Red Sox Notes: Bullpen (And Nick Pivetta) Star After Chris Sale Struggles

Nick Pivetta earned the save

by abournenesn

Oct 3, 2021

On the final day of the 2021 season, the Boston Red Sox narrowly escaped a potential four-way tie for the American League Wild Card as Eduardo Rodriguez earned the win and Nick Pivetta got the save behind a brief start from Chris Sale against the Washington Nationals.

Oh, baseball.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Saturday that Chris Sale was “the right guy” to lead the charge into the Wild Card game for the Red Sox, but he didn’t even last into the fourth inning. It didn’t seem like that would be how things ended, as he threw 12 of his 18 pitches for strikes in the first inning and sent down the side. Even in the second, when a pair of doubles gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead, he still was responsible for every out on strikes.

But when he walked in a run in the third inning, Cora had had enough. He was pulled with a final line of four hits, two runs, seven strikeouts and three walks through 2 1/3 innings (yes, every out came on a strikeout.)

“Chris wasn’t sharp. I think he came off in his mechanics toward the end,” Cora said.

This turned into a bullpen game much earlier than it should have. Hirokazu Sawamura, who hadn’t pitched since Sept. 24, set the tone by allowing one hit over 1 2/3 innings. Garrett Richards decimated that effort by allowing three runs on two hits with two walks in the fifth. But he turned out to be the only blemish among the six pitchers who came in in relief.

Martín Pérez walked one in one inning, Garrett Whitlock — who was activated from the 10-day injured list prior to the game — struck out two on 10 pitches (seven strikes) in his own inning of work. Then the Red Sox turned to their starters to close things out.

“The bullpen did an amazing job,” Cora said. “We went to some guys who haven’t pitched in a while, Martín and Whit. We used Eduardo, Nick. A great one. It was fun to watch from the dugout. It was fun. You could feel the momentum building.”

Pivetta thought nothing of coming in to the crucial spot.

“I just treated it as another start,” Pivetta said. “I try not to make the moment too big. It’s just staying within yourself. I did throw three balls to start off the batter then I got back in the zone. After I got that first guy, I started competing in the zone again and was able shut it down from there.”

Part of that was due to the fact that the Red Sox were keeping a close eye on the scoreboard as the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were all in play, meaning that a Red Sox loss would have resulted in one of several tiebreaker situations — all involving a game Monday.

“It was one of those that the other guys, although they were available, we felt like that was our best option,” Cora said. “It was a tough one too just watching the scoreboard, thinking about what can happen … We have to be very careful what we do tonight. We want to win, but at the same time you’ve got to be careful with certain guys … We went with our freshest arms and it worked out.”

Now, a relieved Cora will lead his team into Tuesday’s winner-take-all Wild Card Game against the Yankees. It’s hard to script it better than that.

Here are more notes from Sunday’s Red Sox-Nationals game:

— J.D. Martinez had a run-in with second base — and not the good kind — as he tripped over the bag heading out to right field. Cora and trainer Brad Pearson consulted with him on the field and he initially stayed in, but José Iglesias took his spot in the batting order in the sixth inning.

The Red Sox announced Martinez has a left ankle sprain. Cora said postgame he wasn’t sure if the slugger will be ready for Tuesday’s game and expects to know more Monday.

— Rafael Devers pretty much had the game of his life, with two home runs — including the crucial go-ahead shot in the ninth — to bookend the Red Sox scoring. But according to Cora, he wasn’t stressing about the situation at all. Before the game, Devers was playing cards and making friendly bets with Cora on the morning’s Premier League game between Liverpool and Manchester City.

“He was so relaxed, so calm,” Cora said. “He works on his craft so hard.”

— The AL Wild Card Game is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:08 p.m. The game will air on ESPN, but flip to NESN for an hour of pregame and postgame coverage.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez
Previous Article

J.D. Martinez Injury: Red Sox Offer Update On Designated Hitter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady
Next Article

This Angle Of Tom Brady Pregame Fist Pump Will Give Patriots Fans Chills

Picked For You