Eduardo Rodriguez made his second start of the season for the Red Sox on Thursday at 2:05PM, facing off against Pittsburgh’s Chad Kuhl. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval got a day off in lieu of utility infielder Marco Hernandez, while Christian Vazquez started behind the dish, giving Sandy Leon the day off after a night game.
Pirates leadoff man Jordy Mercer drew a walk after Rodriguez loaded the count, and then Starling Marte went down swinging on strike three. The left-handed starter then allowed a first-pitch home run off the AAA sign on top of the Green Monster to Andrew McCutchen, giving the PIrates an early 2-0 lead. Rodriguez then allowed back-to-back singles by Gregory Polanco and David Freese, prompting a visit from pitching coach Carl Willis. The lefty was then able to settle down, striking out both Josh Harrison and Josh Bell.
Rodriguez pitched a clean top of the second after Kuhl pitched around an Andrew Benintendi one-out single. Then in the bottom of the second, Mitch Moreland hit his eighth double in the last seven games. Xander Bogaerts then flied out to shallow right-center field, followed by Marco Hernandez driving Moreland home with a double off the Monster. Kuhl kept calm though, inducing a Christian Vazquez groundout and then striking out Brock Holt to end the second inning with the score at 2-1 Pirates.
Kuhl and Rodriguez traded zeroes over the next three innings, despite Rodriguez walking the leadoff batter in both the third and fourth inning. The Red Sox 24-year-old allowed a Gregory Polanco one-out double in the sixth inning, which resulted in Carl Willis’s second visit to the mound on the afternoon – this time to buy time for the two Boston relievers warming in the pen. Rodriguez had 102 pitches at that point and his 107th pitch was ball four. John Farrell then waltzed out to signal the end for Rodriguez, with the lefty giving up two earned runs on four hits and striking out eight Pirates.
Heath Hembree came on in relief with men on first and second and one out, and a double steal led to Vazquez sending a ball sailing past Marco Hernandez at third base. The error resulted in Polanco scoring the Pirates’ third run of the game – though Freese remained at second as the ball was too close to take third. Hembree then struck out Harrison and induced an inning-ending groundout to Dustin Pedroia, holding the Pirates advantage at 3-1.
Kuhl had been perfect since allowing the Hernandez double, but Mookie Betts was able to reach base on a sixth-inning two-out single. No runs were to be had, however, as Hanley Ramirez ended the inning on a high popout to second baseman Phil Gosselin.
Hembree was able to get the first out of the seventh inning on a Gosselin grounder to his counterpart. The righty reliever then allowed a Chris Stewart double and a Jordy Mercer single, putting men on the corners. Starling Marte then struck out and McCutchen flied out to Mookie Betts in right field to end the inning, holding the score at 3-1 Pirates.
Xander Bogaerts was able to chase Kuhl from the game with a one-out single through the left side of the infield in the seventh inning. Kuhl scattered five hits, a walk, and six strikeouts in his one-run 6 ⅓-inning effort.
Lefty Felipe Rivero came in to face fellow lefty Marco Hernandez. The reliever induced a potential inning-ending double play, but a throw in the dirt by Gosselin resulted in Hernandez being safe at first. Vazquez then hit a soft grounder to third baseman Josh Harrison to end the inning.
After Matt Barnes tossed a scoreless top of the eighth, Daniel Hudson entered the game for the Pirates. He retired left fielder Brock Holt on a ground ball back to the pitcher before walking Pedroia on four pitches. Benintendi then hit a fly ball that landed in front of center fielder Starling Marte, advancing Pedroia to second.
Righty Juan Nicasio replaced Hudson to face Mookie Betts, and the runner-up to the AL MVP Award walked to load the bases. Hanley Ramirez then came to the plate and drove in two runs on a double over Marte’s head. Ramirez advanced to third when Betts attempted to score on the play, but was tagged out at the plate despite a great effort to avoid the tag. With two outs, Nicasio intentionally walked Moreland to get to the right-handed Bogaerts. The free pass did not work out for the Pirates as Bogaerts slapped a single to right field, scoring Ramirez and giving the Red Sox their first lead of the game, 4-3. Nicasio was able to hold the score there as he struck out Hernandez to end the eighth.
The Pirates went to pinch hitters for the first two batters of the top of the ninth to face closer Craig Kimbrel. Adam Frazier hit for Gosselin and drew a walk, representing the tying run. Francisco Cervelli then lifted a fly ball to the warning track in front of the bullpen wall in right field for the out. With Jordy Mercer at the plate, Frazier attempted to steal second base, but was gunned down by Vazquez for the second out of the ninth. Mercer then hit a weak grounder to Dustin Pedroia to earn Kimbrel his third save of the young season.