Man on fire: Pivetta ties record with 8 straight K's

May 31st, 2024

BOSTON -- Jack Flaherty and the Tigers were trying to do something historic and no-hit the Red Sox at Fenway Park for the first time since Hall of Famer Jim Bunning did the honors -- fittingly with the Tigers -- on July 20, 1958.

While Detroit’s impressive righty fell eight outs shy thanks to Rob Refsnyder's one-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning, tied Roger Clemens for a slice of Red Sox history earlier in the night.

Though the excitement was diminished because Boston lost, 5-0, Pivetta was electric in those early innings, when he struck out eight straight consecutive batters.

Clemens is the only other Boston pitcher to pull off that feat, and he did it in one of the best outings in club history, when he set an AL/NL record by striking out 20 Mariners on April 29, 1986.

Did Pivetta have any idea he had a chance to break a record set by the legendary Rocket?

“No, I was just kind of focused on the game,” Pivetta said. “The Red Sox have been around longer than I have. I’m sure there's a ton of team records to beat up there, but, yeah, it’s cool to do.”

Coming off a frustrating performance against the Brewers during which he allowed five runs in the third inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, Pivetta bounced back nicely in this one.

Over 5 2/3 innings, he allowed three hits and two runs while walking two and striking out nine. Pivetta had 16 whiffs, half of them coming on sweepers.

On a night Flaherty’s dominance left the Red Sox with no margin for error, Pivetta was left with mixed emotions about his performance.

“In between,” Pivetta said. “I liked the way I started. I didn’t like the way I finished. Needed to keep the team in the game better than I did. Disappointed by the leadoff triple. I think that one hurt the most.”

The leadoff triple Pivetta spoke of was hit by No. 9 hitter Carson Kelly to lead off the sixth, and it led to Detroit taking a 2-0 lead. Akil Baddoo was the first Tiger to get a hit off Pivetta, ripping a one-out homer over the Monster in the fifth.

Though Flaherty won the duel, he paid his respects to Pivetta.

“Nick’s a stud, man. He came out, he shoved, did his thing,” Flaherty said.

In the short term, it went down as a loss for Pivetta. But the long-term benefit is that he regained his feel for the sweeper that turned into his best weapon during his breakout in the second half of last season.

“He had a couple of different breaking balls that he was throwing, a bit of harder one and then a sweeper,” credited Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. “He never conceded anything good to hit. A couple of our righties were saying it was starting in at them and then finishing off the plate. That’s incredible movement.”

Pivetta’s streak started when he struck out Mark Canha on a 3-2 sweeper for the second out of the first inning. The righty again went full to Gio Urshela and got him looking at a 93.5 mph heater.

He struck out the side in the second, getting Colt Keith (sweeper) and Baddoo (four-seamer) looking, and Spencer Torkelson (sweeper) swinging.

Back came Pivetta with a dominant third inning, when he again struck out the side. Javier Báez swung through Pivetta’s sweeper to open the frame. Kelly also swung and missed at a strikeout for the second out. Pivetta tied Clemens when he got Matt Vierling on, yes, another sweeper.

Riley Greene snuffed out Pivetta’s attempt to surpass Clemens when he grounded out to second to open the fourth.

Pivetta came just two punchouts away from tying three pitchers (Corbin Burnes, Aaron Nola and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver) for the AL/NL record of 10 straight.

“He was really good,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “Today he was able to use all his pitches. He elevated and expanded with the sweeper and we didn’t do much offensively.”

The Red Sox (28-29) have lost five of their past seven, and a troubling trend continued as they slipped to 1-8 in the opening game of a series at Fenway Park this season.

“Luckily, we still have a lot of season left, but we do need to put the pedal on the metal and kind of put everything together,” Pivetta said.