A day off did the Red Sox good.
All the way around, this was the kind of game the Sox have been looking for, the game they so desperately needed.
Nick Pivetta threw a seven-inning gem, the defense made some nice plays and the offense showed a much-improved approach at the plate as the Red Sox steamrolled the Rangers with a 7-1 win at Globe Life Field.
1. Where has this lineup been all year?
There were quality at-bats up and down the lineup on Friday night. The over-aggressive, free-swinging Red Sox we’ve seen all year took a back seat to a team that was content with just making some contact.
There were broken-bat singles and mishit doubles as the Sox finally seemed to make significant adjustments as a team, and it showed.
Rafael Devers poked a fastball through the left side to beat the shift with an RBI single in the third inning, then the Sox plated four runs in the sixth.
Sure, they had some hard-hit balls in there. Alex Verdugo smoked one off the wall for an RBI double. But they also had some simple pieces of hitting to manufacture some runs.
Trevor Story had to reach down out of the zone to lift a breaking ball into the outfield for a sacrifice fly. Franchy Cordero showed some quick hands on an inside fastball and mishit it, but got enough contact to pull it down the line to score another run. And Christian Vazquez nearly fell down while bending over to put a little wood on it and dunk it into right field for another RBI single.
As a team, the Sox went 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position. And they kept on taking quality at-bats into the late innings, even with a heavy lead.
“It’s more fun than before,” Vazquez told NESN after the game. “We need to keep going like this, playing like this. We played great in Atlanta. We need to continue to bring that here.”
It was the kind of offensive game Alex Cora has been looking for, and the Sox did it without hitting a single home run.
“The quality at-bats early on in the season were awful, and they can tell you that,” Cora told reporters in Texas. “As far as swinging at pitches in the zone, we’re going to keep doing that. We will start hitting balls out of the ballpark. We’re still hitting the ball hard. But talking to them and all the work they’re doing, it’s paying off. That’s a good sign.”
Devers is hitting .308, J.D. Martinez was on base three times and is hitting .306 and Xander Bogaerts collected two more hits to move his average to .347. Martinez and Bogaerts are both in contract years.
After scoring just 14 runs in a six-game homestand, the Red Sox have now scored 19 runs in three games on this road trip.
2. Pivetta is back, perhaps?
His fastball still isn’t back, but he didn’t need it on Friday night.
With his best curveball working, Pivetta sliced and diced a Rangers’ lineup that’s had trouble scoring runs, despite the big-money additions of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien into this year’s lineup.
With a fastball that averaged 93 mph — still beneath his 95 mph average from a year ago — Pivetta held the Rangers to just one run on three hits over seven strong innings. He struck out four, walked one and needed just 85 pitches to do it.
The Sox are still unsure where his fastball velocity went, but to see his curveball keeping the Rangers fooled all night was a good sign for a pitcher they need to get going in the right direction.
“He always talks about his timing,” Cora said. “He was off in spring training, off mechanically early on. But I do believe he found something in that outing at home against Toronto, halfway through it. He’s been throwing the ball well.
“His fastball always plays. Doesn’t matter if it’s 91 or 93 or 95 or 96 mph, the carry and distinction plays. He needs to understand it’s not always 97 mph. He can pitch and get people out.”
He took a 7.84 ERA into his previous start against the White Sox, but has now allowed just one run over 13 innings in his last two starts combined.
3. Verdugo exits with injury
The only downside in this game was Verdugo exiting after fouling a ball off his right foot. He stayed in the game to finish hitting on the RBI double in the sixth, but exited an inning later.
Verdugo was seen limping after scoring a run in the sixth. The Sox announced that it was just a bruise and X-rays were negative.
Cordero moved from first base to left field while Bobby Dalbec took over at first.