After splitting the first two games of this weekend series in Baltimore, the Red Sox and Orioles traveled to Williamsport, Pa. for the fifth annual Little League Classic. With both teams playing at Historic Bowman Field for the first time, Boston fell to Baltimore by a final score of 5-3 to drop to 60-62 on the season.
Nick Pivetta, who started the game for the Phillies in 2018, did so again for the Sox on Sunday. In what was his 25th start of the season, the right-hander allowed two earned runs on six hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with nine strikeouts over 5 2/3 strong innings of work.
Both of those Baltimore runs came right away in the first inning, as Pivetta gave up singles to each of the three batters he faced. Anthony Santander drove in Cedric Mullins with his base hit before Ramon Urias pushed across Adley Rutschman on an RBI single back up the middle.
Despite that rocky start, Pivetta settled in nicely. The Red Sox also got one of those two runs back in their half of the second. Rafael Devers led off with a single against O’s starter Dean Kremer, eventually advanced to third base with two outs, and scored from third on a 100.6 mph single off the bat of Enrique Hernandez.
Pivetta, meanwhile, struck out the side in order in the second while in the process of retiring 12 of 15 hitters through the end of the fifth. In the sixth, the righty recorded his eighth and ninth punchouts of the night before issuing a two-out walk to Austin Hays, who would prove to be the final batter he faced.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 103 (67 strikes), Pivetta induced a game-high 17 swings-and-misses, nine of which came on his four-seam fastball. The 29-year-old hurler did not factor into Sunday’s decision, though he did lower his ERA on the season to 4.24.
Matt Strahm, who received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora, officially closed the book on Pivetta’s outing by getting through the rest of the sixth unscathed. The lefty also got the first out of the seventh before making way for Matt Barnes, who recorded the final two.
Still trailing 2-1 after being held in check by Kremer, the Sox received a boost from their bench to begin things in the eighth. With right-handed reliever Dillon Tate on the mound for Baltimore, Cora opted to have the left-handed hitting Franchy Cordero pinch-hit for Bobby Dalbec.
Cordero, serving as Boston’s 27th man for this contest, promptly made the most of his opportunity by clubbing a game-tying, 358 foot home run to left field. It left his bat at a blistering 104.9 mph to knot things up at two runs apiece. All five of Cordero’s homers this season have come on a Sunday.
While it felt as though the tides may have been turning in the Red Sox’ favor, that quickly changed in the latter half of the eighth. After issuing a one-out walk to Urias, Barnes was given the hook in favor of John Schreiber.
Schreiber, in turn, hit and walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases with still only one out in the inning. Schreiber then received a visit from pitching coach Dave Bush, but that ultimately did not pan out as Jorge Mateo proceeded to lace a bases-clearing, three-run double down the left field line.
Ryan McKenna, Hays, and Rougned Odor all scored on Mateo’s clutch hit, thus giving the Orioles a commanding 5-2 lead. Schreiber was charged with two of those three runs, meaning he has now given up at least one run in back-to-back relief appearances for the first time this year. Austin Davis registered the final two outs of the eighth.
Xander Bogaerts made things interesting in the ninth by crushing a leadoff home run off Orioles closer Felix Bautista. But Bautista held on by sitting down J.D. Martinez, Christian Arroyo, and Devers in order to secure a series-clinching win for Baltimore.
With the loss, the Red Sox snapped their streak for consecutive series wins at three. At 60-62, they now trail the Mariners by six games for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Back to Boston
The Red Sox will have Monday off as they travel back to Boston for a six-game homestand against the Blue Jays and Rays that begins on Tuesday.
Nathan Eovaldi was originally slated to start Tuesday’s series opener against Toronto but has since been scratched due to prolonged trap muscle soreness. It seems likely that rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski could start in his place, but that would require Eovaldi (or another player) to be placed on the injured list since Winckowski was just optioned to Triple-A Worcester on Friday.
Regardless of that, first pitch from Fenway Park on Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)