Red Sox’ Nick Pivetta flirts with no-hitter, but bullpen struggles in loss to Mariners

Forget about the result of Thursday night’s game with the Mariners because the Red Sox may have scratched off a winning lottery ticket.

Nick Pivetta, the 28-year-old right-hander who came over from the Phillies in the trade that sent Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree out of town last year, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

It was a beautiful start for Pivetta, who was painting with his mid-90s fastball and a fierce slider that he’s never before thrown as often as he is this year. It wasn’t until two outs in the sixth that Pivetta walked two batters, then surrendered a line-drive double to Ty France.

The Mariners scored two runs on the play to tie the game, then attacked the Sox’ bullpen for a 7-3 win in 10 innings.

Even if he escaped the sixth inning, Pivetta would’ve had a difficult road ahead of him to finish the no-hitter.

He was at 86 pitches with three innings to go, which wouldn’t have been impossible, but certainly improbable. And while his command was incredible for most of the game, a two-out walk to nine-hitter J.P. Crawford messed with Pivetta’s rhythm by forcing him into the stretch.

Both walks led to runs on the France double, evening the game at 2-2 and ending Pivetta’s night on a sour note.

Still, it was a remarkable outing. He finished six innings on 86 pitches, 55 for strikes. He struck out four, walked three and allowed just the two runs on the one hit.

“Outstanding,” manager Alex Cora said of Pivetta. “He did a good job. Obviously at the end, two walks and then the double, I think it was a slider with two strikes, but he was outstanding, good fastball, good command of secondary pitches. We were talking about him today. If he can throw his fastball for strikes he will go deep into games and he did that tonight.”

It was Pivetta’s best start since 2018, the last time he allowed two hits or less in a starting role.

He’s clearly found something here in the early parts of his Red Sox career. He’s been throwing his slider more than ever and it’s working; he’s allowed just 10 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings since arriving in Boston.

“It’s really exciting playing for the Boston Red Sox,” Pivetta said. “It’s really exciting hearing the fans. It’s really exciting just being back in baseball. I think that’s really important at the end of the day. We had a bit of a runaround last year in being able to compete and go out and play baseball, be there for the people, be there for the city. Just in general, it’s a lot of fun…

“It’s not about us necessarily. It’s about everybody else. It’s about the fan base.”

Pivetta is still under team control for another five years and it looks like the Red Sox may have found something here.

“This guy, he has worked hard on his craft,” Cora said. “The season ended last year, he went down there to Fort Myers to keep working, getting better. You see the stuff, he’s a lot better than last year, velocity-wise, a tremendous slider. Has put himself in this position. We’re very happy with him.”

A few more takeaways:

1. It was a weird game for the Red Sox pitching staff, which allowed just three hits but walked seven batters.

“How many walks did we have?” Cora said. “It doesn’t matter — two hits, three hits; if you walk seven guys, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation. It’s not about getting hits, it’s about getting on base. That’s the name of the game and we walked seven guys.”

2. The Red Sox’ bullpen might be a reliever short. Darwinzon Hernandez badly missed his spot on an 0-2, two-out fastball to Haniger and the result was a three-run homer that put the Red Sox away. The ball was supposed to be up, where Christian Vazquez had his glove waiting, but Hernandez left the 93-mph fastball middle-down. It was just the second homer Hernandez has allowed over his three-year career. Adam Ottavino also coughed up a key run in the eighth inning.

Asked if the bullpen needs another high-leverage guy, Cora said, “We’ve been saying that all along, right? Somebody has to step up.”

3. Everybody has bad games. Alex Verdugo hasn’t had many this year, but had a bad one on Wednesday night. Within a few innings on Thursday, Verdugo had already made up for it. He made a sliding catch in center field in the first inning, hit a triple in the bottom of the inning and singled in the third inning, stealing second and third base quickly afterward.

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