A former Victoria HarbourCats pitcher played a huge role in propelling the Red Sox into a 2-1 lead in the American League Divisional Series on Sunday night in Boston.
Nick Pivetta, who developed as a pitcher with the Victoria Eagles junior team and pitched one summer for the HarbourCats, threw four extra innings of shutout ball and wound up the pitcher of record in a 6-4 Red Sox 13-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
Boston can wrap up the series Monday night by winning game 4 at home.
Using a wicked combination of upper-90s fastballs and elusive sliders and curveballs that stymied many Rays hitters, Pivetta struck out seven of the 15 batters he faced, walking just one and scattering three hits. Both teams had chances to score in the extra innings before Pivetta’s battery mate Christian Vazquez smacked a two-run homer into the front row of the Green Monster seats in left field for the walk-off victory.
As each progressive inning went by and Pivetta’s pitching pushed his team toward another chance to end the game, his fist pumps grew more pronounced as he led his team into the dugout, to the thunderous cheers of the Fenway faithful.
That emotion spilled out most after Pivetta and the Sox dodged a major bullet in the top of the 13th inning.
With the Rays’ Yandy Diaz on first with two outs, centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier drilled a shot out to the bullpen fence in right centre. Diaz would likely have scored easily on the blast, but the ball caromed off the wall, off Boston right fielder Hunter Renfroe and over the fence. The hit was ruled a ground-rule double and as Diaz had not yet rounded third when the ball went out of play, he was held at third.
Pivetta then proceeded to strike out Rays catcher Mike Zunino to end the threat and send the Sox to the plate.
The Victoria-born right-hander, a starter through the regular season, entered his first-ever Major League Baseball playoff game in relief in last Thursday’s 5-0 game 1 Red Sox loss in St. Petersburg. Brought in to shut down the potent Rays’ offence after a sub-par start by Edwin Rodriguez, Pivetta threw 73 pitches in relief over nearly five innings. He gave up a pair of solo home runs and three runs while striking out four.
Enthusiastic to the last on Thanksgiving Sunday, the lone Canadian on the Boston roster was among the first to greet his catcher Vazquez at the plate after the home run.
Game 4 will be televised at 4 p.m. Victoria time on Sportsnet Pacific.