The Red Sox’ starting rotation has not been particularly sharp as of late, and that recent trend continued in a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Saturday.
With the defeat, the Sox fall to 39-26 on the season and drop to two full games back of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East.
Coming into play on Saturday, Boston starters owned a cumulative ERA of 7.99 over the team’s last seven games, the second-highest mark in baseball over that span according to FanGraphs.
Nick Pivetta made his 13th start of the season for the Sox on Saturday, and he only saw that 7.99 starters ERA jump up to 8.36 in the last eight games by surrendering a season-high six runs — all of which were earned — on six hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts over five innings of work.
Four of the six hits Pivetta gave up were home runs, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. crushing a two-run homer off the right-hander in the first inning and Cavan Biggo, Marcus Semien, and Bo Bichette each going deep in the top half of the fifth.
It’s fair to say that Pivetta did get blitzed in his fifth and final frame of work, but he did manage to sit down the last three hitters he faced in order.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 96 (60 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler later fell to 6-2 on the season while inflating his own ERA up to 4.28. His next start should come against the Royals in Kansas City on Friday.
Brennan’s Red Sox debut
In relief of Pivetta, Brandon Brennan got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for what was his team debut in the sixth inning.
Brennan, who was claimed off waivers from the Mariners in May and called up from Triple-A Worcester on Thursday, created a bit of a jam for himself by loading the bases on the first three Blue Jays hitters he faced.
Put in a tough spot immediately, the 29-year-old got Reese McGuire to fan on five pitches before getting Marcus Semien to ground into an inning-ending 5-3 double play with some help from third baseman Rafael Devers.
From there, Brennan maneuvered his way around two more walks en route to tossing two more scoreless innings of relief.
Brandon Workman, meanwhile, served up another solo shot to McGuire in the ninth, which put Toronto up 7-2.
Red Sox’ offensive woes
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Blue Jays left-hander Steven Matz, who they got to for five runs the last time they saw him in Dunedin, Fla. back on May 20.
This time around, however, Matz proved to be a much tougher opponent, as it took the Sox until the sixth inning to push anything across against the veteran southpaw, though they certainly had their chances.
Christian Vazquez ripped an RBI single off Matz to score Rafael Devers from second with two outs in their half of the sixth, and that would prove to be all the Sox could do against the Blue Jays starter.
In addition to scoring a run, Devers collected his 49th RBI of the season by plating J.D. Martinez on a run-scoring single off Toronto reliever Rafael Dolis in the eighth inning, which cut the Sox’ deficit to four runs at 6-2.
Bobby Dalbec also hit his second triple of the year earlier in the fifth. All in all, though, Boston finished the day having gone 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving seven on base as a team.
A scary moment for Hernandez
Enrique Hernandez was struck in the helmet by a 96 mph fastball from Blue Jays reliever Anthony Castro during his seventh inning at-bat.
The ball glanced off the protective jaw flap of Hernandez’s helmet, and the center fielder was able to remain in the game.
Next up: Perez vs. Ray
Sunday afternoon’s starting pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Blue Jays will feature a pair of veteran left-handers going at it, with Martin Perez getting the ball for Boston and Robbie Ray doing the same for Toronto.
First pitch Sunday, the third game of this four-game set, is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on Sunday.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)