylor Trammell led off the inning with a bunt to move the runner up to third. That brought Sam Haggerty to the plate, and he ripped a double into left field (with another interesting route from Cordero) to give Seattle the 4-3 lead. A few batters (and a couple walks) later, Mitch Haniger hit one into the bullpen, pushing the Red Sox deficit to four and pretty much putting this one away.
But the offense did have one more chance to score at least four runs and continue this game. They did go down in order, putting an end to a frustrating game for the Red Sox.
These two teams continue this four-game set on Friday with another game starting at 7:10 PM ET. This one will have Martín Pérez go up against Yusei Kikuchi.
It appears the FanGraphs win probability tool is on the fritz again.