After getting shut out by the Astros on Thursday, the Red Sox were able to muster some offense against the Atlanta Braves on Friday, but still saw their losing streak grow to four games following a 9-7 defeat. They are now 4-9-2 in Grapefruit League play.
Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, coming off an impressive debut in which he struck out six Yankees over three scoreless frames last Saturday.
Working the first four innings this time around, the left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.
The first of those two Braves tallies came right away in the bottom half of the first on a two-out pop fly of an RBI single from Marcell Ozuna that probably should have been caught, but instead fell between Jose Peraza and Jarren Duran in shallow left-center field.
A pair of shutdown innings in the second and third preceded more two-out trouble for Rodriguez in the fourth when he served up a solo shot to Austin Riley that knotted things up at two runs apiece.
Riley would wind up being the penultimate hitter Rodriguez faced Friday, as he got the next man he faced in Dansby Swanson to ground out to third to retire the side in the fourth.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 59, the 26-year-old’s next outing should come sometime late next week.
In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes got the first call out of the Sox bullpen, and he yielded some hard contact while keeping the Braves off the scoreboard in the fifth before walking two of the first three hitters he faced in the sixth, making way for Colten Brewe to come on for him.
Brewer cleaned up Barnes’ mess with the help of an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, and he also allowed one run on two hits in the seventh.
From there, minor-leaguer R.J. Alvarez entered in the middle of the eighth with his side having just taken a 4-3 lead, and he saw that one-run advantage turn into a three-run deficit following a four-run, four-hit effort from the Braves before Hunter Haworth came on for Alvarez to end the inning on a strikeout.
Over eight total innings of work, Red Sox pitching combined to give up seven earned runs on 10 hits, five walks, and seven strikeouts.
On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Duran, Peraza, Michael Chavis, Kevin Plawecki, Bobby Dalbec, Chad De La Guerra, John Andreoli, Nick Longhi, and Roldani Baldwin was matched up against Braves top pitching prospect Kyle Wright to begin things on Friday.
Longhi got the scoring started for Boston in the top half of the third, as he led off with a single, advanced to third on a one-out hit from Duran, and came in to score from third on a throwing error while Duran stole second and also advanced to third.
Duran scored himself on an RBI groundout off the bat of Peraza, and just like that, the Red Sox had jumped out to a 2-1 edge over the Braves.
Fast forward all the way to the eighth, after Atlanta had claimed their second one-run lead of the afternoon, the Sox bats answered right back, with Jonathan Arauz driving in a pair on a two-out, two-run single to right field off Braves reliever Chris Nunn.
That put the Sox ahead by one run once more at 4-3, but a four-run rally from the Braves in their half of the inning made it a 7-4 contest.
Still, they at least made things interesting in the ninth, as Rusney Castillo plated one and put the tying run on base with a one-out RBI single off Tucker Davidson. 7-5.
Jantzen Witte followed by drawing a walk to put the go-ahead run at first, but neither Joey Meneses or Johan Mieses could do anything with that, as the former grounded into a force out and the latter struck out to end this one with a final score of 7-5 in favor of the Braves.
Some observations from this loss:
Matt Barnes walked three of the eight hitters he faced on Friday.
Kevin Plawecki went 1-for-1 with two walks and a stolen base while starting behind the plate on Friday. Through 16 plate appearances this spring, he has an OPS of 1.230. Jonathan Lucroy did not play.
Jarren Duran also stole a base on Friday. He is very fast.
This game was on ESPN and both Plawecki and Michael Chavis were mic’d up.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s some split-squad action against the Phillies and Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.
One group of players, headlined by top pitching prospect Tanner Houck, will travel to Clearwater to take on the Phils, while another group, headlined by right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, will stay behind at JetBlue Park to host the Jays.
Eovaldi has thoroughly impressed through his first two starts of the spring, as he has yet to surrender a run while fanning eight over his first five innings of work.
Houck, meanwhile, also owns an ERA of 0.00 through his first two appearances (one start) of the spring. The 23-year-old right-hander has struck out four over five scoreless frames so far.
First pitch for both contests is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. The game against Toronto will be on NESN, while the game against Philadelphia will be on MLB.TV.