'He had that look': Pivetta fires 2-hitter to quiet Astros

Righty retires 18 in a row after leadoff HR for Boston's first complete game since '19

May 19th, 2022

BOSTON -- In case you were wondering, there was no discussion between the manager and the pitcher on whether would get a chance to finish what he started and throw the first complete game for the Red Sox in three years.

Any thoughts of a conversation ended when Alex Cora looked into Pivetta’s eyes as he came back to the dugout after a dominant eighth inning.

“The way he was looking at me, I was like, ‘Let me stay away, he might kill me.’” quipped Cora. “He had that look. He had it.”

Pivetta fired a two-hitter to down the dangerous Astros, 5-1, on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, which would have been a bold scenario to predict when you consider the following:

• The Astros belted six homers on Tuesday at Fenway, including five off Red Sox ace Nathan Eovaldi.

• Pivetta began his Wednesday start by giving up a leadoff homer to Jose Altuve to cap a 10-pitch at-bat.

• Who pitches complete games anymore? Pivetta’s was just the fourth in MLB this season.

“That’s why we love the game, right? Unreal,” said Cora.

When Pivetta trotted to the mound for the top of the ninth, the crowd of 31,717 roared with approval. Though Pivetta is probably the most hyper-focused pitcher on the Red Sox, he couldn’t help but hear and feel the love.

“I actually did. I try not to pay attention too much, but I allowed myself that time to get out there, to kind of just take it in and just enjoy the moment,” Pivetta said after firing his second complete game in 111 career starts.

Backed by Pivetta’s gem, which included 112 pitches, no walks and eight strikeouts, the Red Sox won a series at Fenway for the first time this season -- and they did so against the team that upended them in the American League Championship Series last season.

If the 15-22 Red Sox are going to get back on their feet, it has to start somewhere. Perhaps their second straight series win after not winning one since April 11-13 in Detroit will be that starting point.

“This series, it was really important for all of us,” Pivetta said. "We all know what happened last year. To go out and win a series, it’s really important. They’re a good baseball club, and they were [hot].”

And on Tuesday night, Houston’s bats boiled.

Pivetta reversed the narrative in dramatic fashion, retiring 18 in a row and 27 of the last 28 batters after that opening salvo by Altuve.

“It was a lot of fun. I don’t really know what to say, to be honest with you,” said Pivetta.

It was the first complete game for the Red Sox since Chris Sale on June 5, 2019, at Kansas City and the first at Fenway for a Boston pitcher since Rick Porcello on Aug. 3, 2018, against the Yankees.

Pivetta’s previous complete game was on June 8, 2019, when he was with the Phillies.

“He always jokes with me that I’m going to let him throw a complete game, and today he kind of willed himself to do that,” said Cora. “You see the swings, they were late. They weren’t able to recognize the slider. We had our guys ready because it happens fast with that team. We’ve seen it before, but he was amazing.”

It has been quite a turnaround for Pivetta, who was 0-4 with a 7.84 ERA in his first five starts and 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his subsequent three.

“It’s my mechanics, it’s my timing, just that, to be honest with you,” said Pivetta. “I had a lot of people help me out, a lot of the coaching staff really dug deep, a lot of the KinaTrax [technology], and they helped me out. I had AC texting me at 1 o’clock in the morning, so it’s been a really good group effort. Getting into a rhythm allows me to keep my legs underneath myself and just let the ball ride through the zone.”

Christian Vázquez had the best seat in the house, squatting 60 feet and 6 inches from Pivetta’s filthy arsenal of fastballs, curves, sliders and changeups.

“He was amazing,” Vázquez said. “He was attacking. The fastball was electric. The curveball was sharp.”

Who could have seen it coming when Altuve hit that rocket over the Monster?

“I thought it was going to be a crazy night again, but we turned the page and executed the plan,” said Vázquez.

And what exactly was Pivetta trying to tell Cora with his eyes after that eighth inning?

“I didn’t want to come out,” Pivetta said. “After [going seven last game], I felt like I could go the extra two innings, pick up the bullpen a little bit. I felt good, I felt confident. I was in the zone. They weren’t taking great hacks against me. I just kind of ran with that.”