The Red Sox fell behind early and could never recover in a 7-5 loss to the Pirates at JetBlue Park on Monday afternoon. By falling to Pittsburgh, Boston dropped to 12-8-4 in Grapefruit League play.
Garrett Whitlock made his first start and second overall appearance of the spring for the Sox. The right-hander allowed two unearned runs on three hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over three innings of work.
Both of those Pittsburgh runs came right away in the first inning. Whitlock gave up a leadoff single to Ji Hwan Bae, who was able to advance to second base on an Enrique Hernandez throwing error. Whitlock then walked Rodolfo Castro, which put runners at first and second for Jack Suwinski.
Suwinski drove in Bae by lifting a fly ball to center field that Adam Duvall could not come up with cleanly. Castro, who went from first to third on the play, then scored on a one-out RBI single off the bat of Canaan Smith-Njigba to give the Pirates an early 2-0 lead.
Despite falling behind right out of the gate, the Red Sox were able to get one of those two runs back in their half of the first. Matched up against Pirates starter Luis Ortiz, Rafael Devers and Justin Turner hit back-to-back one-out singles to put runners at the corners for Triston Casas. Casas, in turn, plated Devers on a sacrifice fly to left field to cut the deficit in half.
Whitlock, meanwhile, settled in nicely after a rough first inning by retiring six of the next seven batters he faced from the top of the second through the middle of the third. The one Pirate he allowed to reach base in that stretch was none other than former Red Sox catcher Kevin Plawecki. Still, it was a productive day for the 26-year-old hurler as 32 of the 52 pitches he threw went for strikes.
In the bottom of the third, the Red Sox got Whitlock off the hook by pushing across what was at the time the equalizing run. After Turner drew a walk, Duvall drove him in all the way from first with a two-out RBI double off the faux Green Monster in left field.
The 2-2 stalemate did not last long, however. Kenley Jansen, taking over for Whitlock in the fourth, issued a leadoff walk to Mark Mathias to begin his outing. Mathias then stole second base before scoring on a two-out fielding error committed by left fielder Raimel Tapia. The Pirates added to their lead over the next two innings. John Schreiber got tagged for two runs on three hits in the fifth while Ryan Brasier served up a two-run homer to Miguel Andujar in the sixth.
Following a pair of scoreless frames from Zack Kelly and Ryan Sherriff, Boston trimmed Pittsburgh’s lead from five to four runs when Nick Sogard scored on an RBI single off the bat of Daniel Palka in the eighth. After Brendan Nail retired the side in order in the top half of the ninth, the Red Sox were suddenly down to their final three outs.
Narciso Crook drew a leadoff walk off reliever Nick Bolton before moving up to third on a Caleb Hamilton single. Crook then came into score on a Sogard groundout. After Niko Goodrum drew a walk, Hamilton scored on an RBI single from Marcus Wilson, making it a 7-5 game. With two outs and runners on first and second, Palka came to the plate representing the winning run. Alas, Bolton got the slugger to ground out to second base to extinguish the threat and end it there.
Turner’s triumphant return
Monday marked Justin Turner’s first game back with the Red Sox since being hit in the face by a pitch exactly two weeks ago. Rocking a C-Flap helmet, the 38-year-old served as Boston’s designated hitter and went 1-for-2 with a run scored and a walk.
Next up: Sale Day in Sarasota
The Red Sox will travel to Sarasota to take on the Orioles on Tuesday afternoon. Chris Sale will get the start for Boston while fellow left-hander Cole Irvin will do the same for Baltimore.
First pitch from Ed Smith Stadium is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN360.
(Picture of Justin Turner: Megan Briggs/Getty Images)