The Red Sox have been on fire over the last with Sunday afternoon’s victory over the Pirates representing the team’s sixth straight W. This time around, the offense did just enough to win — though they left plenty on base in the process — while the pitchers did a tremendous job of preventing the Pirates from scoring all day long. Save some wins for the regular season, guys. Jeez!
Brian Johnson leads a strong day on the mound
Heading into the spring, it seemed as if Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez were battling for two rotation slots, but an injury to Drew Pomeranz has opened up another. That meant that the performances of each likely didn’t mean too much for the Red Sox roster, but with Steven Wright reportedly coming around more quickly than expected the battle could be back on. If that’s the case, Johnson has done plenty to separate himself and he came through again on Sunday. The southpaw had the Pirates off-balance all day long, lasting four innings without allowing a run. In the outing, Johnson gave up just a single, a double and a walk and he struck out two batters. Johnson was pulled a bit early with a foot injury, but it was precautionary and Alex Cora doesn’t appear worried about things. It seems clear that he is the best depth option on the Red Sox at this moment in time.
After Johnson exited the game, Boston didn’t have too many big names out of the bullpen but the group did the job. Minor leaguer Matthew Gorst came in first, and he had the worst day of the crew. The righty allowed three straight singles after a quick first out, giving Pittsburgh their one and only run of the game. He was, fortunately, able to avoid any other damage by inducing an inning-ending double play. Coming out next was Robby Scott, who appeared in back-to-back games for the first time in 2018 after recording one out on Saturday. The southpaw did well in this one, allowing just a single in a scoreless inning of work. Boston kept coming from the left side from there, with Roenis Elias trying to continue what’s been a relatively impressive camp. The former Mariner went for two innings in this one, now allowing a run while giving up a single and a walk while also recording a strikeout. As I wrote today, I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if both Scott and Elias made the Opening Day roster. Minor leaguer Ryan Brasier finished things off with a scoreless ninth.
Andrew Benintendi goes deep
Boston’s offense was boosted by their pitching, which was fortunate because the unit was only able to score a pair of runs despite tallying eight hits to go with four walks on the day. The biggest swing of the day came from Andrew Benintendi, who came to the plate with nobody on and two outs in the fifth with his team up 1-0. The left fielder was able to double that lead with a solo shot out to right field on a breaking ball that stayed up in the zone. It was Benintendi’s third homer of what has been an outstanding spring for the youngster. The swing could have created even more damage, but Mookie Betts was thrown out on the previous play after getting caught too far off the second base bag following an RBI double off the left field wall. Despite that base running miscue and another caught stealing earlier in the game, it was a solid day for Betts as well as he was the only Red Sox player with two hits. After a really slow start to the spring, Boston’s best position player has turned things around in the last week or so. In addition to the Benintendi homer and Betts double, the Red Sox got doubles from Mitch Moreland, Christian Vazquez and minor leaguer Cole Sturgeon. Rusney Castillo, meanwhile, contributed a couple of singles, though he also got caught stealing in this game. On a more negative side, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart each went 0-3 with a strikeout apiece. Bogaerts left three men on base while Swihart left two. The latter also got his first start of the year at third base as the team continues to extend his versatility heading into the year.