NEW YORK — The drawn-in infield, during the second inning, was all that Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez needed to espy to realize the importance of his at-bat against the best pitcher in baseball. Once Vázquez lifted a pitch over the infield and it deposited at the base of the wall in right-center field, the Red Sox became the latest team to do the bare minimum offensively yet hang another loss onto the otherwise sterling profile of Jacob deGrom.
Vázquez turned around a deGrom 100-mile-per-hour heater at eye level for a second-inning double that scored Xander Bogaerts, the only run in a 1-0 Red Sox victory over the New York Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday evening. deGrom’s counterpart on the mound, Boston starter Nick Pivetta, allowed just one hit while striking out seven over five innings as the Red Sox pitching staff allowed only two hits and struck out Mets hitters 15 times.
Chances come few and far between to score against deGrom, who was coming off a complete game shutout with a career-high 15 strikeouts against the Washington Nationals. When Bogaerts led off the second inning with a double down over the head of Dominic Smith in left field, the Red Sox went on to execute situational baseball to perfection in a game where runs were going to be scarce given the pedigree standing on the mound.
Rafael Devers followed Bogaerts by grounding out to second, moving the latter to third base with only one out. Then came Vázquez, who quickly fell behind 0-2 as the Mets’ fans started to feel confident that deGrom would work his way out of trouble…as he almost always does. That confidence would have skyrocketed even more if they knew beforehand that Vázquez would then swing at a pitch out of the strike zone going at 100 miles per hour.
But Vázquex made contact. Real good contact, in fact, as the ball was driven to the right-centerfield gap to get Boston on the board.
The Mets know all too well the added pressure on their offense when deGrom allows a run given their historical ineptitude when he is on the mound, and the troubling trend continued on Wednesday. Before the Red Sox’s run in the second, New York put the first two batters on base in the bottom of the first after leadoff walks to Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor. From there, Pivetta got himself out of the only real jam he faced in five innings, striking out Pete Alonso before inducing a fly out from Michael Conforto and and line out to short from J.D. Davis.
On the night, deGrom went six innings allowed just three hits and that one run in the second while striking out nine, with those nine punchouts allowing him to tie Nolan Ryan (1978) for the Major League record for most strikeouts in the first five starts of a season with 59.
Though the offense gets extra attention for the lack of production in deGrom’s starts, New York has been equal opportunity in giving all of its starters very little run support, scoring four runs of fewer in 16 of their 19 games this season. This, in spite of the Mets’ team ERA lowering to 3.04 after tonight’s game, including a 1.85 ERA in home games.
The Boston bullpen was nearly perfect in their four innings of work, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out eight batters. Matt Barnes converted his sixth save out of six opportunities by striking out the side in the ninth.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Wednesday night’s game, with all photos taken by New York City-area photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 24 pictures in total.