This was a frustrating day for the majority of this game, with the offense once again looking lifeless almost all the way through. Then, when it counted the most, they finally came through, only to have our hearts ripped right back out quickly after.
Let’s start in the ninth, when the real fun got started. At this point, they were trailing 3-1 and, as I mentioned, were frustrating all the way through. More on that in a minute. They were finally able to get something going starting with a leadoff single from Mitch Moreland that was followed up with another single and a groundout to put runners on second and third with one out. Christian Vazquez was set to hit next, but John Farrell sent in Chris Young, and the move paid off. He’d smack a single down the third base line to score both runs and tie the game. It was all they’d get there, but it was enough to extend the game.
It didn’t last long after that, though. John Farrell opted to keep Robby Scott in to start the bottom of the ninth, which made sense with the left-handed Eddie Rosario at the plate. It worked, as he induced a groundout. Then, with the top of the order coming up, Farrell went to Matt Barnes rather than Craig Kimbrel. It was a questionable decision, to put it nicely. After getting one out Barnes left a ball up in the zone on the outer half of the plate to Joe Mauer, and the former MVP hit it out into the bullpens to win the game. Barnes made a bad pitch and Mauer put a good swing on it, but the home run is on Farrell most of all. You have to put your best pitcher in the game against the best part of the lineup. It’s an incredibly frustrating way to lose a game.
Prior to all of this, it was that lack of offense from the Red Sox that was the story. Heading into the game, it seemed like this could be a game in which the lineup could really break out and start reaching their potential. Hughes is a pitcher this team has historically been able to hit (the whole league has, really). The righty pounds the strike zone with hittable stuff and gives up a ton of fly balls. Considering that the weather in Minnesota right now is better for hitters than what the Red Sox have been dealing with for most of the year, everything was lining up for a big night.
That didn’t end up working out, however. They were able to get six hits off of Hughes, with half of them going for extra-bases. They just couldn’t sequence them well enough to plate more than the single run. The Red Sox had some chances early, getting runners to second base in each of the first two innings, but they never advanced farther than that.
Their best chance for a big inning came in the sixth. After a leadoff single and a one-out walk, Dustin Pedroia grounded out to second to put runners on second and third. Rather than deal with Mitch Moreland in that situation, the Twins put him in intentionally, preferring to throw to Josh Rutledge with the bases loaded. It ended up being a smart move, as the fill-in third baseman couldn’t come throw, hitting an easy flyball to center field to end the inning without a run.
The one run the Red Sox were able to score was from Andrew Benintendi who, along with Hanley Ramirez, seems to be the only Red Sox hitter with any consistent ability to do damage. In this instance, in the top of the third, he took a changeup that was down and away and launched it to straightaway center. It was a really impressive piece of hitting for the young outfielder.
The lineup simply has to do better than they did against Hughes. To be fair, the Twins starter does deserve some credit, as he was mostly able to hit his spots all night and induced some weak contact. On the other hand, the Red Sox were inexplicably unable to get any lift on the ball far too often. Hughes, according to Baseball Prospectus, had the fourth-lowest groundball rate heading into the night. Prior to his last full inning of work, the Red Sox had hit grounders on seven of their fifteen balls in play. That can’t happen, and it’s a big reason why the power outage continues to plague this team.
On the other side of things, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched well yet again and continues to look like he can be a force for this team. Things got off to a bit of a rough start, though, before he settled down. In the first inning, after a strikeout to kick things off, he hit Joe Mauer to give the frightening Miguel Sano a chance with a runner on. Frightening he is, as he got way under a ball but is so strong that it carried all the way to the wall. Mookie Betts appeared as surprised as I was that it carried so far, and took a wacky route and misplayed it off the wall. That led to a huge bounce that took the ball almost back to the infield, allow Sano to get a triple.
After that, the Red Sox decided to pull their infield in despite it being just the first inning. Robbie Grossman took advantage by putting it just out of reach of the diving Rutledge at third base, scoring another run. Rodriguez would get out of the frame without any more damage, but just like that the Red Sox found themselves down 2-0.
After a scoreless-but-inefficient second inning, the young lefty put it in cruise control. He was working mainly off his fastball and changeup yet again, and while the latter wasn’t as impressive as it was against the Cubs last time out, he seemed to have more success with his fastball, and more confidence in it as well. On top of that, he did throw a couple of nice sliders. He didn’t get into a ton of trouble after those first couple innings, bringing him through six with almost 100 pitches.
Farrell decided to bring him back out to start the seventh, which says all you need to know about both his confidence in his starter and his lack of confidence in the bullpen. It seemed like he should have just called it a day after the sixth, although it’s also worth mentioning that he didn’t look particularly fatigued in the sixth, either. Regardless, he would only face one batter in the seventh inning, allowing a triple to Eddie Rosario. Unlike Sano’s weird triple in the first, this was no cheapie.
You’d still like to see a little more efficiency from Rodriguez moving forward, but the strikeout stuff was there and he also only walked one batter in his six-plus innings of work. The bullpen would allow the inherited run to score to push it to 3-1, leading to the events described at the top.
What a garbage, frustrating game. The offense didn’t hit a pitcher they should’ve crushed, wasting another strong start. Farrell made multiple questionable decisions, too, from playing the infield in to bringing Rodriguez back out in the seventh to leaving Kimbrel in the bullpen. Let’s not talk about this one anymore, K?