The Red Sox avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins on Wednesday night. Boston held on for a 6-5 win over Minnesota at Target Field to end a three-game losing streak and improve to 63-68 on the season.
Matched up against Twins rookie starter Joe Ryan to begin things on Wednesday, the Sox drew first blood in their half of the third inning. Following a pair of back-to-back singles from Kevin Plawecki and Tommy Pham, Alex Verdugo reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases with no outs for Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts, who walked in his first plate appearance, took a first-pitch strike from Ryan and then unloaded on a hanging slider by lacing it 392 feet over the left field wall for a grand slam. The ball left his bat at a blistering 113 mph (his hardest-hit ball of 2022) and cleared the fence in just 3.6 second. It was also good for his 12th home run of the season and gave the Red Sox an early 4-0 lead.
After Rafael Devers flew out, J.D. Martinez went deep for the 11th time this year by depositing another slider from Ryan 394 feet into the left field bleachers. Martinez’s second big fly in his last four games made it a 5-0 contest in favor of Boston.
To that point, Michael Wacha had yet to allow a run two innings into his 17th start of the season. That changed in the third, as the veteran right-hander recorded two quick outs before giving up a softly-hit single to No. 9 hitter Sandy Leon. Moments later, Luis Arraeez made Wacha pay for extending the inning by cranking a three-run homer to right that trimmed Boston’s lead down to three runs at 5-2.
Fast forward to the sixth, and the Sox got one of those two runs back. Kevin Plawecki greeted new Twins reliever Jovani Moran by roping a leadoff double to right field. After Pham and Verdugo each struck out, Bogaerts came through yet again with an RBI single that would prove to be more important than it seemed at the time.
Wacha, who ended his night by escaping a jam in which Minnesota had runners at second third with only out, wound up yielding just two earned runs on four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts over six strong innings of work. The 31-year-old hurler threw 98 pitches (64 strikes) and induced eight swings-and-misses en route to picking up his 10th winning decision of the year.
In relief of Wacha, Garrett Whitlock received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Whitlock was not as sharp as he usually is, as he began the seventh inning by giving up a leadoff double to Nick Gordon. Gordon advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Arraez. Whitlock’s struggles extended into the eighth inning, as a pair of singles put runners on the corners with two outs for Gordon.
Gordon proceeded to rip a two-run double to right field that he attempted to extend into a triple. But Verdugo tracked the ball and, with his momentum carrying him towards the field, made a nice throw to gun down Gordon at third base and limit the damage to two runs.
Verdugo’s sixth outfield of the season allowed Matt Barnes to take the mound in the ninth with a 6-5 lead to protect. Barnes, in turn, made things interesting by putting the first two batters he faced on base before retiring Arraez and getting Carlos Correa to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. By doing so, Barnes notched his fourth save of the year while securing a one-run victory.
With the win, the Red Sox finish the month of August with a 12-16 record. Coming into September, they still trail the Blue Jays by eight games for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.
Bogaerts’ third-inning slam was the first from a Red Sox hitter since May 22nd. It was also the sixth of Bogaerts’ career, which moves him into sole possession of first place for most among shortstops in Red Sox history. He was previously in a three-way tie with Nomar Garciaparra and Vern Stephens, who each hit five over the course of their respective careers.
Plawecki, meanwhile, went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored out of the nine-hole on Wednesday. He is now 11-for-21 (.524) over his last seven games dating back to Aug. 20.
Next up: Back to Boston
The Red Sox will return home and open a four-game weekend series against the Rangers on Thursday night. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill, fresh off striking out a season-high of 11 across seven scoreless innings in his last time out, will start the series opener for Boston. On the opposite side of the spectrum, rookie right-hander Glenn Otto will take the mound for Texas.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: David Berding/Getty Images)