The Boston Red Sox engaged in a legitimate pitchers’ duel with the Seattle Mariners on Friday night. Nick Pivetta provided an outstanding season debut, though Seattle’s George Kirby was just a bit better in a 1-0 loss for Boston.

As the veteran of the staff, Pivetta entered 2024 with the chance to build on a strong summer from 2023, where dominating as a bulk reliever reenergized his production, particularly through the development of a quality sweeper.

That pitch set the tone for the Red Sox righthander to dominate against Seattle, striking out 10 batters in six innings. He did allow the only run of the night when J.P. Crawford put the Mariners in front on a solo home run to right field. While he took the loss, the Boston starter put together a tremendous start to his season.

“Nick was outstanding,” Alex Cora shared, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “He had good stuff most of the game. It was just one pitch.”

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“I pounded the strike zone and got ahead as often as I possibly could,” Pivetta told reporters after the loss, per NESN’s postgame coverage. I executed pitches when I needed to.”

Despite the loss, the quality of Pivetta’s repertoire marked significant progress that will be needed in the Red Sox rotation throughout the year.

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“You saw the stuff, it’s really good,” Cora said. “You saw today, finally, the breaking ball played. He struggled with it the whole spring. Tonight, he threw it for strikes. The cutter was good. The sweeper was great. The fastball played.”

“My curveball getting over for first-pitch strikes was really beneficial,” Pivetta added. “I was able to use my sweeper later to induce a lot of weak contact, as well.”

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Friday night marked the second time in eight months that Pivetta performed at a high level only to lose a low-scoring affair in Seattle. The righty took the ball on July 31 last season and struck out 10 Mariners in 7 1/3 innings. In almost identical fashion as Friday, one missed spot cost Pivetta when Cal Raleigh put the Mariners in front.

Though Boston fell in another losing effort in the Pacific Northwest, the deeper trend for the Red Sox speaks volumes. Boston’s season almost completely relies on the health and production of the starting rotation. Pivetta and Brayan Bello set the standard so far, combining for just three earned runs allowed in 11 innings with 12 strikeouts.

“That’s a pretty good two nights for the starters,” Cora added. “We (want) three more starts of five or more (innings). If we do that, we’ll have a chance to win a lot of ballgames.”

Here are more notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Mariners game:

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— The starting pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts, just one earned run, five hits allowed and 34 swings-and-misses.

— Boston missed Rafael Devers in the lineup, who was scratched with left shoulder soreness prior to the game. Following the loss, Cora tabbed Devers as “day to day” and would reevaluate on Saturday, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage.

— Boston left seven runners on base on Friday night, including four across the seventh and eighth innings.

— Pivetta struck out 10 batters in a start for the seventh time in his Red Sox career.

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— The Red Sox and Mariners have now split the last eight games they’ve played against each other dating back to the start of the 2023 season. Both teams are 4-4.

— Boston was shut out for the first time since Sept. 28, 2023, in Baltimore against the Orioles.

— The Red Sox and Mariners continue their four-game series on Saturday night in Seattle. First pitch is set for 9:40 p.m. ET. You can catch the game, plus an hour of pregame coverage, on NESN.

Featured image via Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports Images