The Red Sox suffered their second straight defeat in a series-opening loss to the Braves on Tuesday night. Boston fell to Atlanta by a final score of 9-3 at Truist Park to drop to 21-16 on the season.
Nick Pivetta struggled in his seventh start of the year for the Sox. The right-hander went just four innings, allowing a season-high seven earned runs on eight hits, three walks, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts.
The Braves got to Pivetta right away in the bottom of the first. Following a leadoff single from Ronald Acuna Jr., Matt Olson opened the scoring by crushing a 426-foot two-run home run to deep right field. Pivetta then walked Austin Riley and plunked Sean Murphy before fanning Eddie Rosario.
A wild pitch allowed Riley and Murphy to advance an additional 90 feet. Ozzie Albies then drove in Riley with a run-scoring single through the right side of the infield before Marcell Ozuna gave Atlanta a 4-0 lead with an RBI groundout that brought in Murphy.
An inning later, Murphy singled in Acuna Jr. with two outs to extend the lead to five runs. The Red Sox got one of those runs back in the top of the third. After being held in check by Braves starter Charlie Morton to that point, Alex Verdugo ripped a leadoff double and took third base on a balk. Justin Turner then drove him in on a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to four runs at 5-1.
Pivetta made quick work of the Braves in the bottom half of the frame, but ran into more trouble in the fourth. Orlando Arcia, Acuna Jr., and Olson all reached to fill the bases with no outs. Murphy then broke it open by plating both Arcia and Acuna Jr. on a two-run single to left field that put Atlanta back up, 7-1.
Though Pivetta did retire the final two batters he faced in the fourth, the damage had already been done. The 30-year-old hurler finished with 90 pitches (52 strikes) and induced 11 swings-and-misses. He was charged with the losing decision and his ERA on the season now sits at an unsightly 6.23.
In relief of Pivetta, Brennan Bernardino received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The lefty beaned Michael Harris II to put runners at first and second with no outs and then yielded an RBI ground-rule double to Arcia to give the Braves an 8-1 advantage.
Turner struck again in the sixth, this time taking Morton 389 feet deep to the opposite field for a leadoff home run (his third of the season). That was all the Red Sox could do off Morton, though, as the veteran righty allowed just two runs over six innings on exactly 100 pitches before being lifted for reliever Kirby Yates.
Following a pair of scoreless frames from Ryan Brasier and Zack Littell, Turner laced a one-out double off A.J. Minter in the top of the eighth for the 300th two-base hit of his career. He then moved up to third and scored his side’s third run of the night on a line-drive RBI single off the bat of Enrique Hernandez.
After Littell surrendered an RBI double to Murphy in the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox went down quietly in the ninth to end it. Masataka Yoshida grounded out for the final out of the game. He went 0-for-5 on the night, meaning his 16-game hitting streak has ended.
As a team, the Red Sox tallied eight hits and went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight runners on base. Verdugo went 3-for-5 with a run scored and Turner went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored to lead the way offensively.
Next up: Bello gets the start in finale
The Red Sox will look to salvage a split in the finale of this quick two-game set against the Braves on Wednesday night. Right-hander Brayan Bello is slated to start for Boston while Atlanta will go with a bullpen game after placing projected starter Max Fried on the injured list.
First pitch from Truist Park is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)