The Red Sox are playing their best baseball of the year when, if we’re being honest, it’s probably better if they weren’t. While the wins aren’t helping draft position, though, there are key players performing well, so it’s tough to be upset about that. Nick Pivetta joined that list on Tuesday night in what was his Red Sox debut. It wasn’t all perfect and he benefited from facing a cold Orioles lineup, but all in all it was hard not to be impressed. He rode his slider and fastball to eight strikeouts and allowed just a single run over five innings of work. He’ll have one more start in the season finale before the year is out. On the other end, the Red Sox got a a big three-run shot from Christian Vázquez and a three-hit performance from J.D. Martinez. Add it all up and you get an 8-3 win to push the team’s record to 21-34.
We got our first look at Nick Pivetta on Tuesday night at Fenway as he made his way up after spending the last month or so down in Pawtucket. This was a highly-anticipated debut for the righty, partially because there’s real talent here even if he has never been able to harness it in the majors, partially because he was part of a trade return, and possibly because we are all begging for competent pitchers to watch. I will be honest, I was not expecting a whole hell of a lot from Pivetta, but he exceeded my expectations. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was a very, very solid debut.
Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for the righty, though, as he had some trouble finding the plate early on. After starting the outing off with a strikeout, he issued a walk and gave up a fairly hard-hit fly out. That was followed up with a second walk in four batters, and suddenly two men were on for DJ Stewart. The Orioles right fielder actually made what would end up being the weakest contact of the night off Pivetta in the game, but his bloop snuck into left field for a base hit to give the Orioles the early 1-0 lead.
From there, things settled down in a big way. There was still some hard contact — in all, nine of the ten batted balls against Pivetta were at least 90 mph off the bat — but not much in the way of damage. The righty got a strike out to finish off that first inning and limit the damage to one run, and then followed that up with three straight strikeouts in the second to give him four in a row overall. He found himself in a little bit more trouble in the third when Cedric Mullins started things off with a base hit. To be fair to Pivetta it could have been called an error on Devers, but it was also an absolute rocket, so either way it wasn’t a great pitch. Pivetta worked around it either way, getting a couple fly outs and a sixth strikeout.
He would have two more innings left in him, and got the job done in those as well. The Orioles managed just a two-out single in the fourth and Pivetta was able to work around a couple of baserunners in the fifth thanks to an inning-ending double play. Ultimately, he ended up tossing five innings with just the one run coming across with a very impressive eight strikeouts to go along with three walks. We’ll have more on his outing in the morning, but overall the slider was by far his best pitch.
On the other side of the game, the Red Sox were able to get to the Orioles early thanks to some rough, rough defense from Baltimore. Christian Vázquez got things started in the second with his team trailing 1-0, getting to first base thanks to a throwing error from Rio Ruiz. After a Jackie Bradley Jr. base hit put two on, Bobby Dalbec came through with a double out to left field to tie the game up and put a pair in scoring position. Michael Chavis came through with a sacrifice fly to give Boston a 2-1 lead, and then a couple batters later Alex Verdugo hit a soft liner out to left field. Somehow, DJ Stewart just straight-up whiffed on it, giving Baltimore their second error of the inning and letting the Red Sox bring home a third run.
They’d add on to their lead a bit in the third as well, starting things off with a Xander Bogaerts base hit. Boston followed that up with a couple of outs, but Bradley kept the inning alive with his second hit of the game. Dalbec then did the same, and just like that it was a 4-1 game.
This was still the score as we made our way into the sixth, but now Pivetta was out of the game and Marcus Walden was coming in. It’s a brutal year for him, and it didn’t get any better here. Renato Núñez led things off for Baltimore and he got a 1-1 sinker that stayed right in the wheelhouse. It was deposited into the Monster Seats, cutting Boston’s lead to two. The Orioles then got a base hit before hitting a fly ball to Chavis in left field. He is still learning the outfield and it showed here as he took an initial step in and eventually had the ball go up and over his glove for a costly error. Now with two on and still nobody out, Walden did get a huge double play. Unfortunately, the ball found Chavis again and he once again misplayed one. It was ruled a hit this time, but it still resulted in a run, making it a one-run game and ending the night for Walden. Ryan Weber had to come in and finish off the inning, which he did with the 4-3 lead still in hand.
The Red Sox were able to get some of that damage back in the bottom of the inning, starting with a walk from Jonathan Araúz. He’d move up to second on a passed ball but was still standing there with two outs. Bogaerts kept the inning alive with a walk of his own and that left things up to J.D. Martinez. He had doubled in his last at bat, and he came through here as well, this time with a base hit out to right field to make it a 5-3 game. Christian Vázquez then had the big swing, blasting a fastball middle-out into the Monster Seats and opening up a five-run lead for the Sox.
Darwinzon Hernandez got the call in the seventh and got off to a bit of a tough start thanks to his defense, having the leadoff man reach thanks to a rough error from Devers. The lefty worked around that for an otherwise perfect inning, though.
The eighth belonged to Domingo Tapia, who was suddenly featuring a pretty nasty two-seam and worked around a two-out double for a scoreless frame of his own.
That left it up to Dylan Covey to finish out the five-run game in the ninth. He got off to a tough start with back-to-back singles off the bat, but he followed it up with two outs. The righty couldn’t finish it off, though, issuing a walk to load the bases which then forced Ron Roenicke to bring the closer in. Matt Barnes needed only three pitches to get the final out and finish off the win.
The Red Sox and Orioles continue their three-game set on Wednesday with Nathan Eovaldi taking the mound against Dean Kremer. First pitch for that one is once again set for 7:30 PM ET.