Nick Pivetta faces challenge as Red Sox battle Blue Jays

MLB

Nick Pivetta will try to stay unbeaten at Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox host hot-hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays for the second game of a four-game series on Saturday afternoon.

Pivetta (6-1, 3.78 ERA) is 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA in seven starts at Fenway this season. However, he will have to find a way to stifle one of the hottest hitters in baseball to help keep his home record unblemished.

Guerrero hit a two-run blast for his major-league-leading 19th home run and became the first in the majors to reach 50 RBIs in Toronto’s 6-5 loss to Boston on Friday. The 22-year-old is batting .419 (13-for-31) with three homers and eight RBIs through his first nine games in June.

Boston rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win the Friday game on Alex Verdugo’s walk-off single in the ninth inning. The Red Sox have won seven of their past nine and are 3-2 on their eight-game homestand. Meanwhile, Toronto has dropped four of its past five games.

The Blue Jays rank second in the majors in both batting average (.259) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.759).

“They’re just good. Coming into the season, we knew it was going to be a tough division,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “(People) always talk about the Yankees and the Rays, but this (Toronto) team — they made it to the playoffs last year. … In this division, there’s no off days.”

Pivetta hasn’t had many off days himself for the Red Sox this season. Boston has won 10 of the 12 games started by Pivetta, who didn’t take his first loss until his 11th start on June 2 at Houston.

On Monday, Pivetta bounced back from that defeat — in which he allowed just two runs and struck out nine over six innings — with a short yet effective start in a no-decision against Miami. Pivetta held the Marlins to two runs on seven hits and struck out six, but he was pulled after only 4 2/3 innings.

Pivetta is 0-1 with a 5.94 ERA in three prior starts against the Blue Jays. He allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits while walking two and striking out eight over five innings in a no-decision at Toronto on May 20.

Steven Matz (6-3, 4.50 ERA) will take the mound for Toronto with hopes of settling in after a rocky stretch.

The left-hander has allowed four or more runs in three of his past four starts, including giving up four on eight hits while walking four over 4 1/3 innings in a 6-3 loss against Houston on Sunday.

“A lot of times I come out of the game and I’m like, ‘Man, I just feel like I’m throwing the ball a little bit better.’ I feel like I could go deeper into games,” Matz said. “(I can’t) panic, (I have to) recognize I’m doing some things well, I could do some things better, and then just take that mentality all the way.”

Matz faced the Red Sox on May 20, when he surrendered five runs on a season-high 10 hits with two walks and four strikeouts over six innings in a no-decision. He is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA in two lifetime starts against the Red Sox.

–Field Level Media

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