This game was very winnable. The opportunities were there, but the Red Sox just couldn’t capitalize on them. The matchup tonight was Brian Johnson vs Kyle Gibson and it ended up being an unexpected pitcher’s duel. Johnson started off the night poorly, in fact it looked like he wasn’t going to last very long. Joe Mauer led off the game with a hit followed by hits by both Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar. On the Escobar hit JBJ made an incredible throw to nail Mauer at home keeping the game scoreless. Johnson continued to struggle walking Mitch Garver before striking out Robbie Grossman looking to end the first.
Things weren’t much better for Gibson to kick things off. J.D. Martinez singled in his first at bat followed by a double by Xander Bogaerts that he absolutely crushed. With men on second and third Steve Pearce walked to load the bases for Rafael Devers who flied out to left to end the inning. After an exciting first inning where neither team could draw first blood both pitchers settled down in a big way. Johnson retired 14 batters in a row finally ending his streak by walking Eddie Rosario. Gibson matched Johnson and then some allowing only one run through his first eight innings.
The lone Red Sox run of the night came in the second inning and was scored by Blake Swihart. Swihart led off the inning with a single to left and was eventually driven in by Mookie Betts. The hit by Swihart was notable because he extended his hit streak to eight games. Swihart looked very strong at the plate and behind it tonight. There were several good defensive plays by Swihart and only one play on a wild pitch where he tried to backhand the ball rather than blocking it allowing the runners to advance.
Johnson’s luck ran out for him in the sixth inning when Dozier hit a double and Rosario, who had advanced to third, tried to take home when Devers threw the ball to Brock Holt at second. Holt proceeded to throw a strike to Swihart and Rosario was called out at home. Johnson then walked Escobar and was pulled by Alex Cora in favor of Heath Hembree. Unfortunately for Johnson, who was in line for the win, Hembree just didn’t have it tonight. After getting out of the sixth, Hembree ran into trouble in the seventh allowing the game to be tied 1-1. Matt Barnes then came in to get the final out in the seventh. Johnson ended with 5.2 IP, 4 H, 5 K, and 3 BB throwing 84 pitches.
Things weren’t much better for Barnes. In the eighth inning Barnes came back out and got one out before walking Dozier. Two batters later Dozier had stolen second and Garver doubled in the go ahead run. That would be all the Twins would need. Gibson had a smile on his face in the dugout after a gutsy 8 IP, 7K performance throwing 120 pitches, unfortunately for him Fernando Rodney is a thing still.
If any of you were thinking the Sox might benefit from Rodney, please read ahead and reconsider. Bogaerts led off the inning with a sharp single up the middle and advanced to second on a Pearce ground out. The next batter was Devers who popped it up in foul ground. Swihart followed and drew a walk. Now with men on first and second Brock Holt was up at bat with a chance to do some damage. At this point Rodney couldn’t find the strike zone with a map and walked Holt even after receiving some help from the ump on strikes. The bases were now juiced for JBJ who ran the count to 3-0. Unfortunately for the Sox, JBJ would take two strikes looking before striking out to end the ballgame.
The question remains why didn’t Cora take the bat out of JBJ’s hands with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth? Mitch Moreland was getting the day off, but was certainly available if need be. Surely the All-Star first baseman could have given the team a better chance to tie or win the game than the helpless JBJ. I respect Cora giving these guys time off, but it’s ultimately about winning ball games. This was a bad call. My other major take away is that Cora would be foolish to send Johnson to the pen instead of Drew Pomeranz. Johnson has looked good, Pomeranz gives you no chance to win.