Garrett Richards reworked his delivery last weekend with one thought in mind.
“More north and south,” he said.
The Red Sox right-hander is going in the right direction now.
Richards finally found the strike zone and punched out 10, Bobby Dalbec hit his first homer of the season and Boston beat the New York Mets 2-1 Tuesday night.
Richards (1-2) allowed a run and seven hits over seven innings, issuing no free passes one start after walking six. He trimmed his ERA from 6.48 to 4.94 thanks to a tip from pitching coach Dave Bush, who suggested he ditch his full windup to eliminate side-to-side movement.
“It’s super simple as far as my delivery goes,” the 32-year-old Richards said. “And it helps me stay in the zone.”
Boston improved to an AL East-leading 15-9, including a major league-most 12 comeback victories.
Jeff McNeil put New York up 1-0 with a homer in the second, but Dalbec tied it with a shot to right-center leading off the third. Rafael Devers put Boston ahead with an RBI single in the sixth, scoring Kiké Hernández after his leadoff double.
Matt Barnes fanned Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis during a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save. Alonso struck out four times.
Barnes quick-pitched Alonso for strike two, apparently upsetting the slugger. Alonso stared down Boston’s closer after fouling off the pitch, then failed to check his swing on a breaking ball for strike three.
David Peterson (1-3) permitted two runs in six innings for the Mets. The left-hander induced 12 groundouts and struck out three while giving up four hits and two walks.
“He had three pitches going on for him today and his command was solid,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.
THE GUY WE ENVISIONED
Richards signed a $10 million, one-year free agent deal with Boston, then walked 13 batters in his first 16 2/3 innings this season.
The side work with Bush solved that. By tamping down his typically noisy delivery, Richards threw 70 of his 93 pitches for strikes, including 19 swings and misses.
“This is the guy we envisioned,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He can do this every five days.”
Richards — who has tantalized between repeated injury woes throughout his career — posted double-digit strikeouts for the first time since setting a career high with 11 on April 21, 2018, with the Angels.
Primarily a fastball-slider pitcher, he mixed in 20 looping curveballs. The Mets took eight of them for strikes and whiffed on two more.
New York started hitting the ball hard the second time through the order, but Boston limited the damage. Richards stranded two in the fourth, James McCann and Kevin Pillar were thrown out on the bases in the fifth and Richards stranded two more in the sixth.
The Mets were 1 for 3 with runners in scoring position, lifting their major league-worst average to .193 in those situations.
“Runners in scoring position is the biggest thing right now,” Rojas said. “It’s almost like it’s still haunting us.”
Alonso turned in a defensive highlight at first base in the fifth, flopping toward the line to grab Dalbec’s sharp grounder before getting to his feet and diving to tag the bag with his glove.
Two-time Gold Glove winner Francisco Lindor got the Mets out of the seventh by snaring Marwin González’s liner and sprawling toward second base to double up Hunter Renfroe.
Lindor was booed after grounding out in the eighth inning. He’s hitting .212 since signing a $341 million, 10-year deal on the eve of opening day.
“It’s our fan base being passionate, as they are,” Rojas said. “Wanting us to perform better, to win games. I’m sure it’s not the last time we’ll hear a reaction from our fans.”
Red Sox: CF Alex Verdugo and INF Christian Arroyo were both held out of the lineup but available off the bench. Verdugo had a hamstring cramp Saturday and sat out Sunday. Arroyo was hit by a pitch Sunday on his left hand. Verdugo entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth.
Mets: OF Brandon Nimmo, the NL leader in on-base percentage at .477, was out of the starting lineup for New York a day after getting an injection for an impingement in his right hip. He pinch hit in the seventh and struck out. … LHP Stephen Tarpley was optioned to the alternate site and INF José Peraza was recalled. … The club has arranged for players, coaches and other Tier 1 personnel to receive their second coronavirus vaccine after Wednesday’s game, taking advantage of a day off Thursday to deal with any side effects. The team will remain short of the 85% vaccination rate required by Major League Baseball to begin easing certain safety protocols. … The Mets and Yankees may increase capacity from 20% to 33% starting May 19, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.31 ERA) faces Boston RHP Nick Pivetta (2-0, 3.48) to complete the two-game series. The right-handed deGrom struck out a career-high 15 without a walk in a two-hit shutout against Washington last time out.