After a rare off day, the Red Sox returned to action in Bradenton on Tuesday and fell to the Pirates by a final score of 6-2 at LECOM Park. Boston is now 7-5 in Grapefruit League play.
Making his third start of the spring for the Sox was Nick Pivetta. In his penultimate outing before the regular season begins, the right-hander surrendered three runs — all of which were earned — on five hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts over four-plus innings of work.
Two of the three runs Pivetta gave up on Tuesday came by way of the home run ball. After working a scoreless first inning, the 29-year-old served up a one-out solo shot to Hoy Park in the bottom of the second.
Two innings later, Pivetta ran into more trouble when he issued a pair of one-out walks to Greg Allen and Park. Veteran catcher Roberto Perez made him pay for that by ripping an RBI double to left field to score Allen and give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Daniel Vogelbach added on to that when he took Pivetta 377 feet deep to right field to lead things off in the fifth. Pivetta then walked Bryan Reynolds on six pitches, which is how is day would come to an end.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 78 (50 strikes), Pivetta relied on his four-seam fastball 60% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday. The Canadian-born righty induced six swings-and-misses while topping out at 95.5 mph with the pitch.
In relief of Pivetta, Kaleb Ort got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen with no outs and one runner on in the latter half of the fifth. The non-roster invitee stranded the lone runner he inherited by getting Ben Gamel to ground into a force out at second and Yoshi Tsutsugo to fly into an inning-ending 7-6-4 double play.
From there, Jake Diekman was dispatched for the sixth, but the left-hander only saw his spring struggles continue. Diekman plunked the first batter he faced in Allen, yielded a one-out walk to Cole Tucker, then served up a blistering three-run home run to Kevin Newman.
That sequence increased Boston’s deficit to six runs. It also raised Diekman’s ERA this spring to an unsightly 22.63. The 35-year-old southpaw did manage to retire the side in the sixth before making way for Kutter Crawford, who fared far better.
In his two innings of relief, Crawford struck out five of the eight batters he faced while limiting the Pirates to just two base runners (one via a base hit and one via a walk) over that stretch. The 25-year-old hurler also hovered around 95-97 mph with his four-seamer, per Baseball Savant.
Crawford’s two impressive frames of work took things to the ninth inning. To that point in the contest, the Red Sox lineup had been stifled and kept off the scoreboard despite out-hitting the Pirates 8-7.
Down to their final three outs of the day and matched up against old friend Austin Brice, Nick Yorke drew a leadoff walk and Marcelo Mayer fanned on three pitches. That set the stage for versatile prospect Ceddanne Rafaela, who made the most of his playing time on Tuesday by crushing a two-run homer to the opposite field off of Brice.
Rafaela’s first home run of the spring made it a 6-2 game in favor of Pittsburgh, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
Christian Arroyo batted leadoff and got the start in right field. He went 1-for-3 with a walk before being pinch-ran for by Ceddanne Rafaela in the top of the seventh inning.
Alex Binelas, Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, and Nick Yorke all came off the bench on Tuesday and went a combined 0-for-3 with one walk, one strikeout, and one run scored.
Next up: Anderson vs. Houck
The Red Sox will return to Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon to take on the Braves at JetBlue Park. As was the case the last time these two teams squared off in North Port, Tanner Houck is line to get the start for Boston while fellow right-hander Ian Anderson is slated to do the same for Atlanta.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)