With two outs in the third inning on Thursday night, Nick Pivetta threw a two-strike curveball to Seattle’s J.P. Crawford that appeared to catch the upper part of the strike zone.
Pivetta walked off the mound with a cocky strut that was practically a dance step. He got halfway to the dugout before realizing plate umpire Bill Miller had called the pitch a ball.
“Nobody was following me,” said Pivetta, who thought Miller had called a strike.
With a scowl, Pivetta got back atop the mound and threw another curveball that Crawford grounded to second.
This time, he stopped on his way to the dugout to assure Miller he wasn’t trying to show him up, even if that’s what it looked like.
Either way, Pivetta had that “can’t stop me” mojo going for much of the night at Fenway Park, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning before walking two and giving up a two-run double.
He didn’t get the decision in a game the Sox lost, 7-3, in 10 innings. Pivetta deserved better in his latest impressive start.
“He was outstanding. Good fastball, good command of his secondary pitches,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “If he can throw his fastball for strikes, he can go deep into games, and he did that today.”
Pivetta lost his no-hitter with two outs in the sixth when Ty France doubled to the gap in left. Had he not been playing shallow, left fielder Franchy Cordero might have had a play on the ball.
Cordero has been decidedly unimpressive this season. But don’t blame him for that one. The coaches had positioned him there based on the information they were given.
“He was playing where he was supposed to,” Cora said.
Pivetta blamed himself. He had a chance to get out of the inning but left a slider up.
“It was middle-up, middle up and away. Just didn’t locate it well enough,” he said.
Pivetta claimed a no-hitter was not on his mind.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Just focusing on getting outs and keeping my team in the best position to win the baseball game. At the time we had a two-run lead.”
You can blame Cordero for misplaying a ball in the 10th inning that gave Seattle the lead. Then Mitch Haniger’s three-run homer off Darwinzon Hernandez settled matters.
The Sox are 3-5 since their 9-3 start.
Pivetta, a 28-year-old righthander from Canada, competes with an edge. During a conversation in spring training, he seemed as much determined to prove the Phillies wrong for trading him last summer as he was to succeed for the Red Sox.
But motivation is where you find it.
“This guy, he has worked hard on his craft,” Cora said. “The season ended last year and he went down there to Fort Myers to keep working. He’s getting better. You see the stuff, it’s a lot better than last year. He’s put himself in a good position. We’re very happy with him.”
Even postgame, after pitching very well, Pivetta was visibly annoyed with some innocuous questions. Several of his answers were short and snappy.
But that’s not a bad thing. Too often we see pitchers look for positives after losses. He deflected that.
“I hold myself accountable,” Pivetta said.
For now, it’s certainly a deal that blew up on the Phillies. The Sox are 5-1 in the games Pivetta has started since the trade and he has a 2.93 ERA with 9.19 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Sox also landed 25-year-old righthander Connor Seabold, a former third-round pick who could make his debut later this season.
Philadelphia got back relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman. Both pitched poorly down the stretch then weren’t invited back after becoming free agents.
Workman is now with the Cubs and Hembree has a minor league deal with the Reds. The Sox made out just fine.
“I’ve done a pretty good job to this point. There’s a lot to work on,” Pivetta said. “I’m capable of much more … on the whole I’m very confident in the direction I’m moving in.”