This year’s version of the Red Sox seem to have a knack for not letting tough losses get to them.
After getting blown out by the Blue Jays, 18-4, on June 13, they came back the next night to walk off Toronto, 2-1. After falling to the Rays, 1-0, in heartbreaking fashion on June 24, they bounced back by topping the Yankees, 5-3, on June 25 for what would be the start of an eight-game winning streak.
That same winning streak was snapped in Saturday night’s soul-crushing 7-6 loss to the Athletics in 12 innings at Oakland Coliseum, but the Sox again showed just how resilient they are in Sunday’s series finale against the A’s, which also served as a rubber match between the two teams.
Nick Pivetta made his 17th start of the season for Boston, and he, too, rebounded from his worst outing of the year in his last time out against the Royals.
That being the case because over seven dominant innings, the right-hander kept Oakland off the scoreboard while scattering just two hits and two walks to go along with a season-high 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.
Pivetta was put in a tough spot out of the gate, as he issued a two-out walk and two-out single to the dangerous duo of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in the bottom half of the first, but he escaped the early jam by fanning Jed Lowrie on seven pitches.
From there, Pivetta proceeded to retire 18 of the next 20 hitters he faced, and his day came to a close when he got Seth Brown to fly out to center field for the final out of the seventh inning.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (65 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler ultimately improved to 7-3 on the season while lowering his ERA to 4.09. His next start should come against his former team in the Phillies back at Fenway Park next Saturday.
While Pivetta was in the process of stringing together seven scoreless frames, the Red Sox lineup was having a difficult time in scoring themselves with right-hander James Kaprielian on the mound for the A’s.
It took until the top half of the sixth inning, but a leadoff double off the bat of Alex Verdugo followed by a hard-hit single by J.D. Martinez put runners at the corners with no outs for Rafael Devers, who came through by grounding into a run-scoring double play that brought in Verdugo from third to make it a 1-0 game.
Even though Devers was not credited with an RBI on that particular play, what he did was good enough to give the Sox the only lead they would need.
After Pivetta recorded the final out of the seventh, Red Sox manager Alex Cora turned to rookie Garrett Whitlock for the eighth since Adam Ottavino was unavailable.
Whitlock, working in a rare one-inning role, put the potential tying run on base and allowed that runner to advance into scoring position on a wild pitch, but maneuvered around that by getting Tony Kemp and Elvis Andrus to pop out for the final two outs of the frame.
That paved the way for first-time All-Star Matt Barnes to get the call for the ninth in a 1-0 game, and he also played with fire a bit by yielding a leadoff single to Olson and a one-out walk to Jed Lowrie to put the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Barnes was able to recover, though, as he got Ramon Laureano to ground into a force out before fanning Brown on three straight knee-buckling knuckle-curveballs.
When all was said and done, Barnes needed 33 pitches to get through the ninth, but he did secure the 1-0 victory for his side while also notching his 19th save of the year.
With the win, not only do the Red Sox take the three-game weekend series from the A’s, but they also improve to 53-32 on the season and remain 4 1/2 games up on the Rays for first place in the American League East.
Next up for the Red Sox, they will head south for Orange County to open up a three-game set against the 42-41 Los Angeles Angels that begins on Monday night.
Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to get the ball for Boston in the series opener, and he will be opposed by fellow Venezuelan southpaw Jose Suarez for Los Angeles.
First pitch Monday is scheduled for 9:38 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Theoron W. Henderson)