Nick Pivetta finishes season strong, Red Sox beat Orioles 3-0


Nick Pivetta’s career with the Red Sox was at a crossroads. Pulled from the starting rotation after a poor spring, the right-hander was left with a choice: embrace his move to the bullpen or pout his way out of town.

Pivetta didn’t pretend to be happy about it, but he attacked his new assignment with renewed determination and ultimately turned his season around. Friday night he finished what wound up being a productive season on a high note, earning the win in Boston’s 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

From the opening pitch Pivetta was masterful, allowing only three baserunners over his seven shutout innings. The only threat he faced came in the bottom of the fifth when Jordan Westberg doubled and reached third on a wild pitch, but Pivetta struck out the next two batters to keep the Orioles off the board.

Pivetta finished with 10 strikeouts, marking the fourth time this season he’s reached that mark, and allowed only two hits and a walk over his brilliant outing.

It would have been hard to imagine a night like this back in early May.

Over his first eight starts before moving to the bullpen, Pivetta posted a 6.30 ERA and allowed opponents to record a .885 OPS against him over 40 innings. After the shift those numbers improved to 3.48 and .619 over 72.1 innings, and since moving back to the rotation in early September he’s posted a 2.37 ERA over his last five starts.

Taken together, Pivetta finished the year with a 4.04 ERA over 142.2 innings with a team-high 183 strikeouts.

For a while it looked like Pivetta’s outing might have gone to waste. The Red Sox came into Friday having gone scoreless in 19 straight innings, with their last run coming in the bottom of the eighth on Tuesday against Tampa Bay. They were shut out in both Wednesday’s finale against the Rays and Thursday’s series opener in Baltimore, and they stretched that streak to 23 innings after Orioles starter John Means retired the first 12 men he faced to start Friday’s outing.

Boston finally broke through in the top of the fifth, with Rob Refsnyder ending the perfect game bid with a leadoff double before Trevor Story hit a two-run home run to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead.

The Red Sox added another run in the top of the ninth after Ceddanne Rafaela walked, stole second, took third on a throwing error and beat a close play at the plate. Rafael Devers recorded his 99th RBI of the season on the play, but while the Red Sox weren’t able to capitalize on an ensuing scoring opportunity, Pivetta and Garrett Whitlock made sure the small lead held up.

Two games remain for the Red Sox. Kutter Crawford (6-8, 4.23 ERA) is expected to make his final start against Kyle Gibson (15-9, 4.86) on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on Fox starting at 7:15 p.m.

Martin wraps up historic season

Thursday afternoon the Red Sox placed right-hander Chris Martin on the 15-day injured list with a viral infection, officially ending one of the greatest seasons by a relief pitcher in franchise history.

Martin, who signed with Boston on a two-year deal this past offseason, was absolutely dominant in his first year with the Red Sox. The 37-year-old went 4-1 with a 1.05 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 55 games, allowing only six earned runs and eight walks (three intentional) in 51.1 innings. He led the team with 23 holds as the top setup man, recorded three saves and finished the season with 20 straight scoreless outings.

You won’t find many Red Sox relievers in the modern era with numbers like that. The short list includes guys like Jonathan Papelbon, who posted a career-best 0.92 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 2006 and had numerous other excellent seasons, along with Koji Uehara, who posted a 1.09 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 2013 en route to that fall’s World Series championship. Keith Foulke’s 2004, Daniel Bard’s 2010 and Craig Kimbrell’s 2017 all belong in the conversation too.

Limping to the finish

If there was one good thing you could say about this Red Sox team for most of the season, it’s that no matter how bad things looked, the team always found a way to keep things interesting.

Then the calendar flipped to September and the club totally collapsed.

The Red Sox are currently 8-18 in the month of September and have lost 23 of their last 32 games overall. When the stretch began on Aug. 25 the club was 68-60, 3.5 games back of the last playoff spot and a comfortable 6.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees in the AL East. Now they’re guaranteed to finish below .500, last in the division and miles below the postseason cutline.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a September swoon like this. The Red Sox have now had losing records from September onwards seven times in the past 12 years, including 2022 (15-16), 2020 (12-13), 2019 (11-15), 2014 (11-15), 2012 (7-22) and most infamously 2011 (7-20).

Even if you’re not in the hunt there’s something to be said about hanging tough and finishing the season strong. If the Red Sox are serious about building a championship culture, they need to find a way to nip this trend in the bud.

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