Nick Pivetta, the former Phillies pitcher who showed above-average stuff but lackluster command in his nearly 400 innings with the team, had the biggest moment of his career Sunday night at Fenway Park.
Pivetta pitched four scoreless innings of relief in a tie game, setting the Rays down from the 10th through 13th innings. Pivetta struck out seven, including Mike Zunino for the final out of the 13th with runners on second and third.
Pivetta pounded his chest in triumph and shouted to his own dugout while walking off the mound. Christian Vazquez' walk-off two-run home run in the bottom half of the inning made him a winner.
"I just gave it my all, to be honest with you," Pivetta told reporters after the game, a 6-4 Boston win. "My energy just shows what this means to me and means to our team. It's really exciting. It's fun to be here. It's a moment in time for me and for our team."
Pivetta had a bit of fortune on his side. With two outs and a man on first in the top of the 13th, Kevin Kiermaier smoked a double off of him to the gap in right-center. In some parks, it would have been a home run. Fenway is deep in right-center and it instead traveled to the warning track, where it caromed off of right fielder Hunter Renfroe and over the short wall. The umpires ruled it a ground-rule double and the Rays baserunner, who clearly would have scored on the play, was forced to stay at third base. The rule made no sense in practicality and rewarded the Red Sox for having a defensive player accidentally deflect a ball.
Pivetta, who ended the threat a batter later, has appeared as a reliever in two games in the ALDS against the Rays, allowing three runs in 8⅔ innings with 11 strikeouts.
He made 31 appearances this season with the Red Sox and 30 were starts. In 155 innings, he had a 4.53 ERA with 175 strikeouts. His rates of strikeouts, walks and home runs were similar to his marks with the Phillies, with the big difference being fewer hits. Pivetta held his opponents to a .254 batting average with men on base this year compared to .296 in four seasons with the Phillies.
"I didn't throw very well at the end with Philly and I've been throwing well since," Pivetta said when the Red Sox came to town in May. "I've made the right adjustments that I've needed to make. It's a lot more fun and it's a lot easier when you're going out, competing in baseball games and everything's going right so you can focus on how to continue going right instead of fighting for your life.
"I didn't pitch good (in Philly). I wasn't comfortable. I was trying too hard. I was trying to be something I was not. I was good for a little bit, and then some things changed. I needed to pitch better. We made the adjustments here."
Pivetta was traded with pitching prospect Connor Seabold to Boston last summer for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. Workman and Hembree flamed out quickly and spectacularly in Philadelphia, combining to allow 23 earned runs, 11 homers and 56 baserunners in 22⅓ innings.
Seabold pitched to a 3.50 ERA in 11 starts at Triple A this season and made it up in September for his big-league debut, a three-inning road start against the White Sox.
"I think one of the biggest things with this team is that they know how to win, they know how to compete, they know how to stay in baseball games really, really well," Pivetta said in May.
"The change of scenery is always a thing. I never thought it would be a thing for me but it was. I think it was that and a combination of just believing in myself and being comfortable and knowing that I have a second chance."