It was not exactly what we think of as baseball weather at Fenway on Sunday, with temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s and wind that did its damndest to keep the ball in the park all day long, putting the pitching on center stage for this one, at least until the end of the game. For a second straight game, it was the Red Sox pitching outshining the Twins staff, this time allowing one run on the day after a combined shutout performance on Saturday. Michael Wacha had Minnesota off-balance all day long, and the bullpen finished the final four innings mostly without a hitch, ensuring two sacrifice flies were enough from the offense to get Boston over .500 for the first time in 2022.
More robust game nows below.
With the Red Sox needing to replace Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation this past winter, they opted for a quantity over quality approach, in that they went after a trio of relatively cheap veterans in Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton rather than one higher-tier name. It’s a valid strategy if you have reason to believe at least one of those arms are being underestimated by the market. At least on Sunday, in his second start with the Red Sox and first at Fenway, Wacha showed he has the potential to outperform his one-year, $7 million deal. Not exactly a prototypical pitcher of this era with a big fastball, he has more modest velocity — he was sitting 92 in this game — but can deal if his secondaries are being located well, particularly the changeup. He had it all working for this third game of the series.
Minnesota’s offense had a clear strategy coming into this game, which was to swing early and swing often. Their first two batters recorded outs on just two combined pitches, and ultimately Wacha was able to get through the first inning having thrown only eight. That level of efficiency wasn’t necessarily present throughout the day, but he had no problem getting outs. He was perfect again in the second, and gave up his first runner in the third on a one-out walk, though he’d leave the runner at first. The Twins drew another walk in the fourth, but again Wacha worked around it, this time with an inning-ending double play, before coming back out for the fifth. His no-hitter was broken up here with a leadoff single, but he kept up his streak of not allowing any runners beyond scoring position.
That would be it for Wacha, who is still getting ramped up for full-length starts and threw 79 pitches. It should be mentioned that a big part of that pitch count was a 15-pitch at bat from Carlos Correa, which did end in a strikeout but also likely served to knock Wacha out one inning earlier. Still, allowing just a single through five shutout frames is a hell of a Fenway debut.
So, the Red Sox got some great production from their starter, but they were getting similarly shut down on the other side. Like Wacha, Minnesota’s Bailey Ober wasn’t necessarily attacking with high-powered stuff, but A, he was throwing a lot of strikes on the edges of the zone, and B, standing at 6’9 his fastball plays up given the wingspan. Boston did look like they were going to get something going right away when Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts combined for back-to-back hard-hit singles, but they’d be left there, and Ober fell into a groove.
After that Bogaerts single to put a runner in scoring position with just one out, Ober retired the next 10 batters he faced before that run was broken up by a two-out single from Alex Verdugo. He’d be left there, and they’d again manage just a walk in the fifth. Put it all together, and the two teams combined for just four hits — all singles — through five innings, with just one runner, Devers in the first inning, getting into scoring position.
For the sixth, the Red Sox turned to their bullpen with Matt Strahm coming on first looking to build on what has been a strong start to his season. He did just that with a quick 1-2-3 inning.
Heading into the bottom of the inning, Boston’s offense caught an early break with a Devers line drive going off the glove of first baseman Miguel Sanó to give the Sox their first leadoff runner of the afternoon. Sure enough, that was followed by a double high off the Monster, and suddenly there were two in scoring position with nobody out. The Red Sox didn’t put up a crooked number with the situation, but they were able to get back-to-back fly balls deep enough to get both runners home, and they had a 2-0 lead heading into the seventh.
With a lead now in place to protect, Strahm came back out for the seventh, recording one out and giving up a base hit before Alex Cora called for Ryan Brasier. The righty didn’t get off to the start he wanted when a single put runners on the corners before Trevor Larnach hit a fly ball plenty deep enough to get the runner on third home, cutting Boston’s lead in half. Brasier would get himself into more trouble with another single and a two-out walk to load the bases, but he’d come back with a big strikeout to strand all three runners and preserve the one-run lead.
After the offense failed to add insurance thanks in part to an inning-ending strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out, Jake Diekman got the call for the eighth against the top of Minnesota’s lineup. He wasn’t uber-efficient, but the full counts didn’t come back to bite him as he struck out a pair in a perfect inning.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox had the top of their order coming up in the bottom half of the eighth, and they came through with a big inning to open this game up. Highlighted by a two-RBI single from Trevor Story, Boston added six more runs to their tally to make it a seven-run game with three outs to go. Austin Davis got the call to record those outs, and he did so in order to lock up the 8-1 victory.
The Red Sox and Twins finish up their four-game set on Monday with the annual Patriots Day morning game starting at 11:10 PM ET. It’ll be Rich Hill going for Boston to take on Dylan Bundy for the Twins.