Spring training isn’t for another five months, yet it looked Wednesday like the Boston Red Sox were in Grapefruit League mode.
The Red Sox suffered a 9-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, dropping Boston to 20 games below .500 (66-86). It was an ugly beginning to the Rusney Castillo era, though the Cuban outfielder was hardly to blame.
The Pirates slammed three homers in their victory. The Red Sox’s offense again struggled.
Let’s go over Wednesday’s contest.
— Castillo, batting seventh and playing center field, went 1-for-4 in his major league debut. Below is a quick breakdown of each at-bat.
First at-bat (second inning vs. Francisco Liriano): Four pitches (three looking, one swinging). Ground ball in front of home plate fielded by catcher Russell Martin.
Second at-bat (fourth inning vs. Liriano): Two pitches (one looking, one swinging). Single to second base, as Neil Walker couldn’t corral a ground ball on the lip of the outfield grass.
Third at-bat (seventh inning vs. Justin Wilson): Four pitches (one looking, three swinging). Flyout to center fielder Starling Marte.
Fourth at-bat (ninth inning vs. Jeanmar Gomez): One pitch (swinging). Groundout to shortstop Clint Barmes.
Castillo barely was tested in the outfield, though he made a nice running catch in left-center field to end the fifth inning.
— Clay Buchholz, who allowed four runs over his last three starts combined, gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits over four innings. He surrendered home runs to Walker and Gregory Polanco.
Buchholz struck out three, walked one and threw 73 pitches (49 strikes). He was hit hard early and often en route to his worst start since a six-run yield Aug. 20.
— Bryce Brentz, one of six players recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game, pinch-hit for Buchholz in the fifth inning. The 25-year-old outfielder doubled into the left field corner in his first major league at-bat.
“It’s a dream come true,” Brentz told reporters. “I think every player (that) comes up always wants to get their first (hit) out of the way. I was more than happy to do that.”
— Steven Wright had been excellent in three relief appearances this season. His impressive run came to a screeching halt, though, as the knuckleballer allowed four earned runs on five hits in the fifth inning.
Ike Davis delivered a three-run blast that gave the Bucs a 9-1 advantage.
— Will Middlebrooks made a rare cameo at first base.
The Red Sox opted to remove Yoenis Cespedes and Mike Napoli with the game out of hand. Daniel Nava was inserted as the new left fielder. Middlebrooks took over at first base while Garin Cecchini entered the game at third base.
Middlebrooks only played first base one other time in his professional career — Sept. 21, 2013 against the Toronto Blue Jays — before switching across the diamond for the final three innings Wednesday.
— Matt Barnes tossed two scoreless innings in his third major league appearance. It was a nice bounce-back effort after a shaky outing Saturday in Kansas City.
— Xander Bogaerts’ nine-game hit streak was snapped. He went 0-for-4.
— The Red Sox went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They’re 0-for-16 in such situations through the first two games of the series.
— Craig Breslow, who was named the Red Sox nominee for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award, will be honored during a pregame ceremony Sept. 26 at Fenway Park.
Photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images