The Red Sox once again took care of business against the Pirates on Wednesday night. Boston defeated Pittsburgh by a final score of 8-3 to take its third straight series and improve to 59-59 on the season.
Rich Hill made his 18th start of the season for the Sox and turned in a solid outing despite struggling out of the gate. The veteran left-hander allowed two runs on three hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over five innings of work.
Both of those Pirates runs came right away in the bottom of the first, when Hill followed a leadoff single from Kevin Newman by serving up a 416-foot two-run home run to Bryan Reynolds.
That put the Red Sox in an early 2-0 hole, but they quickly responded against opposing starter Roansy Contreras in the top of the second. Alex Verdugo led off with a single and J.D. Martinez followed by drawing a four-pitch walk. After Eric Hosmer flew out, Christian Arroyo stayed hot by ripping a two-run double to right-center field past a sprawling Reynolds. Arroyo’s ninth double of the season drove in both Verdugo and Martinez to knot things up at two runs apiece.
Reese McGuire kept the line moving with a one-out single that put runners on the corners for Enrique Hernandez, who collected his second RBI in as many games by plating Arroyo on a softly-hit single through the right side of the infield. Rafael Devers was intentionally walked with two outs to fill the bases for Xander Bogaerts, who struck out on four pitches to end the inning, but not before Boston had taken its first lead of the night at 3-2.
Hill, meanwhile, settled in nicely by retiring nine straight batters from the middle of the second through the end of the fourth. He gave up a single to Rodolfo Castro in the fifth, but ended his night on a positive note by sitting down the final three Pirates he faced.
Finishing with an efficient pitch count of 57 (43 strikes), Hill induced three swings-and-misses with his four-seamer and three more with his slider. The 42-year-old hurler also picked up his fifth win of the season while lowering his ERA to 4.68.
Moments before Hill had recorded the final out of the fifth inning, the Red Sox tacked on additional run in the top half of the frame. Bogaerts, after reaching base via a one-out single off Contreras, scored all the way from first on an RBI double down the right field line off the bat of Verdugo.
Taking a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning, Ryan Brasier received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Brasier punched out the side on 14 pitches before making way for Hirokazu Sawamura, who faced the minimum in a scoreless bottom of the seventh.
In the eighth, Verdugo led off another inning with a hard-hit single. Back-to-back one-out singles from Hosmer and Arroyo allowed Verdugo to move up to third base. The pinch-hitting Rob Refsnyder drove him in by drawing a bases-loaded walk off Pirates reliever Eric Stout, thus giving the Red Sox a 5-2 lead.
Sawamura picked up where he left off by retiring the side in order in the eighth. The same can be said for Arroyo, who knocked in his third run of the night on a bases-loaded single in the top of the ninth.
Kevin Plawecki, who took over behind the plate for McGuire, made the most of his first and only at-bat of the night by driving in a pair on a softly-hit two-run single to shallow right field.
That sequence of events saw the Red Sox jump out to a commanding 8-2 advantage. It also afforded them the opportunity to have veteran reliever Jeurys Familia make his club debut. Signed to a minor-league deal earlier this month, Familia had his contract selected from Triple-A Worcester on Saturday.
So it took four days for Familia to make his first appearance for Boston. The former All-Star closer surrendered hits to three of the first four Pirates he faced, including an RBI single from Ben Gamel.
Familia did not allow the Pirates to get any closer than that, though, as he got Kevin Padlo to ground out before punching out Castro on six pitches to secure an 8-3 victory for the Red Sox.
All told, Verdugo and Arroyo led the way offensively by combining for six hits (two doubles), four RBIs, four runs scored. Verdugo and Martinez combined to draw five walks as well.
Next up: Sox look to break out the brooms
The Red Sox will go for a three-game sweep over the Pirates on Thursday night. They last swept an opponent in a multi-game series on June 26, when they did so against the Guardians.
Rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski will get the ball for Boston after Thursday’s scheduled starter — Nathan Eovaldi — was scratched with a sore trap muscle. Fellow righty J.T. Brubaker is expected to take the mound for Pittsburgh.
First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)