ARLINGTON, Texas — The Red Sox found themselves in the midst of another close game Friday night at Globe Life Field.
Heading into Friday night 18 of the Sox’ 31 games this season had been decided by two runs or fewer, and they were 6-12 in those contests.
The Red Sox had just one run to their name against the Rangers’ Dane Dunning through five innings. But a four-run sixth inning ended up being the room they needed in what was a convincing 7-1 win. It’s rare they have had this type of elbow space this year.
Observations from the game:
▪ Nick Pivetta walked through the visitors’ clubhouse late Friday afternoon and pointed toward Christian Vázquez, then pointed at the ping pong table. “You want to play some ping pong?” Pivetta asked. His catcher took Pivetta up on his offer.
Who won wasn’t important. It was more about just keeping the mood light, building on Pivetta’s last start May 7 against the White Sox, which turned out to be his best of the season coming in.
Whether the ping pong match did the trick or not, Pivetta turned in another promising outing for the Red Sox, allowing one run and three hits in seven innings. Pivetta is the second pitcher for the Sox to go seven innings this year — Nate Eovaldi has done it twice.
Pivetta’s velocity still is a couple of ticks down this season, averaging around 93.2 miles per hour. Friday’s velocity was around the same. He had just four strikeouts but made pitches when he needed.
The Sox aren’t worried about Pivetta’s velocity. In fact, manager Alex Cora and his group tell Pivetta that his stuff can play at 91-92 m.p.h. the same way it does at 96-97 m.p.h., given his spin rate.
“I think with me, I just have that natural ride to my fastball,” Pivetta said. “I’m just not trying to focus on that too much. I’m just trying to focus on competing in the zone, my stuff plays in the zone.”
That certainly was the case in the bottom of the sixth inning with a runner on third, when Pivetta struck out Corey Seager following a 11-pitch at-bat to end the inning.
▪ Kiké Hernández squared up three balls Wednesday in the series finale against the Braves, and he negotiated two walks against Dunning. The second walk was a crucial one, which led to the Sox scoring the first run of the game in the third inning. Hernández advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Rafael Devers poked a single through the shortstop hole, scoring Hernández. It was the first time all season that Hernández registered more than one walk in a game.
▪ The Sox registered three hits in a row off Dunning in the sixth, the final one an Alex Verdugo double that made it 2-0. A sacrifice fly by Trevor Story and RBI double by Franchy Cordero made it 4-0. Vázquez dumped in an RBI single in that frame, too.
But in order to trace the success of this game, and how that inning got started, Cora pointed to Xander Bogaerts. With J.D. Martinez on first and one out, Bogaerts legged out a broken-bat single to Seager at shortstop. The remains of the bat sailed toward Seager, who had to maneuver out of the way before fielding the ball. That gave Bogaerts enough time to reach first safely, beating Seager’s throw.
“We scored all those runs but it started with a hustle play,” Cora said. “With everything that we’ve been going through, he shows up every day and he plays hard. He changed the game with that play.”
- The Sox have 28 hits in their last three games. They have walked 14 times in that span, which is a sign of better plate discipline.
“The biggest thing is keeping the line moving,” Verdugo said. “You get people on and somebody comes through with that big hit.”
▪ Verdugo left the game in the top of the seventh with a right foot contusion, and X-rays after the game were negative. He was replaced by Bobby Dalbec, who entered to play first base as Cordero shifted to left field. Verdugo was 1 for 3 with the RBI double.