UCLA Bruins Boston Red Sox took on the Chicago White Sox in the first game of a four game set. The matchup was Nick Pivetta for the good Sox vs Dylan Cease for the less good Sox (they still rock and you should root for them in the Central division).
Nick Pivetta was not sharp early. While he was able to strike out the first batter he faced, he walked both Adam Eaton and Yoan Moncada. Naturally this backfired, as Jose Abreu laced a double to bring in a run, and the hottest hitter on the planet (Yermin Mercedes) grounded into a sacrifice to score the spare. Pivetta stopped the bleeding at two, but the Red Sox were playing from behind from the very outset, which is never a fun feeling, especially coming off a tough break loss that snapped a nine game win streak.
The second inning was also quite precarious. After Pivetta walked Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal pushed him over to third on a pitch he had to reach outside of the zone for. While he eventually walked a fourth player to load the bases, he was able to tightrope out of danger, thanks to a 400 foot flyout. Gotta love Fenway Park.
Adam Eaton stole a chance from the Red Sox to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning. With Xander Bogaerts on first after a leadoff single, Rafael Devers took two successive drives to deep right field. The first time, it went to the right of the foul pole. The second time, it was fair, but caught at the wall (it would have gone out had Eaton not been there).
The Red Sox first run did come in the third inning however, as Enrique Hernandez doubled to start the frame. Shortly thereafter, Cease uncorked a wild pitch (ruled as a passed ball) to the backstop, allowing the runner to move over to third unopposed. With no outs and a runner at third, all it was going to take was a deep fly, a weak grounder up the middle, or another wild pitch to score the run. Alex Verdugo elected for the flyball variety, as he slapped a ball into right field. Adam Eaton pumped the arm, but realized he wasn’t catching Hernandez, and the Red Sox finally got to Cease for a run. The tying run followed soon after, thanks to another Rafael Devers bullet to right field. This time, while Eaton caught the ball, he was not able to prevent the runner on third from scoring.
Pivetta for his part, didn’t allow the White Sox to score more. All things equal, one would prefer he pitched deeper, but that was not meant to be. Pivetta finished his game with 3 2⁄3 innings pitched, having allowed four hits, four walks, and two earned runs, accumulating three strikeouts on the way. Nobody will call this a good start, but it was enough for the purposes of this singular game. The bullpen would be charged with keeping the White Sox down long enough for the Red Sox bats to really come alive.
The next several innings were pretty quiet, as both Josh Taylor and Matt Andriese (mostly the latter) held the White Sox scoreless, and Dylan Cease held the Red Sox the same. In the bottom of the 6th though, the tension in the air that was brewing broke, and the Red Sox were the benefactors of a lead change.
After two quick outs, Kevin Plawecki broke through off of Evan Marshall, who had came in near the end of the 5th inning. Plawecki looped a double over the head Luis Robert, who seemed to have a good read on the ball at first. Then Enrique Hernandez drove him home via a ground ball single up the middle. While that was all they would score in the inning, it represented the first lead for the Red Sox of the day.
Unfortunately, the Sox gave it back to the other Sox, due to poor defense. A Tim Anderson single led off the inning, and from there, it spiraled. Anderson stole second effortlessly, and Plawecki made a bad throw, and Bogaerts compounded the issue by not catching it (and received the full blame with an error - dumb stat by the way), to allow Anderson over to third with nobody out. From there it was just a matter of time. The first flyout to left field led to nothing, as Anderson was obviously terrified by the cannon of Franchy Cordero.
The second flyout to left field was handled by Enrique Hernandez though, who does not have a cannon. There’s debate as to whether or not Cordero could have made the play and then the subsequent throw, but it doesn’t really matter. What happened was Anderson scoring, although it was not as foregone as it may appear. The throw was ok, but Plawecki mishandled it, and the run scored. From there, Andriese got out of the inning, albeit in a tie.
Adam Ottavino made an appearance as well today. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a bad thing, because his start to the season has been a little rough, but we saw vintage Ottavino today, and a brief snapshot of just why Red Sox fans should be thrilled we have him in the late innings. He came in, no drama, and struck out all three batters he faced. He threw nine strikes in eleven pitches, though it’s worth noting that at least two of those strikes were questionable calls to be as nice about it as possible (the less nice version is there is no way they were strikes, but welcome to umpiring in 2021).
There has been some debate as to whether it was a good idea to bring in Marwin Gonzalez, thanks to his part in the Astros cheating scandal a couple years back (paired with the Alex Cora cheating scandal, no less), but Gonzalez drove a ball into deep right field, to put the Red Sox on top by one in the bottom of the 8th inning. While I doubt Red Sox fans will forget, they probably appreciated the run scored in their favor. They threatened a bit further in the inning, working a bases loaded situation for J.D. Martinez. The White Sox pitcher, now Jose Ruiz, lost complete control of the zone, and walked Martinez following an eight pitch at-bat.
But the damage wasn’t done there. Xander Bogaerts wanted to get in on the RBI parade, and rocked one down the right field line. Adam Eaton slid to try and steal another ribbie from the Sox, and this one just happened to be out of his reach. The ball ended up bouncing into the stands, good for a two run double. When the dust cleared on the big 8th inning, the Red Sox stood as the leaders at 7-3.
And in came Matt Barnes. Look, I’m not going to mince words. It’s a four run lead with the most dominant reliever in baseball right now. He gave up his first hit of the season, but you could just as easily argue it should have been a Christian Arroyo error. Then he gave up his first run of the season, on a double that went over Hernandez’s head in center field. The next batter grounded out, and that’s your ball game.
Enrique Hernandez and Xander Bogaerts each had themselves a day offensively. Hernandez had four hits total, and Bogaerts put in a further four. They may have only acquired nine total bases in their seven hit barrage, but it was nice to see both making contact and finding holes in the defense.
The relief pitching was excellent today. Andriese, Ottavino, and Barnes combined for 5 innings pitched, five hits allowed, no walks, six strikeouts, and one earned run. I love the current bullpen. It’s way better and more fun than the one the Red Sox trotted out in 2020.
The Red Sox won, 7-4, and they have a double header tomorrow. First game is scheduled for 1:10 PM, second is scheduled for 5:10 PM. It’s going to be a fun day of baseball, show up for it.