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Red Sox 3, Braves 9: Tonight Wasn’t Fine, But Things Are Fine

Nick Pivetta had a poor showing, and the bats could have been better. This is a rarity in 2023.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end on Sunday, and after an off date, it appeared like much of the same as the team started their two-game stint in Atlanta. Now, I’m always the biggest cynic I know, but even I want to set the record state to avoid any clamoring that the proverbial sky is falling due to a second straight loss, I want to state a couple of things. This team will be just fine. While it’s a little worrying that, in this game, Nick Pivetta emerged from the first inning having given up four runs, and it’s concerning that he only pitched four innings and that Brennan Bernardino struggled just as much as Pivetta in terms of control as well as, uh, getting batters out, this is a team that’s been pitching pretty well for a couple weeks. They are not the Boston Celtics facing the 76ers. They are not the Bruins facing the Panthers. Who’s to say if that means they’ll be contending for a World Series, but it’s May 9. It’s far too early to think about that. What matters now is playing quality baseball, and most nights, the Red Sox play just that. They will be fine.

Nick Pivetta has always been known as durable but spotty, and he was due for a real stinker. Boy, did he stink in this one; that strike zone more or less went missing for most of this one, as command was a big issue in the four innings Pivetta pitched. He falls to 2-3 on the season. The final line was a less-than-stellar 4 innings, 7 earned runs, 8 hits, 3 walks, and just 2 strikeouts. His ERA now sits at 6.23. Even so, this rotation will be fine. I don’t care that Pivetta is now in the first percentile for barrel percentage in all of baseball, though he needs to, well, not be, rather quickly. It doesn’t matter that by the time Matt Olson hit a 2-run shot off Pivetta in the first inning, the Braves’ win expectancy sat at around 75% with a lot of game left. This Braves lineup, in addition to having Olson, has Ronald Acuña Jr., Austin Riley, and Sean Murphy. And that’s just at the top half of the lineup; Ozzie Albies is also on this team. Not every team has lineups this stacked. Every batter outside of maybe Marcell Ozuna is a tough out. Acuña was certainly no exception; he scored three times and, following his injury, is looking as good as new. That a guy with a lifetime ERA hovering around 5 struggled with this lineup is not a need to sound the alarm for the whole 26-man roster; though it does raise some eager questions like “How will James Paxton do on Friday, and beyond?” and “Is Brayan Bello truly ready?” This rotation will be just fine.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves
Pivetta pitched so poorly tonight, here is a second picture of him on the mound. Please pay no mind to the background that sort of looks like the disoriented Mr. Krabs meme, all a coincidence, of course.
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Some writers, including some on this very site, have called the Red Sox bats relentless, and I’d be inclined to agree. My major gripe is that this team is frivolous with their scoring opportunities. The recurring pain of the bullpen blowing 29 saves makes me extremely insecure of a high-leverage situation despite this bullpen seeming leaps and bounds better than last year’s iteration, besides, well Brasier being on the team still and Kaleb Ort hanging out somewhere in our organization, though at least he’s not up here. Last year’s bullpen has jaded me against the reality that no team is going to bat a thousand with men in scoring position and more towards the notion that despite all the scoring this team has done, they could always score more. No lead is truly safe, so why not ensure games are closed out defensively with a poignant offense? As a result, it tears me up when the Sox waste a one-out scoring opportunity and strand guys, and it was more of the same in this game. They stranded three in the second inning when the game might not have looked out of hand with a score or two or three. The eighth inning is also painful to look back on, as A.J. Minter appeared to be unraveling a bit but Alex Cora made a curious decision to replace Triston Casas at the plate with recent call-up Bobby Dalbec, who characteristically struck out. But, on the bright side, Braves starter Charlie Morton lasting six innings tonight is just the sixth time this season that Boston has allowed an opposing starter to finish the sixth. That sounds relentless to me, and it sounds like a team that will be fine.

Another important part about this resilient teams is that it always seems to be different guys stepping up even on the team’s darkest nights. Justin Turner had the team’s first two runs batted in in this game, one coming by way of a sacrifice fly that scored Alex Verdugo. He also trotted into second in the eighth inning for his 300th double of his career. His bat has been relatively quiet compared to some Sox hitters this season, but it appears he gets the hits when they count. The young bats are also staying characteristic. Enmanuel Valdez had his thirteenth hit in twelve Major League games in his young career tonight, and Triston Casas stayed as patient as ever and drew a couple of walks. Even though it would sure be nice if some of these strikeouts he gets can turn into hits, we can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. The young bats are doing what they’ve been brought on to do, and the fielding is coming with time. Masataka Yoshida has exceeded even the most optimistic of realistic projections so far, and even though he saw his 16-game hit streak come to an end tonight, he had a 16-game hit streak early in his first season playing in the MLB, and has clearly figured out pitching in the Major Leagues. If you’ve ever scrolled an inspirational quote meme page, you’ll see a quote reading something along the lines of “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” What has happened is over, but what will happen is, our lineup is exciting and it will be just fine.

The Red Sox fall to 21-16 on the season with this loss. Coming into today, May 9, only seven teams in baseball had as many wins as the Red Sox this season. Even if nearly half of those teams are from the AL East, the fact that the teams play each other for six fewer games each this season is a very very good sign. It allows the Red Sox the opportunity to gain some wins against teams that they can realistically beat, which, even if Tampa stays as hot as they are right now, will help Boston in the wild card seeding. Even though no one wants to hear me talk about wild card seedings in May, since the season is long, that is the same reasoning even my pessimistic self will defend about a team that is usually shelling pitchers out of games four innings in, getting the runs up early, and displaying their outfielders including Alex Verdugo caputing some web gems. It’s too early to count a team with so many strengths completely out because of a two game losing streak. So, no matter if a team has a loss differential of double digits across two games, say it with me: tonight was not fine, but this team will be fine.

Three Studs

  1. Justin Turner: 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
  2. Alex Verdugo: 3-5, 1 R, and an absolute web gem
  3. Zack Littell (Only because I need 3 and Valdez struck out twice): 2 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Three Duds

  1. Nick Pivetta (obviously): 4 IP, 7 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 2 SO
  2. Matasaka Yoshida: 0-5, 1 K (16 game hit streak snapped)
  3. Brennan Bernardino (reluctantly): 1 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 SO

Play of the Game

It’s Nick Pivetta giving up that Matt Olson home run in the first inning. Normally, if an opposing team made the play of the game, I’d try to find a Red Sox play that felt good, too. But honestly, this game just didn’t feel winnable, even if it was the first inning; after that home run, the team lacked resolve and it became clear pretty quickly we were watching a loss no matter if we stayed on this channel or flipped to watch the Celtics. But hey, say it with me: we will be fine.