Chris Sale Fans Six in Final Tune-Up Before Opening Day as #RedSox Top Pirates

The Red Sox improved to 12-15-1 in their Grapefruit League finale on Saturday afternoon, defeating the a split Pittsburgh Pirates squad by a final score of 12-3 for their fourth consecutive victory.

Making his final tune-up before the start of the regular season in this one was Chris Sale.

Fresh off inking a five-year, $145 million contract extension, the left-hander looked as sharp as ever on Saturday, holding the Pirates scoreless on just two hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over five impressive innings of work.

In total, Sale faced 16 hitters and needed 73 pitches to get through those five frames and fanned three straight to end his day on a positive note.

As you probably already know, Sale’s next start will come on Opening Day out in Seattle, Wa., two days before the hurler’s 30th birthday.

From the beginning of the sixth inning on, Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson combined to allow three Pirates runs to score on seven hits, a pair of walks, and six strikeouts themselves.

Hembree was the one responsible for all three of those runs, as he served up a one out, three-run home run to Pittsburgh’s second-ranked prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, which at the time cut Boston’s lead to one run.

Overall, not a great showing from Hembree, but if there’s anything to salvage from this particular outing, it’s that he retired the final two hitters he faced in order after giving up the home run to put an end to the Pirates half of the sixth.

Johnson, meanwhile, had to work his away around a bases-loaded jam in the seventh before eventually settling in and punching out four in three innings en route to securing the blowout win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Pirates Opening Day starter Jameson Taillon to begin things on Saturday.

Similar to what they did against the Twins on Friday, the top of the lineup set the tone early, with Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and JD Martinez all reaching base with one out in the first.

Martinez drove in the first Red Sox run of the afternoon on a shallow single to center field to plate Betts, while Xander Bogaerts followed that up by driving in Pedroia on an RBI sacrifice fly to left. And just like that, it was already 2-0.

Fast forward to the fourth, and Bogaerts was at it again, this time leading off the inning with a triple off Taillon.

He would come around to score on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI double moments later, and Bradley Jr. would himself come around to score from second on a Brock Holt RBI two-bagger. 4-0.

After the Pirates had cut into that four-run lead in their half of the sixth, the Boston bats would respond almost immediately, with both Blake Swihart and Bradley Jr. capitalizing on a Pittsburgh throwing error and scoring their team’s fifth and sixth runs of the afternoon.

And in eighth, Swihart would wind up being the catalyst of a six-run inning with a two out single.

Jantzen Witte, Joseph Monge, Chris Madera, and Aneury Tavarez all picked up RBI as the Red Sox wold go on to run away with this one, winning their last game of Grapefruit League play in 2019 by a final score of 12-3.

Some notes from this win:

Tzu-Wei Lin was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following Saturday’s victory, meaning the Red Sox now have 29 players on their active roster. Sam Travis should be next.

Jackie Bradley Jr. finishes his 2019 Grapefruit League campaign with a .333/.409/.667 slash line, three home runs, and eight RBI in 39 spring at-bats.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head out west to Mesa, Arizona to take on the Chicago Cubs in a pair of exhibition games starting Monday, before the real thing begins.

Rick Porcello will get the ball Monday and both games will be on NESNplus and NESN, so stay tuned for that.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 9:05 PM EDT.

#RedSox Split St. Patrick’s Day Split-Squad Doubleheader Against Pirates and Rays

The Red Sox both improved and fell to 8-14-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday afternoon following a St. Patrick’s Day split-squad split, with the 3-2 win coming at JetBlue Park against the Tampa Bay Rays and the 8-1 defeat coming at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.

Beginning with the contest against the Rays, David Price was originally scheduled to make his second start of the spring against his old club, but the left-hander was scratched Sunday morning due to illness.

In his place, fellow southpaw Brian Johnson, who was going to pitch anyway, surrendered two runs (one earned) on a pair of hits and walks to go along with three strikeouts in two-and-two-thirds innings of work.

Johnson faced 13 Rays hitters on the afternoon, retiring eight of them while allowing five to reach base before getting the hook with one out to get in the top half of the third.

From there, Trevor Kelley, Heath Hembree, Adam Lau, Colten Brewer, Jenrry Mejia, Durbin Feltman, Hunter Smith, and Eduard Bazardo combined to hold Tampa Bay scoreless over the final 6.1 frames on Sunday, as they scattered just two hits, six walks, and six strikeouts en route to the win.

Hembree, who worked the start of the fourth inning, struggled with control a bit, which was evident by him walking the bases loaded while failing to retire the side.

Feltman, meanwhile, fanned the first two hitters he faced in relatively easy fashion, but could not finish things off after giving up a two out double and surrendering two straight walks.

Bazardo, who was signed as an international free agent by Boston back in 2014, picked up the save in his Grapefruit League debut thanks to a 1-2-3 ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox split-squad lineup was matched up against Rays minor leaguer Ryan Merrit to kick things off.

Starting the scoring in this one was Brock Holt, whose leadoff double in the first would translate to Boston’s first run of the afternoon coming around to score on a two out RBI double off the bat of JD Martinez.

Fast forward all the way to the bottom half of the eighth, trailing by a run, and back-to-back two out RBI knocks from Danny Mars and Ryan Fitzgerald pulled the Red Sox up a run themselves, as 3-2 would go on to be the final score in this one.

Meanwhile, over in Bradenton, as previously mentioned, the Red Sox fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1.

Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the lone highlight for Boston in this one with, in his one words, “probably the most amazing play I’ve ever made.”

Steve Pearce left in the first inning after feeling discomfort in his left calf while running out a grounder in his first and only at bat of the afternoon.

When asked about it, the 2018 World Series MVP said, “I didn’t feel a pop. There wasn’t anything that was too alarming. I just don’t like how it is right now.”

His departure on Sunday seems more precautionary than anything, but it would not be too surprising if the 35-year-old Pearce is held out of action for the next few days to ensure all is well with that left calf.

Some additional notes from Sunday’s split-squad doubleheader:

Colten Brewer faced the minimum six hitters in two shutout frames against the Rays, while Jenrry Mejia also held Tampa Bay scoreless to go along with one strikeout in a perfect seventh inning.

Triston Casas, who was Boston’s first round selection in the 2018 draft, made his 2019 Grapefruit League debut at JetBlue Park as a defensive replacement for Mitch Moreland in the fifth.

The 19-year-old prospect went 0/1 with a walk and a strikeout while also seeing a fair amount of action over at first.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll make the short trek to Hammond Stadium on Monday to face the Minnesota Twins in the sixth installment of the 2019 Chairman’s Cup.

Nathan Eovaldi will be getting the ball for Boston, while ace right-hander Jose Berrios will be doing the same for Minnesota.

The last time these two clubs linked up, Eovaldi allowed one run over three innings in his first start of the spring, while Berrios allowed a pair of runs over 3.1 innings.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. NESN does not have it covered.

#RedSox Limited to One Run by Pirates in Steve Pearce’s Spring Debut

On a busy day at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox fell to 6-6 in Grapefruit League play and saw their three-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday following a 6-1 loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Non-roster invitee Josh Smith made the start for the Red Sox in this one.

Going the first two innings, the journeyman right-hander surrendered two earned runs on four hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon. He was later charged with his first losing decision of the year.

Through three appearances (two starts) this spring, the 31-year-old Smith, who spent parts of 2018 in both the Seattle Mariners and Red Sox organization, owns a 7.94 ERA as well as six strikeouts over 5.2 innings pitched.

From the top of the third inning on, Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Ryan Weber, Brian Ellington, Dan Runzler, and Adam Lau combined to allow four runs to score on 10 hits, seven walks, and seven punch outs.

Brewer had the cleanest outing of the bunch, as the former Pirates draftee fanned a pair and faced the minimum in a perfect fourth inning.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was held to one run on just three hits by starter Nick Kingham and the rest of the Pirates staff.

That one run came in the bottom half of the fifth inning, when Sandy Leon drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. from second on an RBI single.

Some notes from this 6-1 loss:

In his 2019 spring debut and first ever Grapefruit League game in a Red Sox uniform, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce went 0/2 batting sixth and manning first base up until the sixth inning.

Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts, meanwhile, batting first and second in Boston’s starting lineup, went a combined 2/5 with a single each. Benintendi also struck out once.

Next up for the Red Sox, they welcome the Minnesota Twins to JetBlue for the fourth installment of the 2019 Chairman’s Cup.

Right-hander Kohl Stewart will get the start for the Twins, while left-hander Brian Johnson will do the same for Boston.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET. ESPN is the way to go once again, as Mookie Betts is set to be mic’d up like Jackie Bradley Jr. was on Wednesday.

Three Home Runs Power #RedSox to 8-5 Comeback Win over Twins

The Red Sox battled their way back and improved to 2-0 in Grapefruit League play with another 8-5 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Making a brief one inning start in this one was ex-Rays right-hander Ryan Weber, who signed a minor league contract with Boston in December.

Greeted right away with a leadoff home run off the bat of Twins slugger Max Kepler, the 28-year-old Weber certainly did not make a positive first impression with his new club, as he went on to surrender an additional run on two doubles and a hit by pitch.

What transpired an inning later was far from promising as well, with left-hander Dedgar Jimenez serving up a pair of home runs to Randy Cesar and Kepler again in his lone frame of work.

From there, Red Sox pitching improved immensely. Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Denyi Reyes, Mark Montgomery, and Matthew Gorst all impressed in their spring debuts, combining for six innings of one run ball.

It should be noted that Workman and Brewer both struck out the side in their respective innings of relief.

Brewer, 26, was acquired from the San Diego Padres in November and looks primed to win a spot in Boston’s bullpen to begin the season.

Reyes, meanwhile, is the 30th-ranked prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a miniscule 1.97 ERA in 27 appearances (24 starts) and 155.2 innings pitched with Greenville and Salem this past season and was a surprise add to Boston’s 40-man roster in November.

Back to Sunday’s game, 18th-ranked prospect Kutter Crawford came on to close things out in the ninth following a four-run Red Sox rally in their half of the eighth.

Listed at 6’1″ and 192 pounds, the Florida Gulf Coast product worked his way around a bases loaded jam to eventually shut the door on the Twins, thus preserving the save as well as the win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup featured a fair amount of regulars for the first time this spring.

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, and Christian Vazquez represented the top seven of Boston’s batting order and combined for just two hits.

Bradley Jr., who has been working on a modified swing this spring, made his presence felt immediately with a rocket of a solo home run off of Twins starter Martin Perez in the first inning.

In the second, a one out double off the bat of Eduardo Nunez eventually led to Boston’s second run of the afternoon coming around to score on a Sam Travis two out RBI single.

Fast forward to the sixth with the Twins leading 5-2, and Red Sox prospect Tate Matheny, son of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, pulled his team to within one run by mashing a monster two-run home run off of Massachusetts native Tim Collins.

Finally, in the eighth, fresh off a solid 2019 debut on Saturday, Michael Chavis impressed yet again by delivering in the clutch with a two-out go-ahead three run home run to left field off Twins reliever Pat Dean. His second three-run homer in as many days.

Following a Minnesota pitching change, Bobby Dalbec, who homered on Friday, tacked on some insurance with an RBI single that plated Jagger Rusconi from third.

That put Boston up 8-5, which would go on to be the final score in this one.

Next up for the Red Sox is the first road action of 2019, with a trip to Bradenton to face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates on deck for Monday.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Bobby Poyner, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis, Bryce Brentz, Rusney Castillo and Gorkys Hernandez are all set to appear tomorrow while Brian Johnson will handle the starting pitching duties.

RHP Jordan Lyles will make the start for Pittsburgh.

First pitch on Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET at LECOM Park. It does not look like this game will be on NESN.

RECAP: Red Sox capitalize in eighth to sweep Pirates; win 4-3.

Once again, the Red Sox were trailing pretty much right after first pitch. Eduardo Rodriguez was on the bump today, and boy, did he have a shaky start. Giving up a two run shot to Andrew McCutchen in the top of the first is not nice. Rodriguez would settle down after that though, pitching four shutout innings until the sixth, as a throwing error by Christian Vazquez allowed Gregory Polanco to score from third. Rodriguez’s day would be done after 5.1 innings, a solid performance, which I did not expect after that rocky first inning. The bullpen turned in another quality performance, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel combined to give up only three hits and zero runs over 3.2 innings pitched. With many expecting Joe Kelly to be the setup man, Matt Barnes has certainly certified himself of that role in the bullpen. So far this season, Barnes has given up 0 runs while striking out 7 over 4.2 total innings. His ERA obviously sits at 0.00 while his WHIP sits at a very impressive 0.64.

The Red Sox offense was having another quiet day up until the bottom of the eighth, only scoring once in the second before that. After loading the bases in the eighth, Hanley Ramirez came up clutch with a bases clearing double scoring Dustin Pedroia and Andrew Benintendi, while Mookie Betts was called out at home. One batter later, Xander Bogaerts was able to get a hit off of Juan Nicasio, which allowed Hanley to score from third. Craig Kimbrel would come in for the 9th and was able to end the game after facing four batters. It appears that the return of both Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts to the Red Sox lineup has helped give this offense a boost. Mitch Moreland continues to impress, as he hit ANOTHER double. Word to Mitchy Two Bags!!!

5 down, 89 to go.