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Pirates 4, Red Sox 1: Pitching Showed Up, Bats Didn’t

Despite allowing just five hits, the Red Sox lost by three runs on the night due to some absent bats and have now dropped two straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburg Pirates v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

My Over The Monster colleague Mike Carlucci posted something in a group chat a few weeks ago about Nick Pivetta in jest that truly caught my eye and became the joke of all my friend groups outside this site due to a screenshot. Someone, maybe it was even me, had jokingly called Nick Pivetta the ace of this squad. Coming into tonight, it was a theory that everyone was hoping would come true... because, hey, it couldn’t get much worse than the last week on the mound. I defended Pivetta by saying 4.50 ERA could be a lot worse, and Mike typed back that he was a 4.50 pitcher by way of either pitching a shutout or 9 earned runs.

Yes, it seems as though Nick Pivetta is a victim of circumstance. His sub-500 performance last season was unfortunately marked by some examples of lackluster run support, and just as many examples of some less than exemplary pitching performance. But it often seemed like when Pivetta pitched well, the bats couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and when he sucked, the offense couldn’t keep off the bases.

For what it’s worth, Pivetta looked pretty good, especially comparatively! In 5 innings, he allowed one earned run (three total) and three hits with three walks. He also struck six batters out, two of which in the first inning had him looking tenacious.

The bad news is, two of those three hits allowed were homers, including Ji-Hwan Bae’s first career home run in the second inning. Bae made the most of a two-out McGuire passed ball a batter before, and the ball rocketed to the Green Monster.

For what it’s worth, Bae had the Red Sox’s number all night, having also robbed Rafael Devers of a sure extra base hit off the Monster in the eighth inning in one of the most impressive web gems I’ve seen in some time, especially of ones made by career infielders.

The bats got off to what seemed like was going to be another blistering start, scoring a run in the first inning amidst three total men on in the inning from a Masataka Yoshida bobbly sac ground-out. But, promising 23-year-old Pittsburgh starter Roansy Contreras shut it down after that, allowing just three total hits and issuing just one walk in 5 23 innings, before Dauri Moreta came in to shut down the sixth. The bats never really could get it going, and given how meek the bats were looking all night, the writing was pretty much on the wall when Bryan Reynolds, who’s eternally taken advantage of Boston pitching, hit a solo home run just past Adam Duvall’s outstretched glove into the bullpen. It was his third home run in two games, and already Reynolds’ fourth of the season.

And thus, the Boston Red Sox have their first series loss of 2023. To the Pittsburgh Pirates. They now stand at 2-3.

It wasn’t all terrible, despite the quiet bats. Josh Winckowski had a pretty good go of it in addition to Pivetta’s strong showing, also allowing just two hits and walking one in 3 full innings in relief, even if he did allow the last run of the game to fall 4-1 by a Reynolds RBI single to score Tyler Heinemann, who had just stolen second. Winckowski still looked solid and in control for all nine outs he contributed. Funny enough, his WPA was flush at EXACTLY .000, so quite literally, although he didn’t do anything to help the Sox secure a win, he did NOTHING to ensure they’d lose, either. Add in a rare 1-2-3 ninth inning by Ryan Brasier, and you have easily the best performance by the pitching staff this season. Reese McGuire went 2-3, recording half of the Red Sox’s hits on the evening.

Three Studs:

Masataka Yoshida, 0.87 WPA, 0-4, 1 RBI

Justin Turner, 0.43 WPA, 1-3, 1 BB

Reese McGuire 0.39 WPA, 2-3, 2 2B

For reference, the Red Sox only had four players with a WPA of over 0 (These three, and Ryan Brasier at 0.09. As mentioned before, Winckowski’s WPA stat was exactly 0.00.) The Pirates had eight including all five of their pitchers.

Three Duds:

Adam Duvall, -.163 WPA, 0-4, 1K

Triston Casas, -.119 WPA, 0-4

Rafael Devers, -.087 WPA, 0-4

Also notable that Pivetta giving up those home runs despite a decent start lands him fourth in the dud list at -.084.

Play of the Game:

It was, unsurprisingly, Bae’s two-run home run in the second inning to score himself and Canaan Smith-Njigba (the older brother of a wide receiver out of Ohio State who hopefully is the Patriots’ pick at 14 this year) The much-detested home run had a .196 win probability added for Pittsburgh, and they never looked back.

The Red Sox’s play of the night held a significantly lower .061 WPA, and it came in the first inning, when Justin Turner singled to advance Alex Verdugo to third base. The night’s offense would go downhill - or even downcliff - from there.

Surely can’t be expecting to win when three guys in the lineup take a base all night (Turner via the team’s only walk and a single, Verdugo with a single, and McGuire with two doubles.) Can only marvel at how much Bryan Reynolds continues to own this team and hope that the dominos fall as they may and make an extra wish that he doesn’t end up with the Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, or Rays. Until then, let’s hope tomorrow afternoon’s series finale provides a good combination of offense and sound pitching and defensive play. In case I have to remind anyone, having both in the same day will usually give you a good chance of winning a game.