BOSTON -- Holding a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, it looked as if the Pirates might sweep into Fenway Park for the day and escape with a victory.
While starter Chad Kuhl kept the Red Sox at bay for much of the game, things were different when the bullpen doors opened and Boston was able to get to Daniel Hudson and Juan Nicasio to pull off a 4-3 comeback win on Thursday.
"We weren't able to get things done in that eighth inning that we needed to and they have a very good offensive club," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to pitch to spots, as Chad did throughout the entire game. He was able to make pitches, change speeds, be effective. We just picked the wrong time to have a bad inning."
The Pirates' skipper was quick to point out the ineffectiveness of his relievers in gaining the upper hand on the Boston bats in an inning that saw eight Sox hitters come to the plate.
Hudson was unable to get a first-pitch strike on any of the three batters he faced, while Nicasio was able to get ahead on only one of the five guys he saw.
"Out there tonight, he was missing a lot of first-pitch strikes, he was working from behind," Hurdle said of Hudson. "Sometimes the changeup has worked for him, or his slider. Neither one of those pitches is a 'nail it' pitch for him right now, as far as being able to throw when he's behind in counts."
The two relievers each surrendered a four-pitch walk, which were sandwiched by a Phil Gosselin error that loaded the bases.
Nicasio then left a sinker in the middle of the plate that Hanley Ramirez took deep to center field, but despite an 83 percent Catch Probability according to Statcast™, center fielder Starling Marte could not get leather on it. The only saving grace came on the relay that cut Mookie Betts down at the plate.
"I read the ball good, but it was a hard line drive," Marte said. "I tried to catch the ball, but it was over me. I did the best I can with the line drive."
Initially, Betts was called safe on the play, but that was overturned after review, keeping the game tied until Nicasio served up a single to Xander Bogaerts that plated Ramirez with the game-winning run.
"We did walk two guys in the inning, which complicates things, and I think we were one out of eight first-pitch strikes, which you'd like to get ahead of hitters," Hurdle said. "There was an opportunity for us to score another run. There were plays that we probably could have made defensively to tighten things up. So it's all interconnected. We just didn't play good enough to beat a good team today."
In the eighth, the duo combined to allow three runs on two hits and two walks.
Nicasio was tagged with his second loss in as many appearances, while Hudson, who has worked as the Pirates' eighth-inning man this season, had his third straight rough outing.
"We'll continue to work with him and get him cleaned up and move on," Hurdle said of Hudson. "The same with Nicasio as well."