The Red Sox don’t always need a high-powered offense to win
The Boston Red Sox have a powerhouse offense tied for the American League lead in runs scored but this club is proving capable of competing even when their bats are stifled by an opposing pitching staff.
That was the case on Wednesday when the Red Sox faced their steepest challenge against two-time Cy Young award-winner Jacob deGrom. Widely considered to be the most dominant pitcher in the majors, the New York Mets ace entered the game having allowed only one earned run through his first four starts. Boston doubled that total by tagging deGrom with a lone run, which proved to be enough to fend off the Mets to complete the short series sweep.
Boston won a duel with deGrom behind five shutout innings from Nick Pivetta in which he allowed only one hit. He walked three but also struck out seven. Pivetta has now lasted at least five innings while allowing two hits or fewer on three occasions this season, matching his previous career total through his first four major league seasons.
The bullpen was ready to pick up where Pivetta left off. Garrett Whitlock extended his season scoreless streak to 13 1/3 innings by blanking the Mets for a pair of frames. Adam Ottavino and Matt Barnes finished them off with two flawless innings to complete the shutout.
Can you imagine last year’s Red Sox winning a 1-0 game? The closest they came was a 2-0 victory in Miami when Tanner Houck made his major league debut. Aside from that, the Red Sox only won three other games the entire season in which they scored fewer than five runs.
This is a different team in 2021. They are still capable of piling up runs with a lineup that leads the league with a .267 batting average, .443 slugging percentage and 116 wRC+ this season. However, they are proving through this recent stretch that they can win with pitching.
Boston is riding a three-game winning streak after beating the Seattle Mariners in the weekend finale to secure a series split and taking both games against the Mets in New York. The Red Sox tallied only five hits in each of the first two games and four in their last game. This marks the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox have recorded five hits or fewer in three consecutive wins.
This shows that the Red Sox are a much more complete team than the club that sputtered through the shortened 2020 season. They are capable of winning a slugfest but they can also come out on top in a pitching duel.
The Red Sox are developing a reputation for beating an opposing team’s ace. They beat Kenta Maeda, the runner up for last year’s AL Cy Young, in the top half of a doubleheader in Minnesota. Boston’s bats roughed up White Sox ace Lucas Giolito. They managed only one run against Tyler Glasnow but still hung with the Rays long enough to earn an eventual win in extra-innings against the Tampa Bay bullpen.
Now they can add deGrom’s name to that list. In arguably their most impressive win of the season, Boston met the challenge of facing a pitcher on a historically dominant stretch to open the season and they still found a way to walk away with the win.
Contending teams need to be able to win in a variety of ways. We know the offense is potent enough to carry them at times but it’s encouraging to know that the pitching staff can do their fair share to pick up the team when the lineup isn’t piling up runs.