The Red Sox found themselves in an early hole and could never recover against the Guardians on Friday night. Boston fell to Cleveland by a final score of 5-2 in the opener of this three-game series at Fenway Park to drop back below .500 on the season at 13-14.
Nick Pivetta was unable to find his rhythm in his fifth start of the season for the Sox. The right-hander allowed four earned runs on five hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with five strikeouts over five innings of work.
The Guardians got to Pivetta right away in their half of the first. Steven Kwan led off with a line-drive single and Jose Ramirez capped off a 12-pitch at-bat with a base hit of his own to put runners at the corners with one out. Josh Naylor then opened the scoring by driving in Kwan with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Ramirez advanced to second base on a wild pitch and then scored from second on an RBI double off the bat of Josh Bell to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead out of the gate. An inning later, Pivetta plunked Will Brennan with one out. Brennan then stole second and quickly scored on a Myles Straw RBI single to put the Guardians up, 3-0.
Boston got one of those runs back in the latter half of the second. With ace righty Shane Bieber starting for Cleveland, Triston Casas drew a one-out walk and Jarren Duran followed with a groundball double to put runners at second and third for Enrique Hernandez. Hernandez, in turn, cut into the deficit by plating Casas with a run-scoring single through the left side of the infield.
Hernandez’s base hit put runners on the corners for Reese McGuire, but the catcher grounded into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play to extinguish the threat. Pivetta then put up a zero in the third before running into more trouble in the fourth, when he served up a 346-foot solo shot over the Green Monster to Mike Zunino.
Zunino gave the Guardians a 4-1 lead with his towering blast. Pivetta, for his part, got through the rest of the inning unscathed and retired the final three batters he faced in a scoreless fifth. The 30-year-old hurler finished with exactly 100 pitches (73 strikes). He also induced a game-high 11 swings-and-misses, but was ultimately charged with the loss as his ERA on the season rose to 5.11.
With Pivetta’s night done, the Red Sox continued to try to chip away against Bieber. In the bottom of the fifth, Hernandez led off with a single and Enmanuel Valdez moved him up to third with a double. Alex Verdugo then brought in Hernandez with an RBI groundout, but Masataka Yoshida left Valdez at third base by grounding out to Bieber himself.
Fast forward to the seventh inning, Duran led off with yet another double off Bieber. But Hernandez popped out, McGuire struck out, and Valdez grounded out to leave Duran at second. In the eighth, Yoshida ripped a one-out double off reliever Trevor Stephan and Justin Turner followed with a single to put runners on the corners for Rafael Devers.
Following a mound visit from Guardians pitching coach Carl Willis, though, Stephan responded by fanning Devers on three straight strikes and getting Casas to ground out to squander yet another scoring opportunity for the Red Sox.
Still trailing 4-2 going into the ninth, Kutter Crawford had already tossed three scoreless innings of relief after taking over for Pivetta in the sixth. But with one out and the bases empty in the top half of the frame, Brennan took Crawford 351 deep to right field to make it a 5-2 contest in favor of Cleveland.
Guardians closer Enmanuel Clase came on for the last of the ninth and worked his way around a Duran leadoff ground-rule double by retiring Hernandez, McGuire, and Valdez to end it two hours and 25 minutes.
All told, the Red Sox went just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position on Friday and left seven runners on base as a team. Duran (3-for-4) accounted for three of Boston’s eight hits. His three doubles left his bat at 108.7 mph, 97.1 mph, and 61 mph, respectively. He is now batting .436 (17-39) in his first 11 games this season.
Next up: Plesac vs. Bello
The Red Sox will look to put an end to this two-game skid with a win over the Guardians on Saturday afternoon. Brayan Bello will get the start for Boston in place of the injured Garrett Whitlock. Fellow right-hander Zach Plesac is lined up to do the same for Cleveland.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)