After sweeping the Yankees and taking the first game of this Royals series, the Red Sox were looking for their fifth win in a row on Tuesday. They didn’t get much help from Nick Pivetta, who followed a no-hit outing up with an everything-is-a-hit outing. The righty got hit around all night by the Royals and couldn’t complete five innings, but it wouldn’t matter. The offense was able to pick up Pivetta, but not with the power we’ve gotten used to. Instead, they were grinding out at bats and smacked enough singles to keep pace and eventually eke out the victory.
The Red Sox rotation was a big surprise early in the season, and perhaps the most surprising part of their performance was that they were regularly going relatively deep into games. That wasn’t common around the league, but the pitchers were able to be efficient and effective early in their starts. That hasn’t been the case as much over the last few weeks, and it happened again tonight with Nick Pivetta, who got hit around after not allowing a single hit in his previous start.
It was trouble for Pivetta right off the bat, as his home park let him down to start off Tuesday evening’s game. Whit Merrifield was in the leadoff spot for Kansas City in this one, and Pivetta tried to get a fastball up and away by the batter. Instead, Merrifield poked it out to right field, and Fenway’s dimensions played into his hands. The fly ball curled around the pole, and the Royals had a very early 1-0 lead. They got a ground-rule double and a single in the inning as well, but Carlos Santana was afraid of Hunter Renfroe’s arm. He’d stick at third on the base hit and eventually be stranded there.
But the Red Sox were still down after just a half-inning of baseball, and it became clear this was going to be an all-offense back-and-forth affair. Brad Keller was struggling mightily coming into this start, and sure enough the very first pitch he threw grazed the shoulder of Kiké Hernández to put the leadoff man on. Hernández quickly moved up to third on a base hit, and J.D. Martinez brought him home after that with a single of his own.
However, what could have been a potentially huge rally to start the game was held back when Martinez foolishly tried to get to second as the throw came back in towards third before being cut off. He was easily cut down at second for the first out of the inning. Boston did get one more in the inning to take the lead on yet another single, this one from Xander Bogaerts, but it still felt like the inning could have been a bit bigger. Hunter Renfroe abruptly finished the inning with a double play, stranding runners on the corners with just one out.
The theme of this game was going to be teams having answers nearly every innings, though, and the Royals sure had one in the second. Hunter Dozier led the inning off with a double off the Monster, and he was quickly brought home on an RBI single from Michael A. Taylor. Kansas City tied the game back up just two batters into the inning. They got two men on in the inning after the run scored as well, including Taylor moving up to second with nobody out on a wild pitch, but they settled for just the one run and a tie ballgame.
It actually stayed knotted up at two until we got to the bottom of the third — this was in part due to more bad baserunning from Boston when Bobby Dalbec ended the second getting thrown out at third — when Keller suddenly lost all control. After a quick first out in the inning, the righty issued three consecutive walks and the Red Sox had the bases loaded. It was a big chance for them to put some space between them and the Royals, but instead they managed just a sacrifice fly from Renfroe and settled for only a one-run lead.
And predictably, that lead was not going to last very long. Pivetta was still rolling into the fourth despite having given up a handful of hits and a couple of runs already, but once again Dozier led off the inning with a double. Also once again, Taylor came through. The only thing is, instead of a base hit, this time around Taylor smashed a hanging slider the other way to clear the bullpen wall for a two-run homer. With that, KC was back up by a run.
But again, this game was all about answering back, and the Red Sox did that in the bottom of the inning. This time it was the bottom of the order with Danny Santana and Dalbec starting the inning with back-to-back singles, and a third straight from Hernández brought home another run to quickly tie this thing back up. A couple of batters later, after a walk loaded the bases, Martinez drove a fly ball out to center field deep enough to score a run, and the Red Sox were back in front.
It shouldn’t be a surprise by now that the Royals were going to quickly answer back against Pivetta, and they did it again with the long ball. Santana led this inning off by drawing a walk, and then a couple batters later Ryan O’Hearn jumped all over a 3-1 fastball and sent it out to center field. It was a long one, it put the Royals right back out in front with a 6-5 score, and it ended the night for Pivetta. Yacksel Ríos came on to finish the inning and tossed a scoreless sixth as well.
On the other side, Boston wasted a leadoff walk in the fifth for only their second scoreless inning on the night, and then got another leadoff walk in the sixth. Dalbec, we should note, left the game after drawing that walk as it looked like he had been dealing with some cramping earlier in the night. The inning would continue, and after another walk Martinez came through with a big double out to right field. It was Boston’s first extra-base hit of the night, and 11th hit total, and it scored two to put the Sox right back in front 7-6.
Now with the lead, it was Darwinzon Hernandez getting the call against the meat of the Royals order coming up. He did give up a pair of hits, but a baserunning error from Sal Perez trying to get to third on a ball to left field that was bobbled by Alex Verdugo helped the Red Sox lefty get out of the inning without a run.
It was still a one-run game heading into the eighth, and Adam Ottavino got the call for Boston. The righty got a quick first out, but then Taylor reached on a little infield single to the left side that Devers couldn’t play cleanly. After a strikeout and a stolen base, Kansas City got yet another infield single to put runners on the corners for Jorge Soler. With the tying run standing on third base, Merrifield put himself as the go-ahead run on second with a stolen base. It wouldn’t matter. Ottavino got a ground ball to third base that was able to be converted into an out, and the lead was intact through seven and a half.
Now it was all up to Matt Barnes to come close this thing out. Once again, he was able to get the job done, striking out all three batters he faced. The 7-6 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 49-31. With the Rays dropping one to the Nationals on Tuesday, Boston’s lead in the division grows to two full games.
The Red Sox and the Royals continue this four-game set on Wednesday with Martín Pérez taking on Mike Minor. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.