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From Wendell Cruz, USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox Pitchers Ready to Thrive Against the Bottom of the Barrel

As a slumping pitcher, there’s no better cure than a juicy matchup against an anemic offense. Red Sox pitchers like Garrett Richards discovered this on Tuesday when the Sox went on a two-game road trip against the Mets. Richards looked like he belonged in Double-A so far, allowing 12 ER, 18 hits, and 13 walks in 16.2 innings. Averaging just over 4 innings per start, he had fewer strikeouts (12) than he’d allowed hits or walks. This was despite his first two starts coming against the lowly Orioles.

The future was looking grim for the 10-year vet… and then the Mets graced us with their presence. Richards spun a 7-inning 1-run gem, fanning 10 and walking none while throwing 70 of his 93 pitches for strikes. It was an utter decimation of that lineup. Despite boasting Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and Kevin Pillar, they’ve been the worst in the majors this year.

Pivetta’s Turn

It’s familiar territory for Mets fans. Their offense has been laughably bad in recent seasons, particularly when their ace Jacob deGrom, the best pitcher on the planet for the last half-decade, takes the mound. That didn’t change Wednesday with deGrom’s matchup against Nick Pivetta, who’s had a good but not great start to the season and started 2021 with a career 5.40 ERA in 94 appearances. deGrom was his usual lights-out self, allowing 2 of his 3 hits and his only run in the second inning while striking out 9. Pivetta walked 3 and threw only 55 of 93 balls for strikes across 5 innings. But he did just enough to hang on.

Pivetta allowed 1 hit and kept it scoreless before turning it over to the bullpen, who didn’t allow a baserunner after the 6th inning. Only one offense could give us a deGrom-Pivetta pitchers’ duel that results in a 1-0 Sox win: the Amazin’ Mets!

A Proven Remedy

These are huge confidence boosters for Red Sox pitchers, and not just for Richards and Pivetta who may be fighting for a rotation spot when Chris Sale returns and if Tanner Houck impresses in AAA. Relievers Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Matt Andriese, and rookie Garrett Whitlock combined for 6 scoreless innings in the last 2 games. They allowed 1 total hit in a span when a single run would have meant a blown lead. Wednesday was only Ottavino’s second perfect appearance of at least 1 inning during his shaky start this year, and Barnes cemented his closer status with 5 strikeouts across consecutive saves in 1-run games. When your own offense only musters 3 runs in 2 games, it’s important knowing your pitching staff can shut down the offenses that they should.

And the best part? This might be only the beginning. After a tough stretch that saw 12 of 14 games (including two doubleheaders) against the Twins, White Sox, and the surprising Mariners, the Sox will see a different caliber of team for the next couple weeks. Following their two games against the 30th-ranked scoring offense, the Sox play 11 straight against the Rangers, Tigers, and Orioles – who currently rank 22nd, 29th, and 27th in scoring. This is the time for Boston’s pitching staff to build its confidence, work out any kinks, and help build their lead over the Rays and Yankees. Those two teams will figure things out eventually, and I’d love to have a fully locked-in pitching staff for the inevitable summer pennant race.