OAKLAND — Do you get déjà vu? Nick Pivetta just might.
The right-hander turned in a start that is not easily replicable on Saturday afternoon, shutting down the A's in seven innings to propel the Red Sox to an 8-0 victory and a series win.
But get this: Pivetta has one other career start against the A's, which came about a year ago. It was practically identical to his performance this weekend. Here are his final lines from each game:
July 4, 2021: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K
June 4, 2022: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K
"It's hard to explain, right? Sometimes you've got the number of certain teams, and other teams, they kick your butt," manager Alex Cora said. "We had a feeling that he was going to have a good one. It's a very comfortable place to pitch, with the foul territory and all that, and he was able to attack."
It's not surprising to Pivetta. It's just part of the total resurgence he has experienced since a disappointing start to the season — a stretch that feels increasingly distant each time Pivetta takes the mound.
Pivetta began 2022 by going 0-4 in his first five games. In just 20 2/3 innings, he surrendered 18 runs, all earned, for a 7.84 ERA.
He has looked like a completely different pitcher in the most recent five games entering Saturday.
Compared with the first half of his season, Pivetta's strikeouts are up, his walks are down and he has given the Red Sox the length they so desperately need given how unreliable their bullpen has been. All in all, Pivetta went 4-0, giving up just six runs in 34 innings for a 1.59 ERA in the five starts before Saturday's game.
And Pivetta added to that with his latest gem. He has now thrown six or more innings in each of his previous six starts, extending a career high. He is the first Red Sox pitcher to achieve that streak since 2019, when Rick Porcello tossed at least six innings in seven consecutive starts.
How often does a pitcher go from an 0-4 start to five straight wins?
Not often. Pivetta is the first starting pitcher to go 0-4 to open a season and then reach a 5-4 record since Ramon Ortiz and Mark Redman both did it in 2006. The last Red Sox pitcher to do it was Danny Darwin in 1993.
Even Pivetta can't really explain what has shifted from the beginning of the season to now.
"I don't know. I'm just going out there and having fun, playing baseball, just repeating what I've been doing more," he said. "I'm not trying to overanalyze it, I'm just trying to go out, compete, have fun, win baseball games — that's all I really care about, and that's all I really want to do."
Cora points to fastball command as a key aspect of Pivetta's transformation. This year, Pivetta is throwing just over 50% of his pitches for fastballs, holding batters to a .175 average — which is down significantly from the .255 mark in 2021. On Saturday, the right-hander threw his four-seamer 57 times, getting six whiffs and three strikeouts.
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While Pivetta agrees that his fastball has played well this year, he points to a different factor.
"I think it's more to do with my curveball," Pivetta said. "My curveball command's gone up a lot more, I've used it a little bit more this year, so it allows my fastball to be properly executed at times. It keeps them off-balance."
That certainly worked in his favor on Saturday — Pivetta got his other four strikeouts on his knuckle curve.
Perhaps most importantly, the cavernous Oakland Coliseum helps play to Pivetta's strengths.
"It's a good mound, there's a lot of foul ground. I'm a fly-ball pitcher, so there's a lot of area on the outfield, and I just feel confident with my pitches," he said. "When I work in the zone, usually it allows me to get fly-ball outs."
Pivetta praised the work that his teammates put in on defense that allows him to be aggressive in the zone. As for the fielders? They're just happy to see Pivetta pitching like they've always known he can.
"I love to play behind him," third baseman Rafael Devers said through an interpreter. "We know the type of pitcher that he is, and he's showing it lately. I'm really happy for him, that things are starting to work out."