Red Sox endure more bullpen struggles in 8-4 loss to Braves; Tommy Pham homers in third straight game

The Red Sox were swept by the Braves at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. Boston fell to Atlanta by a final score of 8-4 to extend its losing streak to four and drop to 54-58 on the season.

Nick Pivetta, making his 23rd start of the year for the Sox, allowed three runs on five hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over six quality innings of work.

All three of those Braves runs came in the top half of the fourth. After giving up a leadoff single to Austin Riley, Pivetta had Eddie Rosario on the ropes with two outs. With the count full, he pinpointed a 93.7 mph four-seam fastball on the outside corner of the lower half of the strike zone.

It should have ended the inning. Home plate umpire Adam Beck instead called it a ball and Rosario took his base. Three pitches later, Pivetta served up a towering, 403-foot three-run shot to Marcell Ozuna on a 91.9 mph four-seamer that was left over the heart of the plate.

Ozuna’s blast over the Green Monster gave Atlanta its first lead of the night at 3-0. Boston countered in its half of the fifth inning when Bobby Dalbec scored from third base while Tommy Pham grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.

That was the only run the Red Sox got off Braves starter Kyle Wright. Pivetta, meanwhile, ended his night on a positive note by retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced after giving up that homer to Ozuna.

The 29-year-old right-hander finished with a final pitch count of 108 (69 strikes) while keeping his ERA on the season at 4.51. He hovered around 93.8 mph with his four-seamer, which was slightly up from his yearly average of 93.3 mph, per Baseball Savant.

In relief of Pivetta, Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from Red Sox manager Alex Cora. The left-hander struck out the first Brave he faced in Ozuna, but then gave up a base hit to Michael Harris II that was followed by a two-run home run off the bat of Vaughn Grissom, who was making his major-league debut for Atlanta on Wednesday.

Grissom’s first career homer traveled 412 feet over the Green Monster to give the Braves a 4-1 lead. Hernandez got through the rest of the seventh inning unscathed, but has now allowed 16 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings with the Red Sox this season. That is good for an ERA of 21.60.

In the latter half of the seventh, Dalbec greeted new Braves reliever Dylan Lee with a one-out single. Jaylin Davis, who was pinch-hitting for Jarren Duran, followed with a line-drive base hit of his own to put runners at first and second for Pham, who responded by depositing a 412-foot three-run home run to dead center field.

Pham’s 14th big fly of the season was also his third in his last three games with Boston. It trimmed Atlanta’s lead down to just one run at 5-4 heading into the eighth inning.

Despite his team being in desperate need of a shutdown inning, Ryan Brasier was not up to the task in the eighth. Brasier yielded back-to-back one-out singles to Matt Olson and William Contreras before Rosario ripped an RBI double to left field to plate Olson and Ozuna lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Contreras.

That sequence of events made it a 7-4 contest in favor of the Braves. Austin Davis recorded the final out of the eighth before Kaleb Ort gave up another run-scoring single to Dansby Swanson in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half of the inning, veteran closer Raisel Iglesias made quick work of Dalbec, Davis, and Pham to end the game.

All told, four different Red Sox relievers (Hernandez, Brasier, Davis, and Ort) combined to give up five runs on seven hits over just three innings. Offensively, the Sox went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base as a team.

Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez went a combined 1-for-12 with two strikeouts, both of which belonged to Martinez. Alex Verdugo accounted for his side’s only two walks.

By getting swept by the Braves in this brief two-game interleague series, the Red Sox now find themselves trailing the Orioles and Rays (58-52) by five games for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Winckowski vs. Kremer

The Red Sox will next welcome the Orioles into town for a quick, lockout-induced one-game series on Thursday. Josh Winckowski is slated to start for Boston while fellow right-hander Dean Kremer will do the same for Baltimore.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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