BRADENTON, Fla. -- Had Monday's game at McKechnie Field between the Red Sox and the Pirates been a movie, the sellout crowd of 7,804 would've left the theatre thinking, "We saw this flick before."
Starter James McDonald allowed three hits and two runs in the first inning, gave up one hit the rest of his five-inning stint, and his team came back from a one-run sixth-inning deficit for a 4-3 win.
In his previous start, against Toronto at McKechnie Field on Wednesday, McDonald allowed three hits and three runs in the first inning, gave up two more hits the rest of his 5 1/3-innings stint and his team came back from a three-run sixth-inning deficit for a 5-4 win.
"Yeah, that first inning again ... then I got locked back in," said McDonald, who again quickly got his dominant groove on. "I got my composure and finished strong. I didn't let the game get away from me. I still competed with every single pitch I threw. I felt confident out there on every pitch, every moment -- that was another big thing for me."
Two starts do not a pattern make, of course. In any case, manager Clint Hurdle thinks the solution is simple; and, no, it has nothing to do with hypnotizing McDonald into thinking the first is actually already the second.
"That first hitter gets on, sometimes things just slow down [with McDonald]. He's just got to keep it moving forward," Hurdle said. "Take the cerebral part out of it, trust the catcher and just go execute pitches.
"This young man has all the weapons to pitch -- the rhythm, the pace, the timing. That all improved as the game went on."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.