Encouraging news came more early than late in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 7-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Monday Grapefruit League action.
Pedro Alvarez slugged a two-run homer and added an RBI single in the first three innings, while Francisco Liriano struck out three in two scoreless, hitless frames as the Pirates (4-1-1) built a 6-1 advantage. Russell Martin added a two-run bomb himself and Travis Snider struck a run-scoring double at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Veteran catcher Martin has two homers in exhibition play so far, an encouraging sign for a player whose primary value comes behind the plate, rather than beside it. It was the first spring dinger for Alvarez, who tied for the National League lead in that category last season.
Chris McGuinness also had a nice moment in the eighth after the Red Sox had rallied to tie the score. The former Ranger stroked a go-ahead RBI double, attracting positive notice as he battles Andrew Lambo for the right to platoon with Gaby Sanchez at first base.
High-leverage relievers Mark Melancon and Tony Watson made their exhibition debuts in effective fashion, tossing one shutout inning apiece. However, Justin Wilson was yanked in the seventh after allowing a two-run homer and a walk. Bryan Morris had it even rougher in the eighth, as Boston’s bench lit him up for three runs and four baserunners.
Also on the mound, offseason signing Edinson Volquez battled through an uneven third inning, surrendering a run on a hit, two walks and two stolen bases. Jared Hughes closed out the win with a perfect ninth.
The Pirates travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers at 1:05 p.m. Tuesday.