The Red Sox scored four runs out of the gate and held on for a series-opening win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Tuesday night. Boston defeated Pittsburgh by a final score of 5-3 to improve to 58-59 on the season and 7-9 in interleague play.
Making their first trip to Pittsburgh in nearly seven years, the Sox received an early boost from the top half of their lineup. Matched up against Mitch Keller to begin things on Tuesday, Tommy Pham led off the first inning with a line-drive single.
Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez followed by drawing back-to-back walks to fill the bases for Alex Verdugo, who drove in his side’s first run on a groundball single to right field. Christian Arroyo and Eric Hosmer tacked on two more with run-scoring singles of their own, though Hosmer’s — a 214-foot fly ball — deflected off the glove of Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz before landing in left field.
With the bases still full, Enrique Hernandez came through in his first plate appearance in more than two months by lifting a 350-foot sacrifice fly to left field to plate Verdugo. An inning later, Pham reached base again on a one-out single. He moved up to second base when Martinez drew a walk and scored from there after Pirates centerfielder Bryan Reynolds failed to catch a 366-foot line drive off the bat of Verdugo.
That sequence of events gave the Red Sox a five-run lead, which was plenty big for Nick Pivetta. Making his 24th start of the season on Tuesday, Pivetta allowed just one hit and three walks to go along with six strikeouts over seven scoreless innings of work.
The one hit Pivetta surrendered came with two outs in the bottom of the first and put runners at first and second. The right-hander did not buckle, though, as he proceeded to get Kevin Padlo to ground out to himself to extinguish the threat.
From there, Pivetta settled in by retiring 18 of the next 20 batters he faced through the end of the seventh. Of the 99 pitches the 29-year-old threw on Tuesday, 63 went for strikes. He induced a total of eight swings-and-misses in the process of picking up his ninth win and lowering his ERA on the season to 4.28.
In relief of Pivetta, Austin Davis received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The left-hander made things interesting in the eighth by loading the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. That prompted Cora to turn to John Schreiber, who struck out Reynolds on a nasty slider and was one strike away from ending the inning.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Schreiber served up a bases-clearing, three-run double to Gamel on another slider at the bottom of the strike zone. All three of those runs were charged to Davis as the Pirates trimmed the deficit down to two runs at 5-3.
Matt Barnes was called upon to end it in the ninth. He did just that by punching out Cruz and Rodolfo Castro and retiring Greg Allen on 12 pitches to earn his third save of the season (and first since May 21) to secure the win.
So, despite going hitless from the second inning on, the Red Sox picked up their fourth win in their last five games. Pham led the way with two singles and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot while Verdugo, Arroyo, and Hosmer, had one hit and one RBI between them.
Next up: Hill vs. Contreras
The Red Sox will go for their third straight series victory in Wednesday’s contest against the Pirates. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill will get the start for Boston and rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski will follow out of the bullpen. Fellow righty Roansy Contreras is slated to take the mound for Pittsburgh.
First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)