During his weekly call-in appearance on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria on Wednesday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora teased that starting pitcher Nick Pivetta was a “sneaky good” hitter.
“He’s facing [Jacob] deGrom, but he has nine hits,” Cora said. “Pivetta. Nine hits. Yeah.”
Pivetta, Boston’s starter for their series finale against the Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday, came into the day with nine career hits in 120 career plate appearances from the 3 1/2 seasons he spent with the Phillies.
He had never faced off against deGrom before the third inning of Wednesday’s contest.
There, the 28-year-old led things off by putting together an at-bat that resulted in a strikeout, but was still impressive considering the fact that against a two-time Cy Young Award winner, he got ahead in the count at 2-1 before fouling off six consecutive pitches — four of which were 99-plus mph fastballs.
On the 10th pitch he saw from deGrom, Pivetta whiffed at a 91 mph slider to go down by way of the K. But by the time that happened, the right-handed hitter had raised deGrom’s pitch count from 32 to 42 with just one out in the top half of the third inning.
deGrom, who was fresh off a complete game shutout in his last time out against the Nationals, was only able to go six innings deep in his start against the Red Sox, and it’s safe to say Pivetta’s lengthy at-bat played a role in that.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Cora said following his team’s 1-0 victory over the Mets. “It’s a team sport, right? And everybody has to do their part. If you are hitting in a National League park, you have to do your job. And he helped himself. That was a great at-bat.”
Before his first at-bat on Wednesday, the last time Pivetta had faced any live pitching came on September 28, 2019 in a game against the Marlins. So for deGrom to be the first pitcher he sees in 19 months, that was surely no simple task.
“I was just trying to compete against him, do the best I could, trying to wear down his pitches as much as I could,” Pivetta said during his postgame media availability. “Luckily, it worked out in my favor. Just trying to compete right there. I know that I’m probably not going to get a hit there, it’s deGrom. But, if I can foul off a couple pitches, make him throw a couple balls here and there, and just wear down his pitch count, that’s probably the biggest thing for me in that start. Just wearing him down, and doing the best I can with the job that I have.”
While Pivetta was in the process of making deGrom grind for the first out of the third, Cora and the rest of the Red Sox dugout enjoyed what they were seeing from the lifetime .083/.107/.092 hitter.
“It was great,” said the Sox skipper. “Everybody knew how important that at-bat was. We kept saying, ‘Just foul off five more. Five more pitches.’ I know he wanted to get a hit, but that at-bat probably changed the complexion of the game… It was fun to watch him compete against [deGrom].”
One of those in Boston’s dugout who cheered on Pivetta was Christian Vazquez, who also caught the right-hander on Wednesday.
“That’s a hit for us,” said Vazquez. “That’s a great at-bat. He took like eight pitches, nine pitches, and it was fun. A lot of foul balls.”
Upon returning to his post for the latter half of the third, though, the veteran backstop was told by deGrom himself that the Mets ace was hoping to do to Pivetta what Pivetta did to him at the plate.
“And deGrom, the first at-bat, he told me, ‘I got to do the same thing to him,'” Vazquez recalled with a chuckle. “So it was fun to see that.”
deGrom, who entered Wednesday having gone 6-for-his-first 11 at the plate to start the season, saw a total of 11 pitches in the process of going 0-for-2 against Pivetta.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)