On the heels of an ugly 12-4 loss last night in Boston’s first game back at Rogers Centre in nearly two years, the Red Sox came back looking for redemption against American League East rival Blue Jays.
In the first of two seven-inning games in today’s doubleheader, Boston turned to right-handed starter Nick Pivetta, who allowed three runs on three hits over 4 2⁄3 innings pitched against the first-place Rays in his last outing. Pivetta took the mound in a face off against left-hander Robbie Ray.
Notably, slumping designated hitter J.D. Martinez was absent from the lineup after being placed on the COVID-19 injured list earlier this afternoon, calling up catcher Connor Wong in a corresponding move, per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham. Martinez has a slash line of just .150/.177/.233 over his last 15 games.
Boston desperately needed to cool off the red-hot Jays, who came into today’s matchup with an 8-2 record in its last 10 games, whereas the Red Sox have stumbled considerably, going just 2-8 over its last 10 contests.
In the first inning, leadoff hitter Kiké Hernandez worked a walk to get things started but was unable to advance past first base after two flyouts and a strikeout quickly extinguished any chance of getting a run across early in the game.
Pivetta exhibited excellent command of both his fastball and a combination of his slider and curveball. On several occasions, he was able to sneak some pitches down the middle of the zone that disappeared into the glove of backstop Kevin Plawecki, amassing several big hacks from the free-swinging Toronto lineup. The righty clearly felt comfortable using his curveball, which seemingly dropped from the top of the zone right down to the bottom on numerous occasions.
In a game that featured one of the more impressive pitching duels, Ray did not allow a hit until a one-out fifth-inning single off the bat of Plawecki trickled between shortstop Bo Bichette and third baseman Santiago Espinal. Unfortunately, Boston was unable to capitalize on its first baserunner since Hernández had reached in the first at-bat of the game. Designated hitter Christian Vázquez grounded into an inning-ending double play, putting more pressure on Pivetta to continue preventing Toronto from striking first heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Shortly after Ray gave up his first knock of the game, Pivetta followed in the latter half of the inning, allowing a single to left fielder Corey Dickerson. He was able to escape the inning unscathed after getting catcher Alejandro Kirk to fly out to right fielder Hunter Renfroe.
Finally, in the sixth inning, Bobby Dalbec was able to work a walk. The Red Sox then advanced Dalbec into scoring position after second baseman Jonathan Araúz (whose most recent appearance came out of the bullpen to finish Friday’s game) snuck a ball in between the gap at third base and shortstop. Ray appeared to unravel over the course of the sixth inning, as his lack of command was evident throughout each at-bat.
With runners on first and second, Verdugo hit a ball to third base that appeared to be a clear-cut inning-ending double play. Toronto's first baseman Lourdes Gurriel Jr. appeared to be blocking first base on the play, while Verdugo clearly failed to touch first base in the process. Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo challenged the safe ruling on the call, which was not overturned in a rather bizarre play. The ruling did not matter in the long run as Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts flew out in foul territory to Gurriel Jr. to end the inning.
After Toronto’s Jordan Romano set Boston down in order in the top half of the seventh, Pivetta was relieved of his duties for the game when right-hander Matt Barnes was handed the ball to try and prevent Toronto from capitalizing in the bottom of the seventh to wrap things up in ceremonious fashion. Pivetta finished his day with a dazzling six innings of work, allowing just one hit and a free pass while punching out five, but he would not earn the much-deserved win after Barnes allowed a first-pitch home run off to second baseman Marcus Semien.
Once again, Boston’s offense has failed to wake up and smell the coffee. The team knows it, the fans know it, and so does manager Alex Cora. The team clearly has adjustments to make, as has been the narrative for much for the last few weeks.
The Red Sox and Blue Jays play again in a couple of hours. Tanner Houck will be going up against new Toronto pitcher José Berríos. First pitch is set for 7:07 PM ET.