Pivetta goes 'toe-to-toe' with Ray, Blue Jays

Canada native spins 6 scoreless in return north of the border

August 7th, 2021

While on the road, Nick Pivetta was at home. 

Saturday’s start in Game 1 of the seven-inning doubleheader at Rogers Centre marked the second time Pivetta has pitched in his native country since becoming a big leaguer. His first trip was back in August 2018 when he donned a Phillies uniform as he allowed five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. 

This time, however, Pivetta was nearly perfect with "Boston" written across his chest. 

The 28-year-old right-hander went toe-to-toe with Toronto starter Robbie Ray as the two battled each other across six scoreless innings, until the Red Sox fell, 1-0, in walk-off fashion.

Pivetta’s perfect outing was snapped in the fifth when Corey Dickerson laced a line drive to center field, becoming Toronto’s first baserunner of the game. The Victoria, British Columbia, native retired the next batter on five pitches.

“[Ray is] a tough one. For [Pivetta] to go out there and pitch toe-to-toe with him, that was good,” said manager Alex Cora. “That was a good sign and he did an amazing job.”

Out of the gate, Pivetta looked sharp. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced while using 33 pitches (21 strikes) to get through the first two innings. His fastball accounted for six whiffs, while it also earned 11 called strikes.

“I'm just trying to stay right here, just build consistent starts because I haven't been consistent as of late -- a lot of walks,” said Pivetta. “So limiting the damage against a really good team, I'm happy about that. But I'm hungry for more.”

The performance on the mound was a drastic change for the right-hander who, like the rest of the starting rotation, has struggled recently. In his four prior starts, Pivetta had gone 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 20 innings.

Even more impressively, Pivetta was successful against the Blue Jays, who have given him trouble all season long. In four prior starts against Toronto this year, Pivetta was tagged for 18 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings, which resulted in a 7.59 ERA.

“I just commanded the strike zone with my fastball,” Pivetta said. “These guys are really aggressive, so I got a lot of early contact. The guys played really good defense behind me and [you] just have to be at your best against that team.”

Though Pivetta’s scoreless six frames and five punchouts were the highlight on the mound, the Red Sox’s offense took the brunt of the shutout. Closer Matt Barnes took over in the seventh to face Marcus Semien, but the first pitch out of his hand landed 361 feet from home plate and over the left-field wall.

"I never want to come out of the game, but Alex is a tremendous manager who has a really good feel and really good knowledge for the game,” Pivetta said. “That's just kind of how it goes. I did my job and that's all I can control.” 

Boston came up empty with two hits and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. This marks the team’s eighth loss in its last nine games. 

"Just overall, we haven't been able to do much," Cora said. "It's tough to lose one, nothing but the positive is that we pitched better. Nick stepped up, but offensively, we’ve got to do more. At one point, we know we're going to hit. We just got to stay with the approach: Cut down on the strikeouts and do certain things in certain situations, [which] we haven't been able to do.”