Red Sox continue trend of losing series openers at home with loss to Tigers

BOSTON — A familiar scene unfolded for the Boston Red Sox in the series opener against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on Thursday.

They got a strong pitching performance from their starter, but failed to hit, and in turn, lost yet another series-opening game at home, this time by a score of 5-0.

The Red Sox are now 1-7 in the first game of a series at Fenway this year with a win over San Francisco as their lone victory in an opener. On the year, they’re 6-13 overall in series-opening games.

For a team that’s struggled to find consistency at the plate all year, so many losses in the first game of a series has set them back from the get-go.

“Good starts, I feel like we’re wasting them,” Rob Refsnyder said. “A lot of strikeouts tonight. I saw we had like 12 strikeouts. I don’t know, maybe it’s contagious, but our starting pitchers have been really good this season and we’re not doing a very good job. We didn’t get on base tonight. Yeah, just kind of speechless.”

Nick Pivetta did his part, rebounding from his worst start of the year last week against Milwaukee. His command was shaky in the first inning, walking the leadoff batter and throwing just nine of 20 pitches for strikes. But he finished the inning with two strikeouts and then locked in.

Pivetta struck out eight consecutive batters through the end of the third inning, tying a Red Sox record set by Roger Clemens in his 20-strikeout performance on April 29, 1986. Riley Greene grounded out to open the fourth, breaking the streak, but Pivetta still hadn’t allowed a hit. It wasn’t until one out in the fifth that Akil Baddoo turned on a first-pitch cutter for a solo homer into the Monster Seats that the Tigers recorded the first hit of the game for either side.

Leading off the sixth, a fly ball to right dropped in front of Wilyer Abreu and took a hop against the wall that the rookie couldn’t coral, leading to a triple for Carson Kelly. After a fly out, Pivetta intentionally walked Greene before Mark Canha drove in Kelly on a single, ending Pivetta’s night. Cora turned to Greg Weissert, who entered and got a double play to escape further damage.

Pivetta finished with two runs allowed on three hits and two walks, striking out nine over 5 1/3 innings and keeping his team in the game.

“He was really good,” Cora said. “Today he was able to use all his pitches. Elevated, expanded with the sweeper, but we didn’t do much offensively.”

The Red Sox were down just 2-0 when Pivetta exited, but the deficit felt monumental for a team that had shown little offensive life. The Red Sox scored eight runs in Baltimore on Tuesday but before that had been held to three or fewer runs in each of their previous four games. The inconsistency at the plate has killed any momentum the club has tried to glean from the nights when the offense does show up.

The Sox have scored two runs or fewer in 17 of their 29 losses.

Refsnyder worked a nine-pitch at-bat and finally broke up the no-hit bid from Jack Flaherty in the seventh with a single to left, but it did nothing to spark the offense. Reese McGuire added a single in the eighth, but similarly was stranded. Between those hits, reliever Chris Martin uncharacteristically gave up a double and two homers in the top of the eighth to expand the Tigers lead.

“We got to put it together all in all, as a team,” Pivetta said. “It seems like we’re usually one side or the other side. We have to come together as a pitching staff so that we can support the hitters as much as they have supported us. We just have to continue to do that. Luckily, we still have a lot of season left but we do need to put the pedal on the metal and put everything together. We’re facing some good teams that are doing the right things and we’ve got to show up and do the right thing as well.”

This four-game stretch against the Tigers is supposed to be the Red Sox’s reprieve during a tough stretch. Coming off a 1-2 series in Baltimore, the Red Sox host the Atlanta Braves for two games next week before another lighter part of the schedule with a four-game trip to visit the Chicago White Sox. Then it’s six straight against the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees at home.

“We’ve just got to continue to move forward,” Pivetta said.

(Photo of Pivetta: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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