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.