Nick Pivetta was searching for revenge on Sunday, his first time going up against his former team. Although things looked good early on, the Phillies started to get to him as the game went on and the Red Sox found themselves in a 5-1 hole after just two and a half innings. The bullpen did its job, to their credit, coming out for five scoreless innings after Pivetta left, but the offense came up just short of the comeback, giving the Red Sox their fourth loss in five games to close out the first half.
The first half has been very good for the Red Sox, and they are certainly playing at a level much beyond what most of us expected. That said, they were heading into this series finale on Sunday struggling a bit, having lost three of their last four. They had one more game to right the ship on Sunday before the All-Star break, trying to go into the second half coming off a series victory. And they had Nick Pivetta on the mound to try and get it done.
The righty was going up against his old team for the first time since they traded him to Boston last summer. His career did not end well in Philly, and he was looking to make them pay for giving up on him. And early on, he did just that, retiring each of the first six batters he faced with a pair of strikeouts as well.
Over on the other side, the Red Sox were facing a makeshift Phillies pitching staff today after expected starter Aaron Nola was placed on the COVID list not long before the game. They too went down in order in the first inning against Brandon Kintzler, serving as an opener, but they did better in the second. Xander Bogaerts led off the inning, and the very first pitch he saw was a low-90s sinker that stayed middle-in. That’s Xander’s happy zone, and he turned it around for a no-doubt solo shot over everything down the left field line. With that, it was a 1-0 Red Sox lead.
Now it was on Pivetta to keep the momentum on his team’s side in the third. He failed. After a quick first out, Ronald Torreyes poked one off the third base bag for a single before stealing second. Pivetta issued a walk after that, and then a couple batters later J.T. Realmuto came to the plate with two on and two out.
The Phillies catcher hit one through the right side for a base hit, and Hunter Renfroe tried to get Travis Jankowski going from first to third. Renfroe’s throw was short and a little off-line, and Rafael Devers couldn’t handle the tough hop, allowing the ball to get into the dugout. As a result, both runners came in to score on the single, and Realmuto was standing on third
by the time the dust settled. Suddenly, it was a 2-1 lead for the Phillies, and they had a third run just 90 feet away. Pivetta was able to escape with just the two runs, though, thanks to a huge play behind the bag by Bobby Dalbec, who had just been subbed into the game that inning for Marwin Gonzalez. The latter left the game after re-tweaking his hamstring running out a ground ball.
The Red Sox looked like they were ready to answer back in the bottom of the inning, getting the first two men on with a base hit and an error by Phillies pitcher Cristopher Sánchez. It was a prime spot to get right back in the game, but Alex Verdugo grounded into a big double play, and then J.D. Martinez struck out to squander the chance without any runs in the inning.
Pivetta would come back out of the fourth, but it was not good. The righty started off well, getting each of the first two batters he faced with strikeouts. But Rhys Hoskins kept the inning alive on a double out to left field on which Verdugo came up just short on a diving attempt, and then Brad Miller drew a walk. That brought Ronald Torreyes to the plate, and on a 3-2 count Pivetta left a fastball right over the heart of the plate. Torreyes was all over it, launching a three-run shot out to left field. The shot gave the Phillies a four-run lead, and Pivetta’s night was over after four, allowing the five runs, four of which were earned.
After the Red Sox stranded two in the bottom of the inning and Yacksel Ríos came on for a scoreless fifth, Boston’s bats did get going again. The bottom of the fifth was led off by Christian Arroyo, who just missed a home run out to right field and settled for a leadoff double off the short wall. He’d move up to third on a deep fly ball before coming home on a ground out from Verdugo, cutting the deficit down to three. They did get a double after that as well, but couldn’t plate any more runs.
The sixth was split between Ríos and Darwinzon Hernandez for a scoreless frame, and the Red Sox were looking to cut the lead down more. They got things started with a one-out base hit from Renfroe, and then Christian Vázquez hit a bullet off the Monster. That moved Renfroe to third, but Vázquez wanted to get two. The ball bounced right to Andrew McCutchen in left field, leaving Vázquez with no chance. He’d get thrown out between second and third in a big baserunning blunder.
That brought Dalbec to the plate to try and salvage something from this chance, and he hit a ground ball to the left side. Didi Gregorius got to it in the hole, but he had no chance at making the play and his throw was well off the mark. After the infield single, Arroyo came up and smacked a huge double into the left-center field gap, making it a 5-4 ballgame. They couldn’t get that tying run in, but the two runs were still nice.
Hernandez came back out for the seventh, recording two outs before Hirokazu Sawamura came out and grabbed the third, but the Red Sox would go scoreless in the bottom of the inning as well.
After Adam Ottavino came on for a scoreless inning (though one that featured a bizarre error on the pitcher when Ottavini transferred the ball from his glove to his hand through his legs before throwing it way off the mark), the offense had six more outs to play with. They got the eighth off to a good start with a leadoff single from Renfroe, but that was followed up with two outs. Renfroe did make it over to second on a two-out walk from Arroyo, and then Kiké Hernández drew a walk to load the bases. That brought Verdugo to the plate in a big spot, but he swung at the first pitch and hit a routine grounder over to the right side, leaving the bases loaded with the Red Sox still trailing by a run.
They had one more chance after the newly-extended Matt Barnes came on for a scoreless ninth, sending the heart of their order up against Ranger Suárez, who was in for his second inning of work. They couldn’t get it done, though, going down in order on two backwards K’s and a weak ground ball — from Martinez, Bogaerts, and Devers, no less — to end a frustrating afternoon.
The 5-4 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 55-36. The Rays also lost on Sunday, however, so Boston will carry a 1.5-game lead in the division into the break.
The Red Sox now have three days off for the All-Star break, getting back in action on Thursday in the Bronx to take on the Yankees in a four-game set.