The Red Sox have been playing in some wild baseball games the last few days. The good news is they’d come out on top in their last two before this one, even if they weren’t exactly feel-good victories. The bad news is they did not come out on top here on Wednesday. After they fell into an early hole thanks to a rough night for Nick Pivetta and a couple of baserunning blunders, they clawed their way back. The bullpen kept the Twins off the board in the latter half of the game, and the offense tied it up in the ninth. But then they failed to deliver the finishing blow despite ample chance, and Hansel Robles gave up two homers in the 10th to give it right back and ultimately lose.
Although the Red Sox had won their last two games coming into Wednesday’s contest against the Twins, things weren’t exactly feeling great. The wins weren’t against the best of competition, and they were anything but stress-free. And that’s exactly what they were looking for here, to make it a third win in a row, and one with some much-needed ease. Nick Pivetta had some other ideas, however, as he had a fun mix of poor control and bad luck to get him in trouble pretty much all night long.
The righty’s night started in a way that suggested things might get frustrating when Max Kepler hit a weak ground ball against the shift to the left side for an infield single. Pivetta then walked the next batter he faced to put the first two men on, but was able to escape the inning without any runs crossing.
He was not so lucky in the second. Once again the first two batters reached, this time on a walk and a hit batter, and then a ground ball put runners on the corners. That brought Andrelton Simmons to the plate, and while he didn’t hit it hard he was able to lift a breaking ball for a soft liner that fell into center field. That gave Minnesota their first run of the night, though after loading the bases with only one out Pivetta did manage to again escape without further damage.
The Twins would get back to it in the third and fourth as well, but here it was more emphatic. In the third, Miguel Sanó got a slider over the plate and demolished it out to center field at the right edge of the Monster. The ball traveled 495 feet, per Statcast, which is the longest homer in the bigs this year. In the following inning, Simmons got another weakly-hit single and then Jorge Polanco blasted a fastball out to right field for a two-run shot.
That brought Minnesota’s run total to four. Pivetta would only last those four innings, allowing the four runs on six hits (with two being home runs), two walks and a hit batter along with five strikeouts. He’s been a rollercoaster this year, and after looking good a couple of weeks ago his last two starts have been trending in the wrong direction. It’s not the biggest problem for the Red Sox now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue at all.
To make matters worse, going up against rookie Bailey Ober the offense alternated between punchless and mindless. The mindlessness came on the bases, continuing this frustrating stretch for the team. They managed just a walk in the first two innings before getting a one-out single from Christian Vázquez in the third. He’d move up to second on a ground ball to give Boston their first runner in scoring position of the game, and he should have scored from there. With two down, Kyle Schwarber hit a soft liner into right field that would almost always score a runner from second. However, Vázquez lost track of the number of outs and didn’t break on contact, leaving him at third. Xander Bogaerts then flew out to right, ending the inning with no runs coming across.
More baserunning blunders were ahead of us in the fourth as well, this time thanks to Alex Verdugo. The outfielder hit one well out to left field, and he thought it was gone off the bat. That assumption stopped him from running out of the box, instead admiring his fly ball for a second. Unfortunately for him the ball hit the Monster, and Verdugo was caught turning too far around first base. He was thrown out trying to get back to the bag, ending the inning in embarrassing fashion.
This night wasn’t entirely negative, with Austin Davis coming in after Pivetta and really coming through with a strong outing. The southpaw tossed 2 2⁄3 perfect innings, keeping the Twins off balance throughout his outing. He had a rough start to his Red Sox career, allowing runs in three of his first five appearances, but he’s been scoreless in his last five.
But we were still looking for some life from the offense, and they did raise some hope in the sixth. Ober was now out of the game with the bullpen being called upon for Minnesota, and Boston started the inning with their first two batters reaching. But after a deep fly ball put the runners on the corners, J.D. Martinez hit one too shallow to score the run before Verdugo popped one up on the infield to end the inning, Minnesota still leading 4-0.
Finally, in the seventh, the offense was able to get on the board. Travis Shaw got things going with one out, smacking a double off the base of the Monster to get another run into scoring position. Vázquez helped to make up for his earlier mistake in the next at bat, putting a base hit into center field to bring home Shaw and cut the deficit down to three. A blooper into center made it three straight hits, but then Kyle Schwarber flew out and Xander Bogaerts went down looking to end the inning with just the one run having scored.
Boston would push in the eighth as well with a two-out rally this time. Verdugo kept the inning alive with a base hit up through the middle, and then the Twins made a defensive mistake. Hunter Renfroe ripped a bullet of a single high off the Monster, on which Verdugo moved easily to third. But the throw back in missed the cutoff target and rolled into no-man’s land on the infield, allowing Verdugo to come in to score and make it a 4-2 game. A hit batter put the tying run on base, but they couldn’t get any more across.
After another scoreless inning from the bullpen — after Davis exited, Hirokazu Sawamura, Martín Pérez and Josh Taylor combined for 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings — the offense had one more chance, trailing by two. And finally, they came through. Going up against a struggling Alex Colomé, Kiké Hernández led the inning off with a double ripped out to right-center field. That brought Schwarber back to the plate, and we saw his power for the first time in a Red Sox uniform. He got a first-pitch cutter that stayed over the plate, and he drove it out to straightaway center field for a two-run shot. And with that, we were all tied up.
Bogaerts kept the rally alive with his first hit of the day, poking a single into center field before moving up to second on a Devers walk and to third on a fly out to third base. They just needed a fly ball to win the game, but Verdugo struck out swinging in a terrible at bat, leaving it up to Renfroe. He popped one up, and we were going back to extras.
They would regret not getting the win when they had the chance in the ninth. Hansel Robles came back out for the 10th in this one after saving the day on Tuesday, but the results were not the same. With the Manfredball runner at second to start the inning, Josh Donaldson crushed a middle-middle changeup for a two-run shot to make it a 6-4 ballgame. Robles later gave up a single, hit a batter, then allowed another home run to blow this one open.
The offense did get a couple of runs, including one on a Hernández homer, but it wasn’t enough. The 9-6 loss pushed the Red Sox down to 72-56. With the Yankees, Athletics, and Mariners all off tonight, Boston trails New York by three full games for the top wildcard spot while Oakland and Seattle trail the Sox by 1.5 and 2.5 games, respectively, for the second spot.
The Red Sox and Twins finish up this three-game set on Thursday. Boston will have Chris Sale going while John Gant gets the start for Minnesota. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.