It’s become especially clear in the month of June, that if the Boston Red Sox are going to make the playoffs and win playoff games, they’ll need to do it a certain way. Tuesday’s 7-6 win over the Kansas City Royals illustrated it perfectly.
Once again, the Sox offense and bullpen rescued the team from another disastrous outing by the starting pitcher. Tuesday’s unfortunate soul was Nick Pivetta, who was coming off a start in which he was pulled with zero hits allowed after 6.2 innings and 100 pitches.
Pivetta was tagged for six earned runs and allowed three home runs to the Royals at a steamy Fenway Park, and saw his ERA jump from 4.00 to 4.43. Fortunately, K.C. starter Brad Keller went run-for-run with Pivetta, and the tying run in the sixth inning was charged to him.
Once the game became a battle of the bullpens, the Red Sox took over. After Keller allowed Bobby Dalbec to reach on a single to start the bottom of the sixth, Royals reliever Jake Brentz allowed a two-run double to J.D. Martinez that scored pinch-runner Michael Chavis and Alex Verdugo, giving Boston a 7-6 lead.
The Red Sox bullpen, meanwhile, hurled 4 2/3 shutout innings. Closer Matt Barnes slammed the door by striking out the side in the ninth. Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Yacksel Rios combined to allow only three baserunners in 3 2/3 innings.
Setup man Adam Ottavino wasn’t so sharp, allowing two hits in the eighth inning, but he escaped trouble unscathed. Ottavino induced a clutch groundout by Jorge Soler with two outs and runners on second and third.
“Guys are feeding off of each other, guys are doing their thing, wanting the ball, competing and going out there and doing their job in big situations,” Barnes said after the game, via Ian Browne at MLB.com. “It’s been awesome, it really has.”
The Red Sox’ brand of baseball has certainly made for some wild and exciting games. And they just keep on winning, despite the immense recent struggles of the starting staff. Boston starters collectively have a 6.01 ERA since June 4, the fourth-highest in the major leagues.
However, the Sox have also scored the third-most runs in baseball (128) over that same span. And their relievers have posted a 3.05 ERA, the fourth-best in the majors. So if it wasn’t clear before the crackdown on sticky stuff, it’s obvious now that June is coming to an end. We know what the Red Sox’ real strengths are, heading into the second half of the season.
The question is, can it last? You’d have to think that the Red Sox will need much better starting pitching if and when they play into October. But they don’t necessarily need a True Ace™, either. Mid-rotation guys elevate themselves in the playoffs fairly often. It happened with Nathan Eovaldi in 2018.
If the Sox can get improved starting pitching while maintaining an elite offense and strong bullpen, they should be a serious threat to anyone in the American League. It’s clear that the latter can bail out the former, if necessary.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.