Bryan Reynolds homered twice, Johan Oviedo overcame a terrible 1st inning, and the bullpen was terrific in a 7-6 victory at Fenway Park
Following a season-opening series loss in Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Pirates traveled to Fenway Park to kick off a three-game series against the Red Sox on Monday night. It was not always easy or pretty, but the Pirates defeated the Red Sox 7-6 to improve to 2-2 on the season.
Entering Monday night the Pirates were 19-185 dating back to 1901 when allowing at least 5 runs in the 1st inning. That record imrpvoed to 20-185 on Monday night. While this time is unlikely to compete for the postseason there does seem to be a different vibe and culture in the clubhouse right now. The coaching staff and veteran leadership deserve a lot of credit for that.
Even if the Pirates do not compete into September this team should be a lot more enjoyable to watch this season. That alone should make the 2023 season a much more palatable one for Pirate fans.
Pirates score early, often against Kutter Crawford
Righty Kutter Crawford started for the Red Sox and the Pirate bats would score early and often against the 27-year-old. After Crawford got Oneil Cruz to fly out to start the game, Bryan Reynolds singled and the Pirate offense was off and running.
Ji-Man Choi followed with a single of his own, and Reynolds scored on a two-out single by Ke'Bryan Hayes. Canaan Smith-Njigba then ripped his 1st double of the season, giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead and Smith-Njigba the first two RBI of his career.
With the Pirates now trailing 5-3, Reynolds cut it to 5-4 in the 2nd inning when he hit his first home run of the game. Jack Suwinski tied the game at 5 with a run-scoring single that plated Hayes in the 3rd inning.
The 4th inning saw Jason Delay go deep over the Green Monster. Reynolds then hit his second home run of the day and 3rd of the season, making the score 7-5 Pirates. Crawford's day would mercifully come to an end after the 4th inning.
Crawford allowed 7 runs on eight hits, three home runs, two walks, and six strikeouts in 4 innings pitched. After struggling in Cincinnati this was the type of offense explosion the Pirate offense was in need of. Hopefully, this will get a weight off everyone's shoulders and get the bats going.
Johan Oviedo battles back after a terrible 1st inning
Early on in the game it looked like Johan Oviedo may not even get out of the 1st inning. Oviedo was hurt by a Reynolds error and allowed three home runs in the 1st inning. Entering the start, he had only allowed two 1st inning home runs in his career.
After allowing 5 runs on a walk and three home runs in the 1st inning, Oviedo did a tremendous job of settling in. Oviedo did not allow another run, while allowing just two more hits and walking three more batters.
Oviedo nearly rallied to the point to get through 5 innings. With two outs in the 5th and a runner on base Oviedo issued a walk that ended his night. When it was all said and done, Oviedo had allowed 5 runs, 4 earned, on five hits, four walks, three home runs, and four strikeouts in 4.2 innings pitched.
Most MLB pitchers, let alone a young pitcher like Oviedo, would have completely unfolded following the 1st inning he had. To Oviedo's credit he showed the presence of a veteran and used his plus stuff to battle. You always want to get more than 4.2 innings out of your starting pitcher, but had you told Derek Shelton that Oviedo would go 4.2 innings as he was scuffling through the 1st inning he would have gladly taken it.
Colin Holderman steps up in the 8th inning
With the Pirates leading 7-6, Shelton handed the ball to Colin Holderman in the 8th inning. Facing a big early season test, Holderman would step up and hold a 1-run lead while facing a dangerous Boston lineup.
Things started out hairy for Holderman as Alex Verdugo reached on a cue shot infield hit to start the inning. Holderman then issued a one out walk, putting two runners on base with just one out and Masataka Yoshida and Adam Duvall due up.
Earlier in the game Yoshida hit the 1st home run of his MLB career. Duvall entered the at-bat 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and a RBI on the night. Holderman stepped up and put a foot down. After getting Yoshida to ground out to first base, he was aggressive in attacking Duvall with his power sinker. Holderman was able to induce a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Duvall that ended the inning.
There will be plenty of question marks around the Pirate bullpen early in the season. However, if Holderman is able to take step forward that would go a long way in answering bullpen questions. The same can be said for Duane Underwood Jr. who pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in Monday night's victory, giving him three strikeouts in 2.1 scoreless innings pitched thus far this season.
David Bednar slams the door shut
David Bednar needed just one pitch to get the first out of the 9th inning. After Raimel Tapai reached on an infield hit, Bednar put a foot down with back-to-back strikeouts. This put an immediate stop to any sort of Red Sox rally, ending the game in a 7-6 Pirate victory.
Game two of the series will feature a pitching mathcup of Roansy Contreras and veteran righty Nick Pivetta. Contreras will be making his start of what he and Pirates hope will be a breakout campaign. As for Pivetta, he is coming off a season in which he made 33 starts and posted a 4.56 ERA. First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.