After wrapping up a 6-2 west coast road trip on Sunday and a day to recover on Monday, the Red Sox opened up the final month of their season with a 6-5 loss against the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins on Tuesday to fall to 74-64 on the year.
Making his 28th start of the season for Boston and second against Minnesota was Rick Porcello, who held the Twins scoreless on just four hits over seven strong innings the last time he faced them at Target Field back on June 17th.
Working into the fifth inning this time around, the right-hander surrendered six runs, all of which were earned, on eight hits, two walks, and one HBP to go along with five strikeouts on the night.
The first of those six Twins tallies came in the top half of the first, when with two outs and runners at first and second following a leadoff HBP from Max Kepler and one-out walk drawn by Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano got his side on the board first with a jam shot of an RBI single hit weakly to left field, but strong enough to drive in Kepler from second.
In the third, more two-out trouble arose for Porcello, this time with runners on second and third and Jake Cave plating both on a two-run triple off the center field wall to make it a 3-0 contest.
Two innings later, it was the home run ball that bit Porcello, as Nelson Cruz teed off on a 1-0, 81 MPH slider at the top of the zone to lead the frame off with a solo shot, and Sano followed suit by doing even more damage off another 1-1, 90 MPH heater at the top of the zone, driving in a pair on a 452-foot two-run shot to dead center.
Sano’s 27th homer of the season gave Minnesota a commanding 6-0 advantage at the time it was crushed, and Porcello would not face another hitter, as Sox manager Alex Cora was forced to turn to his bullpen early once more.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (59 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seamer nearly 41% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing four swings and misses and topping out at 91.9 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately hit with his 11th loss while inflating his ERA on the season up to 5.63, Porcello will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come against the New York Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball.
In relief of Porcello, left-hander Josh Taylor entered the fifth with the bases empty and three outs to get, and he got that first out before plunking C.J. Cron and making way for another southpaw in the form of Brian Johnson.
Johnson stranded Cron, as well as the man he walked, with back-to-back groundouts to escape the inning unscathed.
From there, Marcus Walden gave up one free pass in an otherwise clean sixth, Darwinzon Hernandez punched out the side on 12 pitches in an electric seventh, Andrew Cashner tossed a 1-2-3 eighth, and Brandon Worman also fanned three in a scoreless ninth to hold the Twins at six runs. Not like it made much of a difference in the end, though.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against rookie right-hander Randy Dobnak for the Twins, someone making the first start of their major league career after being used as a reliever thrice since being called up on August 27th.
Dobnak held his own in the first, working his way around a two-out walk in a scoreless frame before making way for a bullpen day from the Twins.
Kicking off the scoring in the bottom of the fifth, a leadoff walk drawn by Mitch Moreland and single off the bat of Christian Vazquez, as well as a wild pitch from left-handed reliever Lewis Thorpe, put a couple of runners in scoring position for Brock Holt.
Holt did manage to collect his team’s first RBI of the night, but only on a groundout to second that allowed Moreland to score easily from third. 6-1.
A Jackie Bradley Jr. walk led to another pitching change for the Twins, with right-hander Trevor May taking over for Thorpe.
May got the first man he faced in Mookie Betts to fly out to right, meaning he was only one out from getting out of the jam, but Rafael Devers had different plans.
On the sixth pitch he saw from May, a 2-2, 84 MPH slider down and in, the slugging third baseman came through with a 426-foot blast directly down the right field line for his 29th of 2019.
Per Statcast, that three-run shot had an exit velocity of 104.3 MPH, and it brought the Sox back to within two runs at 6-4.
Fast forward to the eighth, and Andrew Benintendi delivered in a tight spot with two outs, as he greeted new Twins left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers by depositing a 1-0, 94 MPH two-seam fastball pretty much down the middle 373 feet over the Green Monster to cut the deficit to one at 6-5. His 13th of the year came on his bobblehead night.
Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Holt reached on a leadoff single through the left side of the infield off of Rogers.
Marco Hernandez came on to pinch-run for Holt, and the pinch-hitting Gorkys Hernandez advanced him to second on a successful sacrifice bunt, putting the tying run in scoring position for the top of the lineup.
Betts made decent contact, but failed to advance Hernandez on a comebacker hit to Rogers for the second out.
So, with Devers representing the last chance Boston had, all the 22-year-old could do in a tough lefty-on-lefty matchup was fan on three straight strikes, stranding Hernandez at second and wrapping this one up with a final score of 6-5.
Not the way you want to start a seven-game homestand against two of the toughest teams in the American League.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday. They left six men on base as a team.
The top four hitters in the Red Sox’ lineup (Betts, Devers, Bogaerts, Martinez) went a combined 1-for-16 (.062) with one home run and three RBI on Monday. The Red Sox only had six hits all night.
Andrew Cashner, since moving to the bullpen: 7 Games, 11 Innings Pitched, 4 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 4 Walks, 9 Strikeouts, 1 Save, 0.82 ERA.
From Red Sox Stats:
From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:
The Red Sox are 23-38 against teams .500 or better so far this season.
Bonus Darwinzon Hernandez highlights:
With the Oakland Athletics in action, the Cleveland Indians falling to the Chicago White Sox, and the Tampa Bay Rays splitting a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, the Red Sox currently sit 5 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of this three-game set, with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez getting the ball for Boston and right-hander Jose Berrios doing the same for Minnesota.
Rodriguez is coming off a month of August in which he posted a 3.41 ERA and .284 batting average against over six starts and 37 innings of work. The Red Sox went 4-2 in those games.
Back on June 19th, the Venezuela native yielded four runs over seven innings for the Sox in an eventual 8-4 win against the Twins.
Berrios, meanwhile, has fell off a bit since the All-Star break, posting a 4.85 ERA and .279 batting average against over his last nine starts and 52 innings pitched since then.
The 25-year-old out of Puerto Rico opposed Porcello the first time these two teams squared off in June and was just as impressive, surrendering just one run on five hits and 10 strikeouts over eight innings in a tough-luck loss.
First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to start another winning streak.