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Red Sox 4, Pirates 9: A tough day for Nick Pivetta and company

Let’s just get on with the real games, imo.

MLB: MAR 09 Red Sox at Rays Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Red Sox have lost another baseball game as we just sit patiently waiting for the fake games to end and the real ones to start. They got a rough performance from their starter and not a ton early from the offense before a string of late hits. Here are the full notes from the day:

Six runs off Pivetta

The Red Sox starting pitchers are in a bit of a rut over these last few days as they enter the worst stretch on the calendar (in my opinion, at least). We are at the point in spring, with less than two weeks to go until the real games begin, where it feels like a dead zone. The excitement of a new season has worn off, and now we’re left waiting for the real games to get going. In the meantime, players are still working things out — pitchers getting ramped up for full outings, hitters continuing to maintain their timing — but by and large they are looking ahead like the rest of us. Nick Pivetta, who started on Sunday against the Pirates, said as much following his start.

That, to be clear, is not to make an excuse for him or the other’s struggles, nor to say he is making excuses. But whatever way you want to slice it, Pivetta did struggle here on Sunday. At points he was singled to death, but he also threw some very hittable fastballs and the Pirates took advantage. He was able to work around a leadoff double in his first inning of work, but in the second Pittsburgh managed three runs off of him, and then they’d score three more in the fourth. In all, Pivetta was out there for four innings, giving up six runs on six hits (two doubles and four singles) to go with three walks and three strikeouts.

While this start is certainly not what we wanted to see from the Red Sox righty, the rest of his spring certainly makes up for it and keeps the overall performance down in Florida as a positive. Pivetta has now made four starts this spring, with this latest one being the first in which he allowed more than one run. Over the course of the spring he’s allowed nine runs over 13 innings on 14 hits, four walks and 11 strikeouts. Obviously, much of that damage in his overall line comes from this outing.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

I’m still of the belief that Pivetta will be out of the rotation at some point in the first half of the season, but that’s about his track record not anything to do with this outing. The way to look at his spring is that he’s been good in three of four outings, which is exactly the kind of trajectory he’ll be looking for to prove people like myself wrong. It will ultimately be about the command and finding ways to avoid the hard contact that tends to add up quickly.

Other Notes

  • Pivetta wasn’t the only pitcher to struggle in this game for the Red Sox. We also got looks from a couple of guys who should be in the Opening Day group with Adam Ottavino and Austin Brice. The former wasn’t terrible, to be fair, but he did give up a single and then made a bad pickoff throw that led to an unearned run. Brice, meanwhile, gave up the only homer of the day for the staff, allowing a two-run shot to Bryan Reynolds. Brice has been hit around a bit this spring, having now allowed five hits in five innings to go with three walks and a hit batter on the spring. Ottavino has given up five hits in 4 13 innings, but the unearned run today is all he’s given up in terms of runs. He’s probably a bit behind Matt Barnes in the closer battle, but he’ll be playing an important role this year regardless.
  • Speaking of Barnes, he continued to make the case for himself as the closer to start the year on Sunday. He’s been very good all spring, and he was dominant in this one, striking out two in a perfect inning. On the spring, he has tossed 4 13 scoreless innings on one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts.
  • J.D. Martinez has been quiet this spring, which can be either nothing or concerning depending on your point of view. He was, of course, disappointing in 2020, so in that sense it’s worrisome to see him struggle to start 2021. On the other hand, he’s never really a big spring training performer — in face, his best spring with the Red Sox was last year — as he tries to get his swing in order. The good news is he was one of the few bright spots in this game. He started his day with a double smoked off the wall in left field, and then he drew walks in his next two plate appearances, giving him a perfect OBP on the day. Martinez bouncing back would go a long way toward making this Red Sox lineup back among the top third or so in the game.
  • Kevin Plawecki had himself a nice day at the plate as well, grabbing a pair of singles in his three at bats and picking up an RBI with the second one. He was one of the few pleasant surprises on the 2020 roster with his offense, though much of that was due to an unsustainably high BABIP. He will come down a bunch, but there is a ton of room for him to fall and still be a fine offensive backup catcher. These were only the second and third hits for him this spring, though, so hopefully Sunday can act as a springboard for his offense.
  • Other players with hits today who have not yet been mentioned were: Kiké Hernández, who continues to take control of the leadoff spot and who started at second today, and he went 1-3 with a double, a run and a strikeout; Marwin Gonzalez, who got the start in right field on Sunday as he continues to move all over the place, and he went 1-3 with a double; Michael Gettys, who came in off the bench late in the game and hit a ground-rule double in his only plate appearance; Alex Verdugo, who started this game in the second and went 1-3 with an RBI and a strikeout; Hunter Renfroe, who got the start at DH and went 1-3 with a single; Michael Chavis, who got the start at first base and went 1-2 with a single and an HBP; and Christian Arroyo, who has had something of a quietly solid spring and he continued here as a late-game sub and had a base hit in his only plate appearance.
  • Also pitching in this game who have not been mentioned were: Marcus Walden, who is looking to prove he deserves a spot back up in the majors, and he had a perfect inning of work with two strikeouts; and Josh Taylor, who should get a spot on Opening Day and he struck out one in a perfect inning.