For six innings, a memorable night at Fenway Park seemed within reach. Starter Nick Pivetta looked as good as he has in a Boston uniform, performing in a fashion so dominant that it didn’t seem outlandish to think that he was capable of authoring the first Red Sox no-hitter since 2008.
Instead, Pivetta’s efforts became a footnote in the face of a night of uncharacteristic self-sabotage. Though Red Sox pitchers limited the Mariners to just three hits, they issued seven walks, resulting in a vexing 7-3, 10-inning loss. The game marked just the eighth time in big league history, and first since 1994, that a team allowed at least seven runs on no more than three hits.
“Two hits, three hits, if you walk seven guys, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation,” grimaced Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whose team fell to 12-8. “It’s not about getting hits, it’s about getting on base. That’s the name of game, and we walked seven guys.”
Four of those free passes were delivered by a bullpen that was charged with five runs over the final four innings, including two by lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez in the 10th. With a runner on second to open the additional frame, Hernandez (0-1) gave up a run-scoring, one-out double to Sam Haggerty, then issued a two-out free pass to No. 9 hitter J.P. Crawford that proved particularly costly when Mitch Haniger followed with a three-run, opposite-field homer into the Sox bullpen.
“It was just a bad day for me,” Hernandez said through translator Bryan Almonte. “Obviously, I wanted to limit those walks. I’m always trying to be aggressive attacking the zone, but it was one of those days that it just didn’t go my way. I just have to turn the page and just be ready for tomorrow.”
Seattle’s eruption in the 10th inning served as an anticlimactic coda for Pivetta’s outstanding outing. The righthander worked at a blistering pace, flying through three perfect innings in just 39 pitches. He featured his best fastball command of the season in combination with a curveball and slider that he proved capable of throwing both in the strike zone and to elicit chases.
Pivetta finally allowed a base runner by walking Haniger to open the fourth, but immediately erased him by eliciting a double- play grounder from Ty France. Pivetta followed with a perfect fifth, then quickly dispatched the first two Mariners of the sixth inning.
But his outing unraveled after 5⅔ hitless innings, once Pivetta lost his feel for the strike zone. He walked Crawford and Haniger to put two on with two outs. France then jumped on a full-count slider, lining it to left and over the head of Franchy Cordero, who was playing in puzzlingly shallow position — about 35 feet shallower than Red Sox left fielders have played against righthanded batters this year, according to Mike Petriello of MLB.com. The ball rolled to the Wall, permitting both runners to cross the plate, knotting the game at 2.
“We’ve been really good about positioning,” said Cora. “I’m not going to second-guess that one.”
France’s double — on which the designated hitter was thrown out attempting to advance to third — concluded the night for Pivetta, who absorbed a no-decision yet likely gained something more in a confidence-building outing that was as good as he’s had since being acquired in a trade last August.
“I think I’m getting more consistent as time goes on. I think today I was the most consistent I have been [with the Red Sox],” said Pivetta. “As a whole, I’m very confident with the direction I’m moving in.”
In six innings, he allowed two runs on just the one hit while walking three and striking out four. He lowered his ERA to 3.48 through four starts.
Still, Pivetta’s excellence was not rewarded with a win in part due to the solid work of former Boston College star Justin Dunn, who made his first big league appearance at Fenway. Dunn worked around a first-inning walk with three strikeouts on breaking pitches.
Mindful of how Dunn had carved his teammates, Rafael Devers wasn’t going to wait when the righthander came at him with a 93-mile-per-hour fastball on a 1-0 count to open the second. Devers slammed the offering over the Sox bullpen for a homer, his sixth of the season.
The Red Sox added another run in fourth inning when Devers singled, stole second, then scored on a single by Hunter Renfroe that put the Sox ahead, 2-0. But those two runs were all that Dunn allowed over five innings in which he gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out six.
The tie game was put in the hands of two bullpens that have been among the most effective in baseball, with Mariners relievers entering the night with a 2.69 ERA and the Sox bullpen at 2.86.
The Sox struck first in the seventh. Kiké Hernández took advantage of his home environment, lofting a fly ball to left-center. Center fielder Kyle Lewis and left fielder Taylor Trammell had an inharmonious convergence at the Wall, with the ball bouncing over both to permit Hernández to race to third base. He then scored on a wild pitch by Casey Sadler to put the Sox ahead, 3-2.
But the Sox, who’d entered the night with a 10-0 record when leading after six innings, could not preserve their advantage. Adam Ottavino walked the first two batters he faced, then threw wildly to third after fielding a sacrifice bunt attempt. His throw allowed pinch runner Haggerty to score the tying run, positioning the game to extend into extras, where the team’s previously unblemished record when holding a lead endured its first defacing.