It was a back-and-forth affair that saw six lead changes and 25 total hits exchanged between both sides, but the Red Sox were able to hold on and defeat the Royals by a final score of 8-7 at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
Nick Pivetta, making his 16th start of the season for Boston, saw his run of no-hit baseball come to an end moments after he delivered his first pitch Tuesday, as he served up a leadoff home run to the first man he faced in Whit Merrifield.
The Red Sox lineup, however, responded promptly to being put in an early hole. Enrique Hernandez didn’t lead things off in the first with yet another leadoff homer, but he did reach base by getting plunked by Royals starter Brad Keller.
An Alex Verdugo single advanced Hernandez up to third, and both runners came into score on back-to-back RBI base hits from J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts.
Despite getting that sort of run support right from the jump, Pivetta gave the lead up when he issued a run-scoring single to Michael A. Taylor in the second.
Again, the Boston bats answered almost immediately, as three straight one-out walks from Keller loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third for Hunter Renfroe, who drove in Martinez on a sacrifice fly to put his side back up 3-2.
The Sox were unable to enjoy that lead for too long, though, with Pivetta serving up a two-run shot to Taylor with no outs in the top half of the fourth inning, thus putting his side back in a one-run hole at 4-3.
On the contrary, Kansas City was not able to enjoy their lead either, as the bottom of the Boston lineup paved the way for Hernandez to plate the tying run on a line-drive single and later for Martinez to bring in the then go-ahead run on another sac fly with the bases loaded.
Even with his team constantly battling back early on, Pivetta again surrendered the lead in his fifth and — what would turn out to be — final inning of work on a two-run blast off the bat of Ryon O’Hearn with one out in the inning.
At that point, the 28-year-old right-hander had yielded six runs (all earned) on a season-high nine hits (three of which went for home runs) and two walks to go along with five strikeouts, all while throwing 89 pitches (57 strikes).
With that relatively high pitch count in mind, Red Sox manager Alex Cora gave Pivetta the hook in what was at the time a 6-5 in game in favor of Kansas City. With an ERA of 4.43 on the season now, the righty’s next start should come against the Athletics in Oakland on Sunday.
In relief of Pivetta, Yacksel Rios came on, ended the fifth inning in quick fashion, and also tossed a clean top half of the sixth. Five of his six appearances with Boston have been scoreless, and he is now 2-0 in a Red Sox uniform.
In the bottom half of the sixth, Bobby Dalbec led off with a single, Verdugo drew a six-pitch walk off Royals reliever Jake Brentz, and that set the stage for Martinez.
On the first pitch he saw from Brentz, a 91 mph changeup on the outer half of the plate, Martinez came through in the clutch and laced a two-run double down the right field line to score both runners.
That gave the Red Sox a 7-6 lead going into the late innings of this one.
From there, the Red Sox bullpen only did what they have been doing as of late, and that’s keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.
Darwinzon Hernandez hurled a scoreless seventh inning with the help of Verdugo’s fifth outfield assist of the year, Adam Ottavino danced his way around a jam and stranded the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base in the eighth, and Matt Barnes punched out the side in the ninth to preserve the 7-6 win while also notching his 18th save of the season.
With the one-run victory, the Red Sox improve to 49-31 on the season while extending their winning streak to five consecutive games. They now sit two full games ahead of the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Dalbec leaves with right hamstring tightness.
On his 26th birthday, Bobby Dalbec was forced to exit Tuesday’s contest in the sixth inning due to right hamstring tightness, Alex Cora said. He likely won’t be in the lineup on Wednesday.
Next up: Minor vs. Perez
Wednesday’s starting pitching matchup between the Red Sox and Royals will feature a pair of veteran left-handers going at it, with Martin Perez getting the ball for Boston and Mike Minor doing the same for Kansas City.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their sixth straight win.
(Picture of Red Sox celebrating: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)