Pirates 3, Red Sox 2

All three of the Pirates’ runs came in the ninth, keyed by an RBI double by third baseman Pedro Alvarez. After looking bad in his Pirates debut on Wednesday (Alvarez swung and missed on three consecutive pitches), he came in as a pinch-hitter with one out and runners on first and second on Thursday.

With a 3-1 count, Alvarez reached for an outside fastball and hit it about 330-feet into the left-field corner, off the wall, to score the Pirates’ first run of the inning. It was his first hit and RBI with the Pirates.

“It felt real good,” he said afterward. “I wasn’t trying to put too much pressure on myself. It definitely felt good to come through and produce for the team.”

And as for those ugly swings on Wednesday? “I was a little jittery. I was glad I got that done with.

***

Lost with the offense’s rally in the ninth was the string of pitching performances that got the Pirates there. Beginning with a 1-2-3 inning from Ian Snell in the second, five Pirates pitchers (Snell, Ross Ohlendorf, Jimmy Barthmaier, Denny Bautista and Sean Burnett) combined to retire 18 straight hitters.

“It’s early, but it’s good to see,” manager John Russell said of the pitching success. “The command is what I’m liking right now.

*** 

Speaking of Ohlendorf, the righty looked quite sharp on Thursday. He retired all six hitters he faced, three on strikeouts. Ohlendorf’s slider was especially sharp and he did two things — work quickly and throw strikes — that he didn’t always do with regularity during his one month with Pittsburgh last year.

It’s still early, but Ohlendorf certainly looks like a strong candidate for one of those remaining rotation spots.

***

Burnett faced the minimum in his spring debut, though Boston’s Nick Green did put a nice swing on Burnett’s final pitch of the afternoon and lifted the ball deep into center.

The Pirates are curious to see if Burnett can be more effective against right-handers this season. Last year, Burnett held left-handed hitters to a .171 batting average and just four extra-base hits in 84 plate appearances. No problems there. But right-handers hit Burnett at a .328 mark and had a .442 on-base percentage against him.

As things would fall on Thursday, Burnett’s scheduled inning (the 7th) came with back-to-back left-handed hitters leading off, so the Pirates will have to wait a while longer before seeing in Burnett can have the success against right-handed hitters. Burnett induced a groundout and a strikeout before getting the right-handed hitting Green to end the inning.

***

The Pirates’ three-run output in the ninth gave right-hander Daniel Haigwood the opportunity to make his first appearance with the Pirates on Thursday. Haigwood was not among those scheduled to pitch, but he made the trip to Fort Myers in case there was a need for an extra pitcher.

As it would turn out, Haigwood, who signed a Minor League contract with the Pirates this offseason, was credited with the save. He clinched the game by getting Boston’s Lars Anderson to look at strike three for the third out of the game.

***

Third baseman Andy LaRoche made his first start and went 1-for-2 with a single. He was later replaced by Neil Walker, who singled, walked and scored in the game.  

***

Up Next: The Pirates return to McKechnie Field in Bradenton to face the Braves in a 1:05 p.m. ET affair. Scheduled to pitch for the Pirates: Tom Gorzelanny, Jason Davis, Zach Duke and Daniel McCutchen.

The Braves have the following pitchers lined up to take the mound: Kenshin Kawakami, Kris Medlen, Todd Redmond and Buddy Carlyle.

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