For the first time since September 29th, 2019, the Boston Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened up exhibition play on Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Northeastern Huskies in a seven-inning contest.
The plan for the Sox was to use one pitcher per inning on Friday, and that’s exactly what they stuck to.
25-year-old Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath got things started by walking the first two hitters he faced, but settled down with the help of his catcher Connor Wong in addition to striking out a pair to keep things scoreless.
From there, recently-acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice fanned two more hitters and got more help from Wong in a scoreless second, righty Robinson Leyer struck out two and stranded two runners in a scoreless third, Trevor Hildenberger scattered one hit in an otherwise clean fourth frame, Denyi Reyes retired three of the four he faced in a shutout fifth, and Adam Lau maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk thanks to Roldani Baldwin in a scoreless top half of the sixth.
After his side finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, 24-year-old righty Eduardo Bazardo closed things out for Boston by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the seventh to secure the 3-0 victory over the Huskies.
In total, Sox pitching combined for seven scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and three walks to go along with 11 total strikeouts on the afternoon.
On the other side of things, the Northeastern pitching staff held their own for a while against the Boston bats, albeit without any regulars in the lineup.
It wasn’t until the bottom half of the sixth inning when the Red Sox offense finally woke up.
There, with right-hander Rick Burroni on the mound for Northeastern, Sox prospect Marcus Wilson led things off by drawing a walk in his first and only plate appearance.
The 23-year-old then proceeded to steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs for Josh Ockimey, who fanned for the first out of the frame.
A Jagger Rusconi groundout back to the pitcher meant that the Red Sox were just an out away from coming away with nothing, but Ryan Fitzgerald made sure that did not happen.
Yes, the 2019 Carolina League All-Star lined an RBI single to right-center field deep enough to plate Wilson from second and put his side on the board first.
Two more walks drawn by Baldwin and Tyler Esplin ended the day for Burroni and filled the bases for longtime PawSox mainstay Jantzen Witte.
Facing off against Huskies right-hander Henry Ennen, the 30-year-old veteran laced a two-run single through the middle of the infield to score both Fitzgerald and Baldwin from second and third.
That clutch two-RBI knock gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the spring training opener.
Some notes from this win:
Top prospect Jeter Downs reached base on an infield single in his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He also committed a fielding error in the top half of the third and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half.
Downs was not originally slated to start for Boston on Friday, but because infielder C.J. Chatham was scratched from the lineup due to right shoulder soreness, the 21-year-old got the call instead.
Marcus Wilson will presumably begin the 2020 campaign in Double-A Portland alongside fellow outfield prospect Jarren Duran, who went 1-for-2 with a third-inning single on Friday.
The only players with big-league experience who played in this contest were Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, John Andreoli, Juan Centeno, Austin Brice, and Trevor Hildenberger.
Next up for the Red Sox, Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday with an afternoon contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.
Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to get the start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.
It had to have been a tough offseason for Johnson, as the 29-year-old was essentially demoted off the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November.
Still, Johnson snuck through waivers and remains with Boston in a lesser capacity than he had been the previous three or so seasons. He’ll have a chance to prove himself and perhaps open some eyes on Saturday afternoon.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.