The Red Sox will not be taking home the Chairman’s Cup after being bested by the Twins in Sunday’s series finale. Boston fell to Minnesota by a final score of 7-2 at JetBlue Park to drop to 14-12-4 in Grapefruit League play.
Chris Sale, making his fourth and final start of the spring for the Red Sox, allowed two earned runs on five hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with five strikeouts over five solid innings of work.
Both of the runs Sale gave up came on one swing of the bat. After taking a shutout bid into the fourth inning, the veteran left-hander yielded a leadoff single to Kyle Farmer. Two batters later, he served up a two-run home run to Ryan Jeffers that barely cleared the fence in right-center field.
Sale evaded any further damage in the top of the fourth. In the bottom half, Cole Sands took over for Twins starter Sonny Gray, who struck out four over three scoreless, no-hit innings. Rafael Devers promptly greeted the new reliever by crushing a leadoff home run to right field. Devers’ first homer of the spring cut Boston’s deficit in half at 2-1.
Justin Turner followed by drawing a walk and moving up to third base on a one-out double from Adam Duvall. Triston Casas then took ball four himself to load the bases, but Christian Arroyo extinguished the threat by grounding into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play.
Still trailing by one going into the fifth, Sale put runners on the corners with only one out. But he got out of the jam thanks to Reese McGuire gunning down the pinch-running Ernie Yake at second base and Farmer lining out to Bobby Dalbec to end the inning. The 33-year-old southpaw finished with 79 pitches. He will make his next start against the Orioles at Fenway Park on April 1.
Shortly after Sale’s day had come to an end, the Red Sox got the lefty off the hook. With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Bobby Dalbec scored the then-tying-run on back-to-back singles from Devers and Turner. A two-out walk drawn by Masataka Yoshida then loaded the bases, but Duvall ended the rally by going down swinging against new Twins reliever Jose Bravo.
Though Boston had fought back to pull even with Minnesota at two runs apiece, that stalemate did not last too long. Kaleb Ort took over for Sale out of the Red Sox bullpen in the sixth and recorded two quick outs before running into some trouble. Ort issued a two-out walk to Michael A. Taylor and followed that up by surrendering a go-ahead, two-run home run to Willi Castro to give the Twins a 4-2 lead.
Richard Bleier had difficulty with the long ball himself as he served up a two-run shot to Hernan Perez with two outs in the seventh. In the eighth, John Schreiber gave up a one-out double to Mark Contreras, who scored from second on an RBI single off the bat of Andrew Betchold. Jordan DiValerio faced the minimum in the ninth by recording one strikeout, issuing one walk, and inducing another 4-6-3 twin killing.
Down to their final three outs, the Red Sox went down quietly in their half of the ninth. Jorge Alfaro popped out while Dalbec and Raimel Tapia both lined out against Connor Sadzeck to put the finishing touches on a 7-2 loss.
By defeating the Red Sox on Sunday, the Twins won the five-game series, 3-2. As such, they will be taking the 2023 Chairman’s Cup trophy back with them to their own complex in Fort Myers.
Other worthwhile observations:
After allowing two runs in the sixth inning of Sunday’s loss, Kaleb Ort now owns a 9.64 ERA (10 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings of relief) through eight appearances this spring. The hard-throwing righty is currently competing for the final spot in Boston’s Opening Day bullpen.
In his four starts this spring, Chris Sale pitched to a 4.80 ERA with 12 strikeouts to just three walks over 15 innings. Opponents hit .288 off him.
Enrique Hernandez was struck in the right wrist by a Sonny Gray pitch in the bottom of the third inning. He remained in the game for two more innings before being replaced at shortstop by Bobby Dalbec. According to the Red Sox, the decision to take Hernandez (who was later diagnosed with a right wrist contusion) out was purely precautionary, meaning he is not expected to miss any time.
Next up: Houck starts
The Red Sox will travel to North Port to take on the Braves in their penultimate game of the spring on Monday afternoon. Tanner Houck will be getting the start for Boston opposite fellow right-hander Jesse Chavez for Atlanta.
First pitch from CoolToday Park is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on Bally Sports Southeast.
(Picture of Chris Sale: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)