Early Friday afternoon was a celebration at Fenway, the home opener celebrating a team that made a surprise run to the ALCS last season, and on Jackie Robinson Day to boot. The Red Sox brought back Mo Vaughn with his son throwing out the first pitch before they took on the Twins, and the vibes were good. That quickly changed. Nick Pivetta had nothing in this game, getting through only two innings with Alex Cora looking to keep the game within reach for his offense. To the bullpen’s credit, they did a fine job at that, allowing just two runs over the final seven innings. The Red Sox offense did show some signs of life late in the game, but it proved too little too late, with Minnesota taking the first game in this four-game set.
More robust game notes below.
It didn’t take too long after the celebrations of the home opener for things to start taking a downward turn for the home town team at Fenway, with Nick Pivetta just not looking sharp from the jump in this game. The Red Sox need him to take another step forward after pitching solidly in the rotation all year in 2021, but after an up and down 2022 debut the righty struggled with command throughout his short outing here on Friday. His velocity was down, the breaking stuff wasn’t as crisp as we’re used to, and he was either missing the zone with non-competitive pitches out of the zone or crush-able pitches in the zone.
In fairness to the Red Sox starter, though, it wasn’t really his fault to start the game as he induced a pop up from Byron Buxton to lead off the game, but everyone in the area lost the ball in the sun and it fell in shallow left field for what went into the box score as a double. However, it was bad news for the Twins as Buxton, one of the most exciting players in the game when healthy, went down with an injury heading into second base and immediately removed himself from the game. Nick Gordon would come in and run for him, and quickly came around to score on a Luis Arraez single to give Minnesota the 1-0 lead just two batters into the game.
After Carlo Correa grounded into a double play after that, it looked like Pivetta might have just gotten bit by some bad luck that resulted in a run, but he’d settle in from there. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead, he had an ugly four-pitch walk after the double play, and then moving into the second started getting beat by some hard contact. Most notably, Miguel Sanó, who entered this game having started the season on an 0-19 skid, got a curveball at the bottom of the zone that just didn’t break as much as Pivetta was looking for and sent it into the Monster seats for a two-run shot, and Minnesota had the 3-0 lead. The Twins added on a single and a double to give them four runs off Pivetta, whose day was over after just two innings of work. Given that this game was the first of 17 straight for the Red Sox, it was not great news for the bullpen.
It was Phillips Valdez getting the call for Boston after Pivetta’s early exit, and to his credit the righty had a good outing to give the offense at least a chance to come back in this game. Valdez did hit a batter in his first inning of work and walked someone in his second, but otherwise was perfect for two frames, keeping the Twins off the board and striking out four in the process, showing off a nasty change up.
The bad news is on the other side, the Red Sox were having trouble with the young Joe Ryan, who Minnesota got from the Rays in the Nelson Cruz trade. Ryan has a delivery that makes his stuff, particularly the fastball, play up more than you’d think by looking at the radar gun, and Boston’s bats never looked comfortable. Ryan needed only eight pitches — all strikes — to get through a perfect first, but the Red Sox had one good swing in the second. That was from Alex Verdugo, who got a fastball center cut and he smashed it out over the bullpens in right field to give Boston their first run of the day and cutting the Twins lead down to three.
That didn’t spark a rally, though. Through three innings, that was the only non-out against Ryan, a streak that was broken to kick off the fourth when Rafael Devers reached on an infield single. He’d get over to third, too, with just one out after a J.D. Martinez single, but Verdugo squandered any chance at a rally with an inning-ending double play.
Minnesota would then extend their lead a bit in the fifth with Hirokazu Sawamura coming into the game for Boston, with the righty walking the leadoff man and then getting a pair in scoring position after a ground rule double, still with nobody out. He’d bounce back with a strikeout, but Gary Sánchez (now in Minnesota after a post-lockout trade with the Yankees) knocked in both runners with a base hit to make it a 6-1 game.
The Red Sox now had their work cut out for them at the plate, but they mounted what appeared to be an encouraging rally situation in the bottom of the fifth when Trevor Story snagged his first Fenway hit with a single, and then a couple batters later Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on a bunt hit against the shift. But with two on and one out, Boston only managed a lazy fly ball and a pop up, leaving both runners stranded and keeping the deficit at five.
After Ryan Brasier and Austin Davis tossed a scoreless inning each, the Red Sox offense made things interesting in the bottom of the eighth. Jackie Bradley Jr. started the inning off with a double, and a couple batters later he’d come around to score on an Enrique Hernández double. That brought Rafael Devers to the plate, and he did what he does. This time, it was a ball that wasn’t even really close to the zone, way down and in, and he somehow got enough to put it into the right field seats to somehow make it just a two-run game.
Unfortunately, that was as close as Boston would get. Minnesota would escape the inning after the homer, and Matt Barnes struggled in the ninth. He gave up two more runs, and after a scoreless bottom half the Red Sox dropped their home opener 8-4.
The Red Sox and Twins continue their four-game set on Saturday, with Tanner Houck set to take on Sonny Gray. First pitch is at 4:10 PM ET.