This was a strange day at the ballpark out in Minnesota, with weather conditions we associate with Patriots games, not Red Sox. Snow was coming down for the first half of the day, and temperatures in the 30s were the coldest the Red Sox have played in at first pitch since 1979. The weather seemed to affect everyone, with pitchers struggling a bit with command and the ball not carrying. The weather stabalized as the day went on, and the Red Sox offense started to come through late. A Hunter Renfroe homer broke them out of the rut and then Bobby Dalbec drove in two more to lead the way to consecutive win number seven.
There were some strange conditions for the Red Sox and Twins today, as we mentioned, and it really showed with the starting pitchers. For Martín Pérez in particular, it looked as though it was a real challenge to even get a firm grip on the baseball. The Red Sox offense made J.A. Happ work early on, but they couldn’t actually get much of anything going. This was not the case for the Twins against Pérez in the bottom half of the first as they jumped out to an early lead.
The rally there started with Byron Buxton, who is among the hottest hitters on Planet Earth. Pérez managed to break his bat with a cutter, but Buxton still smashed a 95 mph line drive into left field for a leadoff double. After that, Pérez lost his control a bit, hitting a batter and then issuing a walk to load the bases before even recording an out. It looked like the Twins were going to jump out to a big lead early and knock the Red Sox starter out right away, which would be particularly troubling given the doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday.
Fortunately, all things considered Pérez was able to get out of the inning without giving up too much. The Twins did, as I mentioned, grab a lead though, getting a sacrifice fly with one out. They’d reload the bases on another walk and get one more in on a ground ball, but that was it. Being down 2-0 after one is never a good thing, but again, considering how things started it seemed like a win.
After the tough first inning, Pérez came out in short sleeves for the second after having sleeves for the first, and started to throw the ball a little bit better. The control was still a little shaky, but it’s hard not to put at least some of that on the conditions. That inning saw a little bit of trouble that stemmed from a weak ground ball. Rafael Devers came in charging and tried to get Jake Cave at first, but the throw was short and got by Bobby Dalbec at first base, allowing Cave to get to second. It was a tough play to judge because Dalbec should have made the stop. We recently complimented his defense at first base, but this was a reminder he’s not a finished product. A good first baseman makes this play fairly easily. At the same time, Devers’s throw was still bad, and I think I’d err towards not throwing on any borderline decision in a game like this where gripping the ball is seemingly so difficult.
Fortunately, there would be no consequences for the play as it was the only damage against Pérez in the inning as he kept the Twins at two runs. He continued to get the job done in the next couple of innings as well, working around another hit batter in the third and around a pair of singles in the fourth for a pair of scoreless innings.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox had absolutely nothing going against Happ. That’s probably not all that fair because they were working good at bats and making some good contact, but as one would expect the ball was very much not carrying for this game. Over the first four innings, their only real chance was in the second when they led things off with a single and a walk, but a Christian Vázquez double play killed any chance at a rally.
So, the score was still 2-0 in favor of the Twins as we headed into the top of the fifth, and the bottom of the order was the portion to get things going for the Red Sox. After a couple of quick outs to start the inning, Hunter Renfroe had his first big fly with his new team. On a slider that hung up over the middle of the plate in the lower portion of the zone, the slugger mashed it just over Buxton’s glove in center field for a solo shot to cut the deficit in half. It was followed with a Christian Arroyo base hit before Bobby Dalbec went the other way for a double to bring Arroyo home and tie the game up at two.
Now it was suddenly a new game for Pérez, who was no longer pitching from behind. He was able to come through and not give the lead right back, too. The southpaw did issue another walk, but that was all in a scoreless fifth inning that would finish his day. It was not the sharpest start for him, but he worked around trouble for a very solid five-inning day in which he allowed just the two runs on four hits (a double and three singles) along with three walks and two strikeouts.
After the Red Sox went down in order in the sixth, it was Hirokazu Sawamura coming in to pitch for the bottom of the frame. The defense didn’t give him help to start the inning as Willians Astudillo hit a routine ground ball to Xander Bogaerts, who sailed his throw a bit. Dalbec had to go down the first base line and jump up to catch it, and Astudillo made a heady play to slide underneath the tag and get on to lead off the inning. The defense made up for it in the next at bat, though, with Arroyo snagging a bullet up the middle on a great play to start a 4-6-3 double play. Throw in a strikeout, and it was an eventful three-batter inning.
The offense would once again go down quickly and in order in the seventh, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game with the score still knotted up at two. He was able to bounce back after a rough outing his last time out there, working around a walk to keep the score tied into the eighth.
There, the offense finally started to show some life again after being shut down by Randy Dobnak for two straight innings. The righty was back on the mound to start this inning, and Arroyo started things off by ripping a double into the right field corner. Repeating the sequence from the fifth, Dalbec once again came through with almost an identical swing, putting a double into right field to give Boston the 3-2 lead. They had the chance for more, too, when J.D. Martinez came up with two on and one out. He hit it well, but it was right at Andrelton Simmons for a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Now it was up to the bullpen to protect the narrow lead, and Darwinzon Hernandez got the call for the bottom of the eighth. The lefty did get a quick first out, but then issued a walk and gave up a bloop single, suddenly putting the go-ahead run on base with only one out. After falling behind 2-0, there was a large meeting on the mound and it did the trick. Hernandez got a pop up and a ground ball to escape the inning with the one-run lead still in hand.
The offense was able to add a little bit of insurance to the lead in the ninth when Devers absolute obliterated one out to right field, making it his fourth straight game with a home run.
So that just left it up to Matt Barnes in the ninth to protect a 4-2 lead with the top of the Twins lineup coming up. As has been the case all season, he had no trouble at all. In fact, this qualifies as a bad outing for him as he only struck out one batter he faced in a perfect inning. The result: A seventh straight win for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox and Twins now get back in action on Wednesday with a pair of seven-inning games. The first one will start at 2:10 PM ET with Nathan Eovaldi taking on Kenta Maeda, and then 30 minutes after that one ends Eduardo Rodriguez will take on José Berríos.