It turns out winning 10 consecutive Major League Baseball games is actually a difficult task. The Red Sox found that out themselves on Thursday when their nine-game winning streak came to an end following a 4-3, walk-off loss at the hands of the Twins at Target Field.
Matched up against veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, the Sox lineup struggled to get anything going offensively, as they were limited to no runs on two hits in the seven innings the ex-Yankees hurler was on the mound.
Alex Verdugo, the star of Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep, was able to finally get his side on the board in the top half of the eighth.
There, with two outs and the bases loaded, the left-handed hitter greeted recently-inserted Twins reliever Taylor Rogers by putting together what might go down as the best at-bat of any Red Sox hitter this season.
After fouling off a plethora of sinkers and sliders, Verdugo — on the 10th pitch of the at-bat — laced a line-drive, bases-clearing double down the left field line to knot things up at three runs apiece.
Alas, Verdugo’s triumphant three-run double would not turn out to be enough in the end, as the Twins bounced back to walk things off an inning and a half later.
Richards solid once again
While Boston’s winning streak may have been halted at nine games, Garrett Richards became the 10th straight Sox starter to go at least five innings into his start.
Over those five innings of work, Richards held the Twins to two runs on four hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.
Both runs the right-hander surrendered wound up being unearned, as a walk and a throwing error committed by Bobby Dalbec in the second would later result in the Twins plating their first two runs of the day on a two-run single off the bat of Luis Arraez.
From there, though, Richards was able to settle in and actually retired 10 of the final 13 hitters he faced in this one.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (56 strikes) while lowering his ERA on the year to 6.00, the 32-year-old’s next start should come against the Mariners back at Fenway Park on Tuesday.
Bullpen gives up two runs over four innings
In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the bottom of the sixth, and he gave up his first run of the season by serving up a towering 404-foot solo shot to Miguel Sano.
From there, Josh Taylor tossed a scoreless seventh inning and Matt Andriese and Darwinzon Hernandez combined to work their way around traffic in a scoreless bottom half of the eighth after the Sox had battled back to tie things up at 3-3.
After nearly plating a fourth run when Christian Arroyo reached base on a one-out double — and was stranded at second — in the top of the ninth, that set the stage for Adam Ottavino to come on for the bottom half of the frame.
The righty reliever put the first two Twins he faced on base via a leadoff single and HBP, which put a runner in scoring position with one out for Max Kepler, who proceeded to hit a walk-off single on a jam shot of a flyball to center field to win it for Minnesota, 4-3.
Some notes from this loss:
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected from this game in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Andriese appeared to punch out Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers on a swinging strike in the dirt, home plate umpire Jordan Baker ruled that Jeffers had fouled the pitch off, though it was abundantly clear the ball had missed the bat entirely.
Cora came out to argue that was indeed the case, but after convening with the other umpires, Baker upheld the non-reviewable call and the Sox skipper was tossed as a result of his continuous arguing.
For what it’s worth, Andriese fanned Jeffers on the very next pitch.
There was also a siren delay that lasted approximately five minutes during the top half of the fifth inning.
Next up: 10-game homestand
Coming off a 6-1 road trip despite falling to 9-4 on Thursday, the Red Sox will head back to Boston to begin their longest homestand of the season on Friday night.
Welcoming in the White Sox for the first of four to kick off Patriots’ Day weekend, the Red Sox will turn to right-hander Nick Pivetta for Friday’s series opener. He will be opposed by fellow righty Dylan Cease.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN, though the weather does not look particularly promising.
(Picture of Garrett Richards: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)