The goal this weekend was a sweep, and that is still on the table after two games. Things actually got off to a bit of a rocky start on Saturday when Nick Pivetta gave up two runs and three straight hits right off the bat, but the Red Sox had no problem answering back. Things stayed close for a big chunk of the game until Xander Bogaerts had the dagger with a three-run homer to open things up. We also saw Tanner Houck out of the bullpen, and he mostly looked very good. Onward and upward.
Nick Pivetta has been as all over the place as any recent Red Sox pitcher I can remember, meaning he can be pretty much anything on any given day and it wouldn’t be totally surprising. Facing a team like the Orioles, whose offense maybe isn’t as bad as you’d expect but is still far from elite, and coming off a strong outing, it was fair to be confident in the righty coming into this one. But it was never going to be a surprise if he struggled, and his start could not have been worse.
It was pretty clear right away that Baltimore had a gameplan to be aggressive, and it worked. Each of the first three Orioles to bat swung at the first pitch they saw, and the result was a double, a home run, and a hard-hit single to put give the O’s an early 2-0 lead with a runner on. It really looked like things could turn disastrous early on for Pivetta, especially when he walked the fourth batter of the inning. But to his credit, he settled down after a mound visit to get out of the inning with the deficit still at two.
And more good news was that the Red Sox were facing an Orioles pitching staff that is as bad as you’d expect. Two runs should not have been a big deficit, and it wasn’t. Kiké Hernández started the bottom half of the first off with a leadoff double, and he’d come in a couple batters later after Rafael Devers squeaked a base hit through the left side. After a couple more singles loaded the bases, Bobby Dalbec would come through with a two-run, two-out double to put the Red Sox up 3-2.
Pivetta, though, wasn’t totally settled in after retiring three straight to end the first, and he made a big mistake in the second. Right after his team had given him the lead, Pivetta put a 2-1 fastball over the plate and at the top of the zone for Austin Wynns. The Orioles catcher was ready to jump over the high velocity, and he hit a bullet out to left field for a solo home run, and just like that we were all tied up once again. Baltimore got another runner to third when Cedric Mullins singled and then stole both second and third, but only the one run came home in the second.
And from here, the offenses actually started to chill out for a few innings. After Mullins stole third base, 10 straight batters for either team went down to bring us into the fourth. Pivetta was still in the game to start the inning, and gave up two straight singled to start things off. He did follow that up with a double play from Wynns, but then Darwinzon Hernandez was called in to end the inning, which he did on two pitches.
The lefty came back out for the fifth as well after the Red Sox drew back-to-back one-out walks but couldn’t score. Hernandez let two of the first three batters he faced reach, and on came Tanner Houck for his first appearance out of the bullpen of this stretch room. He entered with some trouble, having two men on with just one out. But he came through with two quick outs to end the inning.
Heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Red Sox offense finally woke back up after a few quiet innings. Devers got things started with a double hit squarely off the Monster, and then he quickly was brought home on a base hit from Xander Bogaerts to give the Red Sox their lead back. Boston would get another runner in the inning, but failed to add on any more insurance.
After Houck came back out for the sixth and tossed a perfect inning, the Red Sox delivered the dagger. The bottom of the sixth actually started with a couple of outs, but then Hernández kept the inning alive with a base hit. That was followed by an RBI double from Hunter Renfroe to extend the lead to two. Devers then singled to put men on the corners before Bogaerts obliterated a first-pitch fastball on the inner half for a three-run shot, making it an 8-3 game.
That was pretty much that. The offense did add one more run on a double play ball with the bases loaded. On the pitching side, Houck had one more scoreless inning in him before Hansel Robles tossed a perfect eighth and Garrett Richards got through a scoreless ninth to end it.
The 9-3 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 85-65. As of this writing, the Yankees are behind in their game while Toronto leads. If those scores hold, the Red Sox will have a game lead over the Blue Jays for the top wildcard spot while New York will be 1.5 games behind. Oakland and Seattle, who trailed by three and four games, respectively, coming into this day both play tonight.
The Red Sox now have a chance to sweep Baltimore with a win on Sunday. Boston will have Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for that one with Alexander Wells going for the Orioles. First pitch is set for 1:10 PM ET.