The Pittsburgh Pirates needed a win to stay in the National League playoff hunt, and they did just that Tuesday night.
A pair of long balls were enough for the home team as the Boston Red Sox sputtered to a 4-0 loss to the Pirates in their series opener at PNC Park.
Not all was bleak, however. Let’s take a look at some positives and negatives from Tuesday’s game.
— Anthony Ranaudo’s outing wasn’t terrible, but he continues to be plagued by the home run ball.
The 25-year-old gave up a two-run homer to Russell Martin in the second inning and a solo blast to Starling Marte in the sixth. He’s now given up 10 home runs in six starts, and 14 of the 19 runs he’s allowed this season have come via round-trippers.
“I thought he threw the ball (well), with the exception of two pitches,” manager John Farrell said after the game. “When he’s elevated some pitches in the strike zone, that’s when he’s given up some balls that have been squared up.
“That was the case again tonight on a first-pitch fastball out over the plate to Martin, and then he threw a changeup that stayed up on the plate to Marte. … I thought there were times throughout his work tonight where he was down in the strike zone with a little bit more authority, which is where he’s got to pitch.”
The righty allowed just four hits over 5 2/3 innings, but two of those hits proved extremely costly. He’s now lost three straight after winning his first three starts in the bigs.
— On the other end, the Red Sox spread their hits too thin.
Five of Boston’s seven hits were doubles, yet they failed to score a run for the 15th time this season. The Sox led off both the fourth and the fifth with doubles from Yoenis Cespedes and Christian Vazquez, respectively, but failed to bring them home both times.
Boston’s offense left eight men on base and was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
— Xander Bogaerts continued his offensive tear, going 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
Bogaerts has 23 hits through just 15 games in the month of September and has raised his average from .224 to .240 since Aug. 31. Tuesday night marked his seventh multi-hit game this month.
— Mookie Betts is back at his natural second base position, but there are still growing pains.
Betts made a nice sliding play ranging to his left in the seventh inning to knock down a Josh Harrison grounder, but his rushed throw sailed wide of first baseman Mike Napoli and into the dugout.
That allowed Harrison to advance to second, and Travis Snider made the error hurt with an RBI single to make it 4-0. It looked like Betts tried to rush the throw a bit, as Harrison runs well.
— A positive note for the future: Rusney Castillo continues to shine in Triple-A Pawtucket.
The 27-year-old Cuban launched a leadoff home run in the Triple-A championship game in Charlotte, N.C., against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Castillo will join the Sox in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and start in center field.
— The American League East officially has a new champion.
The Baltimore Orioles downed the Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 to clinch their first AL East crown since 1997. Castillo and the Sox are hoping that will change in 2015.
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