After an off day on Monday, the Red Sox were back at it for a three-game series Minneapolis before heading back home for the weekend. In a series opener they most definitely should have won, it was the bullpen that let the team down once again.
Making his 16th start of the season last night and coming off a nine strikeout game in Baltimore last Wednesday, Chris Sale looked like the dominant ace he is in this one. Taking the mound against a familiar foe in the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox ace took a perfect game into the fifth inning yesterday. It was not until, with two outs in the inning, Twins shortstop Ehire Adrianza reached first on a dinky little single for his teams first hit of the ballgame.
That ended any shot at a perfect game and the Twins did come around to score twice in the sixth, but Sale still put together a solid night for himself. After giving up that pair of runs in the sixth, the lefty ended his start on a more positive note by retiring the side in order in his final frame of work.
Finishing with a total of 105 pitches (78 strikes), here’s what Sale’s final pitching line looked like: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 HBP, and 11 strikeouts. Once again, the Florida native had his four-seam fastball working, as he threw it 39 times and topped out at 98.9 MPH in the sixth inning. A performance 100% deserving of a win, but with his lineup only giving one run of support, Sale got hit with the no decision.
With the contest now tied at two runs a piece heading into the bottom of the eighth, Alex Cora turned to a pitcher who had yet to make an appearance for Boston this season in left-hander Robby Scott.
Scott, who was recalled from Pawtucket earlier in the day, had a rough go of it during spring training, which is part of the reason he did not make the Opening Day roster. In 24 games with the PawSox this season, the lefty owns a 1.48 ERA and 1.87 BAA in 24.1 innings pitched, so I can see why the Red Sox would want to give him a look.
Unfortunately, the lefty was inserted into a high leverage situation, and crumbled. Leading the eighth inning of by walking the number nine man in the Twins order, Scott proceeded to hit Joe Mauer to put runners on first and second with no outs. He did manage to get the first out of the inning, but he quickly got the hook in favor of Joe Kelly.
A questionable move by Alex Cora to say the least. The Twins lineup isn’t setting the world on fire, but with Joe Kelly available, putting Scott in that situation with the game tied is a bit of a head scratcher. According to Cora, “”If we had the lead in the eighth, he (Kelly) was coming in. He was the one coming in. But tied or down one, it was going to be Robby.”
Matchups wise, I guess it made sense using a lefty with two of the first three batters due up for the Twins being left-handed hitters, but it backfired. Kelly came in any way, allowed both inherited runners to score and gave up two runs of his own to put the Red Sox out of reach for a potential comeback.
We did get something out of this bullpen debacle though, and that was the hardest thrown ball from an outfielder this season. Yup, Jackie Bradley Jr., mere minutes after making a costly fielding error in center field, cut down Robbie Grossman at home on what would have been a sacrifice flyout.
That’s what makes Bradley such a frustrating player to watch. At all times, he is capable of making plays like that, yet on the other side of the ball, he’s a below average major league hitter. Have to imagine this play would be talked about more if it came in a more meaningful situation.
So anyway, Hector Velazquez acted as the saving grace of the Red Sox bullpen and, with the help of that JBJ missile, needed only five pitches to send this one to the ninth inning.
Offensively, the Red Sox lineup did not fare well against Twins starter Jose Berrios last night. They had plenty of opportunities (23 runners left on base total), but could only muster one run off of the Minnesota ace and that came on Rafael Devers 12th home run of the season in the sixth.
Fast forward to the eighth with the Red Sox trailing by one and Twins reliever Zach Duke on the hill, and Devers came around to cross the plate again on a Sandy Leon RBI single.
That RBI knock tied the game at two going into the bottom half of the eighth, but as you already know, that tie did not last long.
With the series opener out of the way, the Red Sox will look to David Price to even this thing up. Over his last seven starts, not only are the Red Sox undefeated, but the lefty owns a 2.64 ERA in 44.1 IP as well. He’ll be matched up against Twins righty Lance Lynn, who is currently in the midst of his worst season after spending the first six years of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. First pitch of the middle game is scheduled for 8:10 PM EDT.