Athletics still can’t solve Nick Pivetta, lose series opener in Boston

The beauty of baseball is it often defies convention.

Except when it doesn’t.

The Boston Red Sox, who have climbed off the deck to be a factor in the American League East, continued their tear with a 6-1 win over the Athletics Tuesday night behind starting pitcher Nick Pivetta at Fenway Park.

Heading in the opposite direction of the Red Sox, the Athletics have lost 15 of their last 17 and are 6-22 over their last 28 games. Now 21-42, the Athletics are 21 games under .500 for the first time since being 59-80 on Sept. 6, 2017. They have spent 41 of the last 42 days either in last place or tied for last place.

Pivetta, 6-5, is 6-1 in his last eight games for a Boston team that is 23-10 since May 10 and 33-29 overall. Jared Koenig, the 28-year-old rookie from Aptos who lost his first game last week to Atlanta, fell to 0-2.

The right-handed Pivetta is basically a mystery to the Athletics, who got just two hits and no runs against him on July 4 of last season when they were actually a good team, and two hits and no runs in an earlier start this season when they most decidedly were not a good team. The A’s finally broke through with a run against Pivetta when Stephen Vogt opened the eighth inning with a solo home run, his third of the season.

Pivetta gave up three hits and the one run with two walks and three strikeouts in eight innings before giving way to Phillips Valdez in the ninth. In his 22 career innings against the A’s, Pivetta is 3-0 and has given up seven hits and one run in 22 innings.

“Looked like the same guy, obviously,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “Obviously the curve ball gives us some trouble. We missed some fastballs in the zone. I thought Stephen’s at-bats were great, couple of walks, hit one over the fence. We’ll take that as a positive.”

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Koenig’s second major league start had a little bit of everything and very little of it was positive. He gave up six earned runs and nine hits in four innings, with the lowlight coming in the fourth when Devers connected on a 439-foot home run, three-run home run for a 6-0 Boston lead. Koening lost in Atlanta in his debut.

“Those are are two great lineups and both teams swing the bats very well,” Koenig said. “I know I can get outs. Now it’s about getting some clean innings and building off those clean innings and it will save me some pitches.”

Devers’ home run was his 15th of the season, with J.D. Martinez hitting a solo shot for Boston in the second inning.

Koening threw 96 pitches, 60 of them strikes, with two walks, three strikeouts and a wild pitch.

“It’s the big leagues. You’re going to face good lineups and have to get outs,” Kotsay said. “I think tonight was similar to Atlanta in terms of lineups and taking professional at-bats. The sinker for Jared needed to play better tonight.”

Kotsay said he hoped Koenig would take what he’s learned from his first to starts into a “solid game plan” against the Kansas City Royals for his first start in Oakland.

The fourth inning against Koenig began with a bloop single by Franchy Cordero, followed by a one-hop smash by Rob Refsnyder at 101 miles per hour directly at rookie third baseman Jonah Bride. Bride did well to save himself and knock the ball down with his chest, but it went for a single to set up the home run to Devers, which left the bat at 108.3 miles per hour.

After scoring first in each of their last six games, the Athletics instead saw the Red Sox chip away at Koenig with a run in each of the first three innings, during which time Boston had nine baserunners.

Xander Bogaerts drove in the first run with a bloop single in the first, an inning that could have been worse had not Koenig gotten a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Trevor Story to end the inning.

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Refsnyder hit a sacrifice fly and Boston led 2-0 in the second, and a the solo home run by Martinez gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead in the third.

BRIDE’S DEBUT

Bride became the 10th A’s player to make his major league debut. Wearing No. 77, Bride got his uniform dirty immediately diving for a ball at third base. At the plate, the 23rd-round draft pick from the University of South Carolina grounded out, hit into a fielder’s choice. Bride nearly had an infield single in the eighth, but was thrown out on a play from deep in the hole by Bogaerts at shortstop.

In all, the Athletics have played 21 rookies this season.

Kotsay took note of the line drive Bride took off his chest in his first major league game.

“I know that he took 111 miles per hour off his chest about that kid’s character that there’s enough to love about him,” Kotsay said. “His presence on the field is great. The at-bats didn’t pan out for a knock, but I liked that he put the ball in play and took good swings at good pitches.”

SOME RELIEF

Adam Oller pitched two scoreless innings after Koening departed with two walks and a strikeout. Lou Trivino threw a scoreless seventh after a number of rough outings and Austin Pruitt worked a 1-2-3 eighth.