Well, that ended up being fun. It was a pitchers’ duel early on with Chris Sale once again looking dominant. He did get into some trouble in the middle of the game and wasn’t as efficient as we’d ideally like, but the man threw six shutout innings with ten strikeouts. Don’t be the one who complains about that. Unfortunately, the offense got only a home run from Jackie Bradley Jr. for most of this game, and while that held up for a long time it wouldn’t forever. Craig Kimbrel blew the lead in the ninth, but was picked up by Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts with clutch homers. This team wins. A lot.
This one was a pitching duel at Fenway, which was one part exciting and one part upsetting, the latter because we already saw it from the offense the night before. We’re going to start with the exciting part, because Chris Sale is Chris Sale and Chris Sale is always the headliner. He did hit a bit of a snag in the middle of this outing, but for the most part the Red Sox ace was as good as he’s been for most of this summer, and he kept the Red Sox in this game while the offense tried to find its footing.
This was not one of those games in which opponents jumped on some early Sale pitches before he got into a strikeout groove. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. The lefty had an absolutely disgusting slider early in the contest to go with a 99 mph fastball, a combination to which Minnesota hitters had no answer. He did allow a single on a grounder against the shift in the first inning, but struck out the other three batters he faced. He’d come back in the second and allow another single (this one of the infield variety) but got two more strikeouts. For those keeping track, that was five strikeouts in the first six outs of the game.
He wouldn’t keep that pace up moving forward, but he did come through with another scoreless frame in the third, though it didn’t include any strikeouts. That snag I mentioned above came in the fourth, however. There, he got two quick outs before the control was lost. Sale did get to a 1-2 count against Ehire Adrianza before throwing a backdoor slider that Sale believed caught the corner. Joe West disagreed, the at bat continued and Sale couldn’t finish it out. He walked Adrianza, then hit Max Kepler, then walked Robbie Grossman and suddenly the bases were loaded. Jake Cave was up next, and he worked a long count that eventually filled up, but Sale was able to eventually come through with a strikeout to end the threat and keep the Twins’ run total at zero. After that rough spot, the lefty came back with a 1-2-3 fifth with two strikeouts, because of course.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense got back to their old habit of failing to give their ace much run support after a recent run of crushing it with Sale on the mound. Lance Lynn was on the mound for the Twins, and despite a season filled with walks he had impressive control in this one. His stuff looked pretty good, too, though the Red Sox offense did have some pitches they could have, but failed to, expose.
The first two innings were essentially eventless for Boston’s hitters, with just J.D. Martinez reaching base, and he did so with a two-out double. The third did provide a bit more optimism when Jackie Bradley Jr. smacked a one-out single, but Mookie Betts would eventually take his place after a fielder’s choice. Betts stole second to put himself in scoring position with two outs, but Andrew Benintendi stranded him there with a routine fly out.
After a similar fourth inning in which the Red Sox got a runner to scoring position with two outs only to strand him there, they started to show some life against Lynn in the fifth. Eduardo Núñez kicked off this rally with a sharp line drive off the Monster, and he’d move over to third on a fly ball. Just 90 feet away with one down, Núñez only needed a deep fly ball to get the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Bradley was tasked with the job, and he did so much more. The outfielder got a fastball on the outer half from Lynn, and he crushed it out to left field for an opposite-field homer, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. Boston would get another runner on base in the inning, but settle for the 2-0 lead.
That brought Sale back out with 85 pitches and a chance to protect the lead. He did just that, but it took a few more pitches than we would have liked and he left the game after six. Still, it was a strong effort with no runs being allowed on ten strikeouts, two walks and three hits.
The Red Sox got two on base in the bottom half of the sixth, but neither of them came around to score, leaving a 2-0 lead for Ryan Brasier to protect in the seventh. Things did not go super well, as that inning kicked off with a double against the shift from Max Kepler. After a ground ball to the mound moved the runner to third, weirdness ensued. Cave hit a grounder over to the right side, and it appeared Steve Pearce was going to be able to grab it for an easy out. The run would have scored, but it would have been two outs on the board. Instead, Pearce inexplicably held up and let the ball go behind him for Núñez, except Núñez expected Pearce to pick it up. So, the ball rolled into right field and a run scored with Cave going to second.
That brought Jorge Polanco up, and he hit a weak grounder up the middle. Núñez did get to this ball, but he couldn’t get a strong enough throw to prevent the infield single. That put runners on the corners with one out for Eddie Rosario, who hit yet another ground ball to the right side. Pearce did get this one and he got the out at second on a high throw. Bogaerts then threw it back to first and Pearce caught it while on the ground. He got the out and ended the inning with a 2-1 lead intact, but it was an ugly double play that I honestly can’t describe with words.
The Red Sox failed to get that run back in the bottom of the inning, bringing Matt Barnes on to avenge his performance on Thursday and protect the one-run lead. The righty got two outs to start the inning and then Alex Cora turned to Craig Kimbrel for a four-out save. It was a strange spot, but they started warming him up as the inning started so it was clearly the plan from the get-go. He walked the first batter he saw on four pitches, but got a quick flyout to end the inning after that.
The Red Sox offense went down in order in the bottom of the eighth, leaving it up to Kimbrel to protect the one-run lead. He got a quick first out before walking Grossman to put the tying run on base. After getting the second out, Kimbrel threw a wild pitch to move that tying run over to second base. He’d then walk Polanco, putting the go-ahead run on base with 27 pitches under his belt. It didn’t get better from there, either, as Rosario smacked one off the Monster in left-center field to plate both runners and the Twins took a 3-2 lead. Kimbrel would get out of it after that, but the damage was done.
So, Boston’s offense had one more inning to wake up against Fernando Rodney, and they did so very quickly. Rafael Devers was the first batter of the inning, and he got a fastball right down the heart of the plate. He’s missed a bunch of those pitches of late, but not this one. Instead, he hit an absolute laser into the bullpen and tied the game at three. They wouldn’t get any more against Rodney, but it was going to extras.
Tyler Thornburg was called upon for the tenth, and he continued to look really impressive with a 1-2-3 inning. That brought out Matt Belisle to face the top of the Red Sox lineup, and just like with the ninth the Red Sox did not waste time. Mookie Betts got things started and demolished a homer into the Monster Seats for a walk off shot.
The Red Sox will look to keep these good times rolling on Saturday back at Fenway. They’ll send Rick Porcello to the mound with the Twins countering with Jake Odorizzi. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.