For the second time in four days, the Red Sox and Astros played to a 4-4 tie in Grapefruit League action. After it happened in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, a winner could once again not be determined in Saturday afternoon’s contest at JetBlue Park.
Nick Pivetta, making his first start of the spring for Boston, lasted just 1 1/3 innings against Houston. The right-hander came into camp still on the mend from a recent bout with COVID-19 and displayed his rustiness on Saturday by allowing three earned runs on five hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts.
After retiring the first two batters he faced in the top of the first, Pivetta gave up a groundball single to Jake Meyers and followed that up by serving up a two-run home run to Corey Julks. He got through the rest of the inning unscathed but ran into more trouble in the second by surrendering three straight singles to lead things off.
Pivetta struck out the next two batters to keep the bases loaded, but he then balked to bring in Rylan Bannon from third and issued a walk to Chas McCormick to refill the bases. Jake Faria came in for Pivetta and managed to escape any further damage by getting Jake Meyers to ground out to Rafael Devers at third.
Still, it was not a productive day for Pivetta, who needed 43 pitches to record five outs. That being said, the Red Sox lineup promptly came to life in their half of the second inning by putting up a three-spot against Astros starter Shawn Dubin.
Triston Casas led off with a single and Jorge Alfaro followed with a double. Jarren Duran then drew a walk to fill the bases for Rob Refsnyder, who plated Casas and moved Alfaro and Duran up an additional 90 feet with an RBI groundout. With one out and runners at second and third, Raimel Tapia came through with a game-tying, two-run double to left field that pulled Boston back even with Houston at three runs apiece.
The Red Sox and Astros then traded zeroes for the next five innings. Kenley Jansen made quick work of Houston in his spring debut by retiring the side in order in the top half of the third. The veteran closer did not commit a single pitch clock violation, either. Fellow free agent addition Chris Martin was responsible for the fourth inning. He worked his way around two walks and struck out one in a scoreless frame.
Josh Winckowski took over for Martin in the fifth and collected four strikeouts while scattering two hits and two walks to the 12 batters he faced across three more scoreless innings. Oddanier Mosqueda saw Boston’s run of five consecutive shutout frames come to an end when he surrendered a two-out RBI single to Zach Daniels in the top of the eighth.
Shortly after that go-ahead run crossed the plate for the Astros, though, the Red Sox quickly responded in their half of the inning. Niko Goodrum and Enmanuel Valdez each singled with one out to put runners on the corners for Daniel Palka. Palka, in turn, drove in the tying run (Goodrum) with a sacrifice fly to right field.
In the ninth inning of a 4-4 contest, Cam Booser faced the minimum in the top half for Boston and Cesar Gomez did the same for Houston in the bottom half. That is how the game, which ultimately took two hours and 36 minutes to complete, ended.
Other notable numbers:
Duran, who drew two walks and scored one run, was the only member of the Red Sox lineup to take ball four on Saturday.
By going 1-for-2 with that two-run double on Saturday, Tapia is now batting .357 (5-for-14) with four doubles in five Grapefruit League games this spring. He is currently tied for the team lead in doubles and is tied for third with nine total bases.
Next up: Kluber vs. Rogers
At 5-0-3, the Red Sox will close out the first weekend of March by hosting the Marlins in Fort Myers on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Corey Kluber is slated to start for Boston opposite Miami left-hander Trevor Rogers. This is the same pitching matchup we saw in Jupiter last Tuesday.
First pitch from JetBlue Park on Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Kenley Jansen: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)