After blowing out the Orioles at Fort Myers on Tuesday, the Red Sox traveled to Bradenton for the first time this spring and improved to 3-2-1 in Grapefruit League action with a rain-shortened 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday.
Making his first start in a Red Sox uniform for Boston was Martin Perez, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal back in December to fill out the back half of the club’s rotation.
Working the first two innings Wednesday, the left-hander surrendered one unearned run on one hit and one walk to go along with three walks on the afternoon.
That one Pittsburgh tally came in the bottom half of the second, when after tossing a 1-2-3 first, Perez allowed three of the first four hitters he faced in the frame to reach base on a walk, single, and fielder’s choice combined with a throwing error committed by Marco Hernandez.
With the bases full of Pirates, J.T. Riddle came through with a sacrifice fly hit plenty deep enough to right field to drive in Josh Bell from third and make it a 2-1 contest.
Fortunately, Perez was able to avoid any further damage by fanning Andrew Susac to retire the side and end his outing on a more positive note.
From there, left-hander Josh Osich struck out three, walked another, and allowed one run on a Jose Osuna RBI double in the third while also recording the first two outs of the fourth.
Pitching prospect Durbin Feltman wrapped up the frame by getting Riddle to ground out to first, which would turn out to be the only action the 22-year-old would see.
Colten Brewer followed suit with two innings of one-run ball to eventually become the pitcher of record, while another prospect in Yoan Aybar wound up with his first save of the spring by punching out the side in the seventh, which turned out to be the final full inning due to rain.
On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that did not feature many regulars outside of Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, and Kevin Plawecki was matched up against Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller to begin things on Wednesday.
After going down quietly in the first, the Boston bats picked it back up in the top half of the second, when a one-out double off the bat of Nick Longhi brought a red-hot Jarren Duran to the plate for the first time.
Duran, the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, did not waste any time in staying hot, as he took the the third pitch he saw from Keller and deposited a mammoth two-run shot over everything in left field for his first home run of the spring. 2-0.
Fast forward all the way to the fifth, after the Pirates had responded with two runs of their own, and it was another monster home run that gave the Red Sox the lead.
This time, it came with two outs and off the bat of Michael Chavis, who greeted Pirates reliever Robbie Erlin with his first big fly of the spring to make it a 3-2 contest.
In the sixth, Pittsburgh answered yet again to pull themselves back even at three runs a piece, but that did not stop the Sox from putting this one away an inning later.
Yes, thanks to back-to-back walks drawn by Jeter Downs and John Andreoli off of Sam Howard to lead off the frame, Jett Bandy was able to drive in the go-ahead run, Downs, from third on a sacrifice fly to deep center.
Just a few moments later, the slugging Josh Ockimey put the finishing touches on his side’s win by clobbering his second homer of the spring, a line-drive two-run shot pulled down the right field line.
That homer gave the Red Sox a 6-3 advantage, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score after 7 1/2 completed innings due to inclement weather in Bradenton.
Some observations from this win:
After beginning spring training 0-for-his-first-5 with four strikeouts, Michael Chavis went 2-for-2 with a home run and a walk on Wednesday while playing second base.
Kevin Plawecki went 1-for-2 with a walk. Since Jonathan Lucroy has yet to appear in a game, I would say Plawecki has the upper hand in the competition for the backup catcher spot for the time being.
Through three games and eight plate appearances this spring, Jarren Duran owns an OPS of 1.880. Like I have been saying, the most exciting prospect to watch on this team right now.
Speaking of prospects, it was interesting to see Durbin Feltman get a little work on Wednesday. Too bad he didn’t come back out for the fifth.
Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Philadelphia Philles at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon.
Right-hander Bryan Mata will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Nick Pivetta will do the same for Philadelphia.
Ranked as the Sox’ No.4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Mata, 20, worked a scoreless second inning against the Rays this past Saturday.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.