This was a frustrating game through and through, with very few bright spots. The one bright spot was Chris Sale, who was incredible once again for the Red Sox. However, it was another wasted great start from the ace as the offense couldn’t come through in multiple big opportunities early in this game. Then, after they tied the game late, Alex Cora made an inexplicable decision to use Robby Scott in a tie game in the eighth inning. That, predictably, backfired and Joe Kelly couldn’t clean up the mess this time around. Boston still has a chance to win this series, but this was a frustrating game to drop.
The early parts of this game were equal parts amazing and frustrating, depending on which side was at the plate at any given moment. I’ll start with the amazing, and that is Sale. The guy is incredible, in case you hadn’t noticed. For a while it seemed like he’d have a legitimate shot at throwing a perfect game, but with or without that he showed off that he’s and incredible pitcher. We didn’t really need more evidence of that, but we certainly weren’t going to say no to it.
Sale, as was pointed out by Jerry Remy on the NESN broadcast, didn’t even really use his changeup too much in this outing. Instead, it was almost entirely fastball/changeup, with the heat sitting in the 95-96 mph range and the slider finding the strike zone about as often as we’ve seen. When he’s locating the breaking ball like he was on Tuesday, there’s really nothing the opponent can do.
Through four innings, Sale was indeed perfect and it wasn’t a fluky kind of perfect either. After a tough ten-pitch at bat against Mitch Moreland to start the game, Sale cruised the rest of the way. After those first four innings he had retired all twelve batters to come to the plate with seven of them going down by strikeout. He also needed only 43 pitches to do it. Pretty good!
The fifth inning would present a little bit of trouble, at least relative to what had happened up to that point. After getting a pair of quick outs, Edhire Adrianza broke up the perfecto in the most infuriating way. That is, he tapped a ball out towards Rafael Devers at third base. Devers couldn’t make the tough barehanded play, and the Twins had a hit. Adrianza would then steal second base on a play that should have been an out but was not because Eduardo Núñez dropped the ball on an easy tag play, and Taylor Motter followed that out with a walk. All of a sudden, in a 0-0 game, Minnesota had two on. Fortunately, Sale went back to being himself and got an easy fly out to end the inning and the threat.
While all of this was going on from Sale, the offense was having an incredibly frustrating night against José Berríos. On the one hand, Berríos is really talented and having a great year. He shuts down a lot of lineups. On the other hand, Boston had chances to put up multiple runs against the Twins righty but kept coming up short.
In the first, for example, they got the leadoff runner on when Mookie Betts drew a walk. He’d move over to second on a ground out and an infield single from J.D. Martinez would put runners on the corners with two outs, but they’d both be stranded there.
After a quick second inning, the frustrating continued in the third. There, Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with another walk and moved over to second on a wild pitch. After the first out came on a nice defensive play, Bradley would again move up a base, this time on a throwing error from Berríos trying to pick him off at second. So the Red Sox had a runner 90 feet away with just one out and the two and three hitters coming up, but a strikeout and a ground out (on another nice defensive play) ended the inning without damage.
It was more of the same in the fourth when Martinez and Mitch Moreland kicked things off with back-to-back line-drive singles and it seemed like this would be the time they’d come through with some damage. Instead, the next three batters went down in order and the runners never advanced beyond first and second.
After just one runner reached in the fifth, the Red Sox finally got on the board in the sixth. The score was, of course, still 0-0 at this point and Devers came to the plate with two outs. The young third baseman did more than simply keep the inning going. He took a changeup up and out of the zone and pounded it out to right-center field to give Boston a 1-0 lead with a clutch home run.
So, Sale came back out for the bottom of the sixth having a lead for the first time in this game. Things did not go well with the lead, and the lead did not last long. The dominance suddenly disappeared from Sale’s night, and the inning started with a single and a hit batter to put two on with nobody out. After a ground ball cut down the middle runner and put runners on the corners, Eduardo Escobar came through with a huge double into the left-field corner. That scored two runs, and suddenly Minnesota had a 2-1 lead. That was all they’d get, but the damage was done.
The offense now had nine more outs to plate at least one more run and try to erase the frustrating and potentially costly start they had to this game. Betts was hit by a pitch with one out, and that would mark the end of the night for Berríos. With Trevor Hildenberger in the game, Betts would steal second and Andrew Benintendi drew a walk to put two on with one out for Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop hit a weak ground ball that did advance Betts and Benintendi to third and second, respectively, but also recorded the second out. That left things up to Martinez in a big spot. He could not come through, stranding both runners on an ugly strikeout.
After Sale shut down the Twins in the seventh to finish off what was a phenomenal start with just one rough inning, the Red Sox came back for the eighth to try and at least tie things up. The left-handed Zach Duke started the inning for Minnesota with Moreland and Devers due up. He’d allow a single to Devers and the third baseman moved to scoring position on a grounder, bringing Sandy León up to try and tie things up. The catcher did just that, smacking a single on a line drive into right field to bring in Devers and knot things up at two. They couldn’t take the lead, but the game was at least reset.
With the game tied, Robby Scott — who was just promoted back to the majors Tuesday afternoon — was called upon to face the 9-1-2 batters in Minnesota’s lineup. It was a bizarre decision with Joe Kelly warming the previous inning and well-rested, but it was Scott’s inning. The lefty walked the first batter he faced and then hit the second. Scott would get a fly out against Eddie Rosario, and that would be the end of his night as Kelly came in with two on and one out.
Kelly could not get the job done in a situation that never should have happened in the first place. Escobar was the one to do the damage again, hitting a line drive into center field. It was destined to score one run, but Bradley misplayed it to allow a second run to score and Escobar to get to third base. Things only got worse from there as Kelly allowed a walk and a triple to score two more runs and put the Twins up by four. Hector Velazquez would come in to get a fly ball that ended the inning with Bradley throwing the runner out at the plate on one of the most impressive throws I’ve ever seen.
So, the Red Sox came out for the ninth looking for a big ninth inning rally against Fernando Rodney. Their first two batters struck out, and after a Bogaerts single Martinez would strike out to end the very dumb game.
The Red Sox will look to bounce back from this ugly loss on Wednesday night. They’ll be sending David Price to the mound to take on Lance Lynn, with first pitch coming at 8:10 PM ET.