The Red Sox were held to just four hits in their second straight loss to the Pirates on Tuesday night. Boston fell to Pittsburgh by a final score of 4-1 to drop to 2-3 on the young season.
With Roansy Contreras starting for the Pirates, the Red Sox drew first blood in their half of the first inning. Alex Verdugo led off with a 109.9 mph single and went from first to third on a one-out single from Justin Turner. Masataka Yoshida then drove Verdugo in with a softly-hit RBI groundout.
Yoshida gave the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead with his sixth RBI of the year, but the lineup sputtered from there. Nick Pivetta, meanwhile, was on the mound making his 2023 debut for Boston.
Over five innings of work, Pivetta allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts. The right-hander maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk in the first and recorded the first two outs of the second before running into a bit of trouble.
Pivetta actually should have retired the side in order in the second, as he got Canaan Smith-Njigba to strike out swinging on a 3-2, 79 mph curveball. But catcher Reese McGuire could not come up with the pitch cleanly as it rolled towards the backstop, allowing Smith-Njigba to reach base safely.
The Pirates immediately took advantage of McGuire’s blunder as the very next batter, Ji Hwan Bae, uncorked a two-run blast to left field that barely cleared the Green Monster for the first home run of his big-league career. Neither of those runs were charged to Pivetta.
Bryan Reynolds, fresh off a two-homer performance on Monday, continued to torment the Red Sox in the third inning when he took the first pitch he saw from Pivetta — a hanging 77 mph curveball — and crushed a 388-foot leadoff shot into the Red Sox bullpen. Reynolds’ fourth big fly of the season put Pittsburgh up, 3-1.
Pivetta, for his part, was able to settle down after that by retiring nine of the last 11 batters he faced. The only other hit he gave up came in the fifth on a two-out double off the bat of Reynolds, who he stranded at second to at least end his evening on a more positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (54 strikes), Pivetta topped out 95.5 mph with his four-seam fastball, an offering he threw 52 times. The 30-year-old hurler also induced seven swings-and-misses.
With Pivetta’s day done, Josh Winckowski received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The righty pitched well yet again, yielding just one run across three innings of relief. That lone run came in the seventh, when Tyler Heineman reached on a one-out single, stole second base, and scored an important insurance run on an RBI single from Reynolds.
Trailing 4-1 going into the latter half of the seventh, McGuire ripped a two-out double — his second in three innings — but was stranded at second when the pinch-hitting Christian Arroyo struck out looking against Pirates reliever Jose Hernandez. After going down quietly in the eighth, and getting a scoreless top of the ninth from Ryan Brasier, the Red Sox were suddenly down to their final three outs.
Opposed by All-Star closer Will Bednar, Yoshida led off the ninth inning by reaching on a fielding error committed by Pirates first baseman Carlos Santana. But Yoshida was left at first as Adam Duvall popped out, Triston Casas flew out, and Enrique Hernandez struck out to end it.
All told, the Red Sox only recorded three hits after the first inning. They also went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base as a team in their quickest game of the season (two hours and 36 minutes) thus far.
Other worthwhile observations:
Nick Pivetta went five full innings on Tuesday, meaning a Red Sox starter has yet to pitch into the sixth inning through one turn in the rotation.
Through five games, teams are 12-for-12 on steal attempts against the Red Sox. All 12 of those stolen bases have come while Reese McGuire was behind the plate.
Next up: Kluber looks to avoid sweep in series finale
The Red Sox will look to avoid getting swept by the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. Corey Kluber, who surrendered five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on Opening Day, will get the start for Boston while fellow righty Mitch Keller will do the same for Pittsburgh.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Reese McGuire: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)