For some reason, despite an all-time terrible start to the season by the Red Sox, who got swept by a team that nearly every outlet had figured for a 0.0% chance to make the playoffs, I am still here and willingly recapping a game between the Red Sox and a Rays team that has seemingly picked up where they left off. That is, of course, one game away from a World Series title.
The assignments tonight on the mound were Nick Pivetta for the Red Sox and Michael Wacha for the Rays. Both had strong springs that should encourage their respective fanbases, but both have had struggles in recent seasons that should temper expectations of the fanbases.
Nick Pivetta struggled with control early in this one, as it took him 29 pitches (approximately five of which were in the strike zone, and maybe three or four more that were too close to call either way) to get through the first inning. The main culprit was his fastball. Call it nerves or being really cold (the wind was also whipping around early on), but the fact remains that his new and improved velocity also led to wild control. Pivetta was hitting 93 with the fastball last season, and entered today with the pitch registering as high as 97 mph. Unfortunately most of these were nowhere near the zone. But baby steps and all that.
Franchy Cordero, meanwhile, provided first blood for the Red Sox. After Christian Vázquez started the inning with a single, he was pushed over to second on a ground out by Marwin Gonzalez, and then to third on a flyout by Hunter Renfore. Cordero hit a ball to left field that off the bat looked like it may have been a fly out, but had enough on it to get to the wall. The ball clanged off the Monster, and Cordero ended up at second base with Vázquez coming in to score and give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead, their first of 2021.
Pivetta managed to calm down over the next couple of innings, as he showed a little more of why some Red Sox fans have high hopes for the righty. While his control remained suspect, even after he’d reigned in the pitch count, his stuff is nasty enough to get a swing on nearly anything close to the plate. Further, Pivetta is just a fun guy to watch because of the emotion he shows when he succeeds.
Speaking of emotional, high energy players that are fun to watch, Alex Verdugo got off the schneid, lacing a loud double into left field for his first hit of the season. For the Sox to be successful, Verdugo needs to be closer to what he was last year. If he’s in good shape, theoffense has a very strong catalyst near the top of the order.
A second run scored for Boston in the fourth inning, as both Vázquez and Gonzalez got on base to start the inning. Hunter Renfroe then launched a ball into right field that looked to be a double off the bat, but was caught by Randy Arozarena. Simply saying that much does him a disservice though, just look at this play:
Cordero followed it up with an incredible at-bat against Wacha, It took nine pitches, but eventually he grounded out, bringing Gonzalez in from third for Cordero’s second RBI of the night. Cordero also made a good catch in foul territory earlier in the evening, and on the whole he had a very good night.
On the other side, Pivetta managed to turn around his game after a shaky first, and finished his evening with five scoreless innings of work with two hits and four walks allowed, and four strikeouts. After the first inning, in which he threw 29 pitches, he buckled down and threw 63 over the next four innings combined. While he had a little help from the umpire (who had a consistently bad zone), it was probably more than a little thanks to the framing of Christian Vázquez. The only negative I take from tonight was his poor command, especially with the fastball.
J.D. Martinez had a quietly great night as well, continuing his strong start to the season. Martinez added a strong single, and two walks to his ledger in this one. After his second walk, Xander Bogaerts got in on the action with a long shot that almost got out of the park. Martinez attempted to score from first, forcing a throw home. With the throw wide, Martinez would be easily safe, but on a heads-up play, Bogaerts attempted to keep on chugging over to third, which he did successfully. The throw to third was also wide, and gave Xander an easy trot home, allowing the Red Sox to take a 5-0 lead off of Wacha and the Rays.
Enrique Hernández blasted a one-run double of his own in the 6th inning off of former Red Sox reliever Chris Mazza to make it 6-0. He struck out the previous three times up to the plate, so it was nice to see him get a hold of one, and really give it a ride. Verdugo tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly to left field, to make it 7-0.
Matt Andriese made his second appearance of the season tonight, and looked pretty good. He had more command of his offspeed stuff, which allowed him to get through 2 1⁄3 innings. While nobody will mistake Andriese for an ace, if he can continue the performance he had tonight then he and Garrett Whitlock will make for a deadly combination as first men out of the bullpen.
Unfortunately for Andriese, an easy inning-ending double play ball caught the second base bag awkwardly, and exploded in the face of Hernández, who could not be expected to handle that ball. As a result, instead of the inning ending, the Rays got more chances. A batter later, the bases were loaded for Manuel Margot, with Darwinzon Hernandez now in to face him.
Hernandez avoided walks in his first outing, but was not so lucky tonight, as he couldn’t find the strike zone. He walked in two straight batters, both leading to earned runs for Andriese that he didn’t really deserve. He came back to strike out Willy Adames, and that would be it for him. The third pitcher of the inning would be Adam Ottavino, looking to close the door on the Rays rally, and earn himself a save. He made it interesting, drawing the count full, but ultimately froze Mike Brosseau with a slider to end the Rays threat.
Verdugo added another run for the Red Sox in the 8th to make it 8-2, but the scoring didn’t stop there as J.D. Martinez hit his second (and the Red Sox second) home run of the season to make it 11-2.
Every Red Sox got a hit today... except Rafael Devers, who is now 0-11 to start the season. It was an absolutely deconstruction of the Rays on both ends of the baseball, and is exactly the type of baseball everyone here is hoping the Red Sox can play going forward.
The Red Sox and the Rays will play again tomorrow, at 7:10 PM. It feels good to win again.