NEW YORK — Nick Pivetta wasn’t happy after Saturday’s 7-5 loss to the Yankees. Nor was he happy during it.
He dramatically threw balls out of play he did not care for — mainly those potential Aaron Judge 61st home run balls being given to pitchers each time he comes to the plate. Pivetta noted Judge deserves this type of recognition, but he found it tough to get a grip on them.
“I think the [regular] game balls were more rubbed up than those [Judge] balls,” Pivetta said. “It’s just that simple.”
Pivetta kicked the mound dirt beneath him out of disgust. He glared at home plate umpire Clint Vondrak on pitches he thought were strikes. He hunched over, sometimes, in defeat.
It was a theatrical play, but not a good one. Rather, it was an Off-Off-Broadway performance featuring a lot of C-list acting from its protagonist.
The Yankees shellacked Pivetta for five innings and five runs on six hits, two of which were homers, and four walks. The performance was a rueful encore for Pivetta, whose 6.81 ERA this season within the American League East is the 10th-highest ever by a pitcher with at least 13 starts in the division. That’s 10th out of nearly 1,300 pitchers in the divisional era.
The good news for Pivetta is that he doesn’t have to face the Yankees again this year, finishing with a 9.51 ERA in 23⅔ innings against them.
“I’ve been terrible,” Pivetta said. “They’ve gotten the better of me this year, and I look forward to competing at some point next year. I’m never going to shy away from anything. But things haven’t just gone my way.”
Pivetta always shows his competitive spirit, and from the outset Saturday he was trying to mark his territory. He challenged leadoff hitter Judge with three straight heaters, freezing the Yankees outfielder for a called third strike.
Anthony Rizzo popped out, but Pivetta fell behind, 3-and-0, to Gleyber Torres. Pivetta then left a fastball down the heart of the plate and Torres came swinging out of his white cleats, clobbering it into the left-field seats.
The Sox responded in the second. Triston Casas parked a two-run shot to left off Domingo German, and Reese McGuire made it 3-1 with a solo shot.
Pivetta promptly gave some of it back. After back-to-back, one-out walks, he yielded an Isiah Kiner-Falefa RBI single. (The four walks tied a season high.)
“He was obviously wild,” manager Alex Cora said.
“The four walks, I think, those got me in a lot of trouble,” Pivetta said.
The fourth was when it really began to unravel. Giancarlo Stanton singled with one out, and Pivetta hung a slider to Oswaldo Cabrera that the rookie leaned on for a two-run shot and a 4-3 Yankees lead. After the first two Yankees reached in the fifth, Josh Donaldson’s two-out slow tapper went for an RBI single and stretched the lead to two.
Pivetta called his start a mixed bag, but it wasn’t. The Yankees, much like they have all season, enforced their will, and Pivetta allowed his most runs since he yielded five to the Rays in late August.
““The slider to Oswaldo is the one that put us in a bad spot,” Cora said. “I do believe his fastball today was really good, but sometimes, we shy away from that.”
Similar to the two previous games in the series, the Sox rallied, tying it with single runs in the sixth and seventh, the latter on an Alex Verdugo RBI single. Also similar to the two previous games, it did not produce a victory.
The Yankees have toyed with the Red Sox this series. None of Boston’s comebacks have posed any real threat. When the Yankees want to put them away, they do. Which they did in the seventh when Anthony Rizzo belted a two-run shot off John Schreiber.
“They got a good team,” Cora said. “It’s not only him, and they’re getting healthy, which is important for them.”
Despite five home runs hit between the sides, Judge went 0 for 3 with a walk, staying on 60 home runs and falling behind Xander Bogaerts in the American League batting race. Bogaerts went 2 for 4, rising to .315 as Judge slipped to .314.