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Red Sox 4, Rays 3: Still undefeated

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Things got dicey late, but the Red Sox won their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
Kevin Pillar made his Red Sox debut on Saturday
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox kicked off their spring schedule on Friday with a win over Northeastern, and then on Saturday they kicked off their Grapefruit League schedule with a win over the Rays. It was a 4-3 final, and just like on Friday it took both sides a bit for their offenses to get going, with the game remaining scoreless into the bottom of the fifth and the Rays scoring all three of their runs in the third. A few notes!

A good day for the pitching

The Red Sox pitching allowed three runs on the day, but all of those came in the ninth inning, as mentioned above. That frame started with Matthew Kent, who had also pitched the eighth, and finished up by Matthew Gorst. Prior to that ninth they threw eight scoreless innings with eight different pitchers. Most notably of that group were Brian Johnson, who started and tossed a perfect inning, Bryan Mata, who worked around a bit of trouble with an inning-ending double play, Colten Brewer, who struck out three and hit a batter, and Josh Osich, who tossed an uneventful 1-2-3 frame. Johnson is, of course, fighting for that fifth starter spot while both Brewer and Osich are fighting for the two or three open spots in the bullpen. All of them got off to good starts in those battles, but there’s obviously a long way to go.

Jagger Rusconi and Tyler Esplin stands out at the end

Most of us care more about the players who are playing in the first half of the game, but the guys in the second half are fighting to make a name for themselves as largely unknown minor leaguers. Jagger Rusconi is likely known more for his rad name than his game on the field, but it was the latter that stood out on Saturday as he was perhaps the player of the game for Boston. The center fielder (who also plays some infield) came through in the seventh in a 1-0 game, first by knocking in Esplin with a base hit and then scoring on an RBI double by Nick Lovullo, the son of former Red Sox bench coach and interim manager Torrey Lovullo. Speaking of Esplin, he drew a pair of walks, scored a run and also made a diving catch in the ninth to end the game.

Tough Days for Michael Chavis and Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox had a fair number of regulars and MLB contributors in the lineup today. Two of those were Chavis and Bradley, both of whom struggled at the plate. They had a pair of at bats and combined for four strikeouts, which is not what you want. Chavis in particular was notable. In his first at bat he struggled against three fastballs in the zone. In the second it looked like a breaking ball he swung through on strike three, but he mistimed a couple fastballs for the first two strikes on foul balls. That’s not great considering his struggles against heat last year, but also it’s February 22. So, ya know.

Other Notes

  • Lovullo’s double was the only extra-base hits of the afternoon. Getting singles who were not mentioned yet were: Andrew Benintendi, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jett Bandy, Tommy Joseph.
  • The pitchers not mentioned above who tossed scoreless innings were: Mike Kickham, Mike Shawaryn and Domingo Tapia.
  • Kevin Pillar made his Red Sox debut today, playing right field next to Bradley in center field. I’d expect them to flip back and forth between those spots this spring. He went 0-2, but he scorched a ball in the first that went for an out.

BOX

The Red Sox take on the Orioles tomorrow afternoon at 1:05 PM ET. Eduardo Rodriguez was supposed to start, but he tweaked his knee (not the knee that has ailed him in the past) on Saturday and has been pushed back to Monday. Chris Mazza will start in his stead.