An Affair to Remember: Red Sox Expand Wild Card Lead with Another Adrenaline-Filled Night

August 24

If Boston wins this one over the lowly Twins, they take a two-game lead over Oakland for the second wild card, since Seattle won at Oakland earlier today, 5-1. According to MassLive, Jarren Duran was demoted to Triple-A Worcester while today’s starter, Tanner Houck, was called up to take his spot. Houck will pitch against Jax. Jax is the first man to play in the MLB after having graduated from the Air Force Academy, according to NESN. His trip from the Air Force to the majors was very quick, as he spent comparatively little time in the minors. Houck does not have a promising first batter, as Kepler triples to center three pitches into the evening. With one out, Polanco singles to right to bring in Kepler, who nearly hit it out to begin with, and make it 1-0 Minnesota. Yet again, the Sox will be playing from behind. Plate umpire Tom Hallion takes a foul ball directly to the face mask. The other umpires and the trainers come out to check on him and he stays in the game until the end of the first inning, but he comes out before the second. Another veteran ump, Phil Cuzzi, takes his place, and we will play with three umpires for the rest of the night. I’m fairly surprised that he was allowed to stay in at all given the heat, the nature of his injury, and his age in relation to those two things. Shaw gives us something of an encore in the bottom of the third with a leadoff home run to right to tie it at 1-1. This is his eighth of the year.

The Twins lead 3-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, but with a runner at first and one out, Verdugo doubles to right to put two in scoring position. It’s a prime opportunity for the Sox, and they don’t pass it by. Renfroe comes to the plate and hits his twenty-fourth of the year into the Monster to make it 4-3 Boston. Phil Cuzzi prematurely calls Shaw out on strikes right after that, even though it’s only strike two. Somebody wants to go home! Oddly enough, it’s not the first time I’ve seen that! Today is Kike Hernández’s 30th birthday. For now, he celebrates by hitting an infield single to lead off the fifth, and the Twins give him a little bonus by allowing him to go to second on their throwing error on the play. With two out, Devers hits a ground-rule double to the right-field corner to bring home Hernández and extend the lead to 5-3. A walk puts two on for Verdugo, who doubles off the Monster to drive in both men and give his team a bit of breathing room at 7-3. Renfroe hits his second Monster shot of the inning as the Sox are pummeling Minnesota, 9-3. It ruins and ends Jax’s night.

Seems like an easy Sox win, right? Not so fast. The Twins make it 9-4 by the seventh and put a runner at first with one out for Polanco, who hits one into the Monster to make it 9-6. This is his twenty-third of the year. Pérez is pulled right after that. The next two batters reach and move into scoring position on a wild pitch. With two out, the Sox think they’ve gotten out of the inning, but it turns out that Gordon fouls it off the ground, extending the at-bat. It’s crucial that Cuzzi sees that, because Gordon then singles up the middle to score Donaldson and Arraez and make it 9-8. So that Boston lead that had seemed insurmountable is now just one run in what is suddenly a nail-biter. The go-ahead run grounds out as the Sox escape with the lead. With a runner at first and nobody out in the bottom of the eighth, Hernández homers off a billboard over the Monster to make the lead a little more comfortable at 11-8. This is his sixteenth of the year. Barnes’ ninth-inning struggles continue tonight, as he gives up a leadoff Monster shot to Donaldson two pitches in to make it 11-9. Josh Donaldson now has eighteen dingers. The next two batters reach, and Cora’s seen enough, pulling Barnes for the safety of the lead. Robles retires the next three men. The Red Sox win an amazing game! The final is 11-9. It’s another comeback win, since Minnesota had leads of 1-0 and 3-1 early on. Boston also picks up another game in the wild card race, since Oakland lost to Seattle this afternoon. They’re now two whole games ahead of the Athletics.