The Red Sox continue to win with Nick Pivetta on the mound
The role of a starting pitcher who slots in near the back of the rotation is to keep his team in the game. He isn’t expected to consistently shut down opposing lineups to carry his team to a win, his job is simply not to lose it. Nick Pivetta opened the season as the No. 4 starter for the Boston Red Sox but despite his placement in the rotation hierarchy, it feels as though the team can’t lose with him on the mound.
At least they haven’t lost when Pivetta pitches. The right-hander held a dangerous Los Angeles Angels lineup to two earned runs on four hits in his latest start on Friday. He struck out seven without allowing a walk.
The strikeouts were hardly a surprise from a pitcher punching out nearly a batter per inning this season but the zero walks was encouraging considering Pivetta leads the league with 22 walks allowed while producing a career-high 4.6 BB/9. After allowing at least three walks in all five of his April starts, Pivetta has limited the free passes to only five over his last three starts.
Pivetta blanked the Angels through the first five innings before Shohei Ohtani got a hold of a low curveball that he launched into the Monster seats in left for his league-leading 11th home run. Pivetta’s night would end after giving up a leadoff single in the seventh to Anthony Rendon, who would later come around to score with Matt Andriese on the mound.
Andriese vultured the win after coughing up the lead thanks to a game-winning homer by Bobby Dalbec in the bottom of the inning. Pivetta pitched well enough to deserve a win but didn’t get the credit.
That has been an unusual outcome this season considering Pivetta leads the league with five wins. Perhaps more importantly, he hasn’t lost a game yet.
The Red Sox acquired Pivetta in a deadline deal with the Philadelphia Phillies last year and he made a strong impression by winning both of his starts in a late-season audition.
Dating back to his Red Sox debut, Pivetta is 7-0 with a 2.91 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .195 batting average over 10 starts. Prior to Pivetta, the last pitchers to go unbeaten in their first 10 starts with the Red Sox were Matt Clement (2005) and Pedro Martinez (1998).
Pivetta has made eight starts this season and the Red Sox have won seven of them. The lone exception was an outing against the Seattle Mariners that he departed with the game tied only for the bullpen to blow it. Including the pair of wins from last season, the Red Sox are 9-1 in games started by Pivetta.
This is only the second time in franchise history that the Red Sox have won at least nine of a pitcher’s first 10 starts with the team. Boston won the first nine games started by John Burkett in 2002 with the veteran going 7-0 before suffering his first loss in his 10th start with the team.
Pivetta has been the best starter in a Red Sox rotation has has exceeded expectations and it’s not only the win-loss record that has earned him that recognition. His 3.16 ERA is the best among Red Sox starters. While his generosity with issuing walks is a bit concerning, Pivetta mitigates the damage by preventing teams from getting the big hits to make him pay for those lapses in control. Even with the high walk rate, Pivetta’s respectable 1.17 WHIP sits just outside the top-20 among AL starting pitchers and trails only Nathan Eovaldi in the Red Sox rotation.
The trade with the Phillies is well on its way to becoming one of the best in recent memory for the Red Sox. In addition to Pivetta, Boston also acquired Connor Seabold, the No. 14 prospect in the Red Sox farm system. That’s one cost-controlled young starter currently playing a pivotal role in the major league rotation plus an enticing prospect who should be a factor on this staff in the future in exchange for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree, neither of whom are still with the Phillies. Workman has since returned to the Red Sox organization on a minor league deal, which only enhances how lopsided the trade appears in retrospect.
Boston’s patchwork rotation was a significant reason why they finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball last season. Pivetta offered a glimmer of hope at the end of the season but by that point it was too late. His success has carried over to this year and now he’s a significant reason why the Red Sox are in first place.