The Red Sox fell to 7-4 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday afternoon following a 6-3 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium. The race for the 2022 Chairman’s Cup is now tied at two games apiece.
Garrett Whitlock made his first-ever start for Boston in his second appearance of the spring on Sunday. The right-hander allowed just one hit and one walk to go along with two strikeouts over three scoreless innings of work.
Of the 47 pitches Whitlock threw, 33 went for strikes. The 25-year-old hurler also sat around 95.1 mph with his four-seam fastball while topping out at 95.5 mph with the pitch.
In relief of Whitlock, Jake Diekman received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. Coming off a rough spring debut last week, the veteran left-hander’s struggles continued on Sunday. Despite recording the first two outs of the fourth rather easily, Diekman proceeded to load the bases on one hit and two walks before walking in a run by issuing another free pass to Gio Urshela.
That sequence gave the Twins their first lead of the day at 1-0, and it also promoted Sox manager Alex Cora to give Diekman the hook in favor of Darin Gillies, who punched out the lone batter he faced to retire the side in the fourth.
Rich Hill took over for Gillies beginning in the middle of the fifth. Like Whitlock, the seasoned southpaw turned in a solid three-inning outing in which he kept Minnesota off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit, no walks, and three strikeouts on 42 pitches (27 strikes).
The Boston bats picked up Hill in their half of the sixth, with Jonathan Arauz ripping a leadoff single off Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar to kick off the inning. Arauz then advanced all the way to third base when center fielder Derek Fisher was unable to come up with a sharply-hit flyball off the bat of Enrique Hernandez.
Hernandez took second base because of the error and was pinch-ran for by the speedy Jarren Duran, who showed off his elite speed immediately when Rafael Devers lifted a 376-foot fly ball to center field. Fisher was able to come up with the ball this time around, but his momentum carried him away from the infield, which subsequently allowed Arauz to score from third and Duran to score all the way from second.
Devers’ rare, two-run sacrifice fly put the Sox up 2-1 as Hill continued to impress through the end of the seventh before being replaced by Hirokazu Sawamura an inning later.
Sawamura, on the other hand, struggled to find the strike zone on Sunday with only 16 of his 30 pitches going for strikes. The Japanese-born righty issued a leadoff walk to Daniel Robertson, which preceded a hard-hit double from Curtis Terry and RBI single for Jose Godoy to tie things back up at 2-2.
Another walk for Sawamura led to more runs crossing the plate, as Jose Miranda plated Terry on a softly-hit groundout and Trevor Larnach scored everyone by depositing a three-run home run 400 feet to give his side a commanding 6-2 lead.
After surrendering that towering shot, Sawamura was given the hook in favor of Brandon Nail, who got Fisher to fly out to Christian Arroyo — yes, Christian Arrouo — in right field for the final out of the frame.
Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Rob Refsnyder made things somewhat interesting by crushing his first home run of the spring off Twins reliever Jorge Alcala.
That cut Minnesota’s lead down to three runs at 6-3, but that would go on to be Sunday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
Christian Arroyo played three innings of right field on Sunday after coming on as a defensive replacement for Jackie Bradley Jr. in the middle of the sixth inning.
Red Sox pitchers were responsible for 50 of the 51 hardest-thrown pitches on Sunday, per Baseball Savant.
Next up: A day off
The Red Sox will enjoy their first off day of the spring on Monday. They will then travel to Bradenton to take on the Pirates at LECOM Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Boston has yet to name a starter for that contest, though right-hander Mitch Keller is slated to get the starting nod for Pittsburgh.
First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on AT&T SportsNet.
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)