FORT MYERS, Fla. - Clay Buchholz is rounding into form for the Boston Red Sox.
Making his fifth start this spring, Buchholz pitched four-hit ball into the sixth inning, but the Red Sox lost, 5-3, to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Buchholz allowed one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
The Pirates scored four times in the eighth. Pedro Alvarez hit a tiebreaking two-run shot off Anthony Carter for his first homer of the spring.
Garrett Jones hit his first spring homer leading off the second for Pittsburgh's only run against Buchholz, who went 11-8 in 29 starts last year.
"Everything feels good," Buchholz said. "It feels good to feel good, really. All the pitches are coming along. A few here and there, maybe I'm trying too hard to make a better pitch than what I should."
"But at least they're good pitches - they're down for the most part. Everything's rolling along right now," he said.
The right-hander threw 88 pitches.
"A number of quality pitches with men in scoring position," manager John Farrell said. "I thought he kept the game in check, didn't speed up on him at all. Thought he and [catcher] David [Ross] worked will together in those situations to use all his pitches. Again, another very solid outing for Clay."
Left-hander Jeff Locke, vying for a spot in the Pirates' rotation, went four innings. He allowed two earned on seven hits and a walk.
"Early on, the first inning and a half, my fastball on both sides of the plate was missing big," Locke said. "It didn't really miss middle of the plate. If I threw in, it was in-in. If I threw off, it was way off. It wasn't as spotty today as I'd like to be. But, aside from any other outing, I feel that I mixed my pitches well and really threw all my stuff."
Locke faced a Red Sox lineup that was very close to what it will be on opening day.
"It can't hurt you to face that lineup," he said. "It's pretty close to what they're going to put out there every night. They have a lot of good bats, and it's a great challenge."
In the Boston second, Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off with a double and scored on David Ross' single. Jose Iglesias later had an RBI single.
With one out in the third, Will Middlebrooks tripled and Saltalamacchia singled.
"He's more confident and more poised on the mound now," Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. "He's got a better idea of what he wants to do."
"Maybe sometimes it doesn't happen the way he's thinking about it. It's good to have a conversation with the kid now and he's on the right page. It's nice to talk to him about certain situations, whereas last year he had to have a crash course on everything," he said. "You didn't want to overload the poor kid. He's grown up a little bit. There's still more that he has to learn."
Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro worked perfect two innings, striking out five. He fanned Iglesias, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Middlebrooks.
NOTES: The Pirates granted RF-1B Brad Hawpe his unconditional release. ... Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen was scratched with a stomach virus. ... Pittsburgh LHP Francis Liriano is scheduled for a bullpen session on Sunday. There is still no timetable for him to come off the disabled list with the broken right arm he sustained in December. ... Pirates RHP Jeff Karstens will make his first Grapefruit League start on Sunday after being sidelined with biceps tendinitis. ... RHP Graham Godfrey will start for the Red Sox on Monday against the Orioles in Sarasota, his first appearance this spring. ... Boston OF Mitch Maier will have his sprained left wrist reexamined Sunday. ... Red Sox SS Stephen Drew, sidelined with concussion symptoms since being hit by a pitch in the helmet on March 7, is progressing. He was able to go through a full workout for the first time on Saturday, taking batting practice and groundballs on the field. ... Red Sox INF Pedro Ciriaco has been sidelined since March 14 with back spasms. He will get three or four at-bats in a minor league game Sunday. ... Red Sox RHP Daniel Bard had been scheduled to appear in Saturday's game, making his first back-to-back outings since the last two games of the 2011 season. But after throwing 27 pitches on Friday, the Red Sox opted to hold him on Saturday and have him pitch Sunday instead.