Nick Pivetta provides length for Red Sox in ALDS Game 1 loss

ST. PETERSBURG — Distance was Nick Pivetta’s objective as he toiled through his first career postseason appearance, tossing 4 2/3 innings of relief in Thursday’s Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Each out recorded meant that the Red Sox’s bullpen might be just a bit fresher the next night.

Pivetta chewed the bulk of innings in Boston’s 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field, taking over the middle frames after starter Eduardo Rodriguez recorded only five outs. The 28-year-old Pivetta’s effort places the Red Sox’s relief corps in decent position for what should be an all-hands-on-deck effort in Friday’s Game 2.

“I think me providing some depth really helps that,” Pivetta said. “I think that’s really important in that situation, to be able to do that and help with the bullpen. We’ll see where we go moving forward.”

Pivetta threw 73 pitches (41 strikes), permitting three runs and four hits, including home runs to Nelson Cruz and Randy Arozarena, and two walks. No other Boston reliever tossed more than six pitches, with Garrett Richards, Josh Taylor and Adam Ottavino combining for five outs.

That could prove valuable behind left-hander Chris Sale, Boston’s scheduled starter for Game 2. Sale has averaged about 5 1/3 innings over his nine starts since returning from Tommy John surgery on Aug. 14. Sale received an early hook in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Nationals in Washington, striking out all seven of the batters he retired.

“We’ve got Chris, and he is ready to go,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The bullpen is rested, so we should be OK.”

Cora said he was aggressive in his decision to lift Rodriguez because he felt that Boston needed to “contain the game,” Tampa Bay having put two first-inning runs on the board on RBI hits from Wander Franco and Yandy Díaz. Richards induced an Arozarena groundout that ended the second inning before Pivetta took over in the third.

“It’s not that we mapped it out that way, but we felt that with that lineup and the way they are, that was a moment we had to stop it right there to get Randy out,” Cora said. “We felt that if we contained the offense for a while there, we were good enough offensively to put traffic on and score some runs. It just happened that we didn’t score.”

Because Tampa Bay held Boston’s offense down, high-leverage options like right-handers Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock never warmed for the Red Sox, saving Cora from burning through his bullpen card. Houck and Whitlock each pitched an inning to help seal the AL Wild Card Game win against the Yankees on Tuesday.

“This is a series. It’s not just one game,” Rodriguez said. “We just have to go out there and win tomorrow. … After today, we just have to go out there and win three games. It’s three out of five, not one out of two.”

Arozarena voiced a similar sentiment: “I think tomorrow is going to be a completely different day. You start new. You start at zero. You start with a whole other pitcher, a whole other ballgame.”

With an off-day on Saturday, allowing the clubs to travel to Fenway Park for Sunday’s Game 3, Cora can empty the tank in hopes of evening the ALDS with a Game 2 win. It also leaves open the possibility that Houck — who made 13 starts this year — could get the ball for a potential Game 4 on Monday.

“I did the best I could,” Pivetta said. “Things didn’t go my way certain times, but I tried to keep us in the baseball game. I just tried to go as deep as I possibly could.”

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