The Red Sox opened a three-game series against the Twins on Monday by losing their second straight game. Boston fell to Minnesota by a final score of 4-2 at Target Field to drop to 62-67 on the season.
Matched up against Dylan Bunday to begin things on Monday, the Sox got on the board first in their half of the third inning. Tommy Pham reached base via a one-out single and promptly scored all the way from first on an Alex Verdugo RBI double that traveled 341 feet to left field.
Verdugo moved up to third on a Xander Bogaerts single and had the chance to tag up when Rafael Devers lined out to Max Kepler in right field. But he remained at third base and was stranded there after J.D. Martinez struck out swinging.
An inning later, Trevor Story drew a leadoff walk off Bundy and quickly went from first to third on a Franchy Cordero single that had an exit velocity of 112.7 mph. Cordero, like Story, moved up to third on another one-out double from Reese McGuire. But Pham grounded out Verdugo punched out, meaning the Sox would have to settle for one run yet again.
That would prove to be costly for Brayan Bello, who was making his fifth start and seventh overall appearance of the season for Boston. The rookie right-hander pitched well out of the gate, tossing three consecutive scoreless frames before running into some trouble in the latter half of the fourth.
Bello put himself in a tough spot when he allowed each of the first three batters he faced in the inning to reach base. He then gave up a sacrifice fly to Jake Cave, but managed to limit the damage in the fourth to just the one run despite throwing 29 pitches.
The same cannot be said about the fifth inning. After the Sox left runners on the corners in the top half, Bello issued back-to-back walks to begin the bottom half. That prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to give Bello the hook in favor of Matt Strahm.
Strahm, in turn, got Kepler to ground out to McGuire before yielding a bases-filling walk to Jose Miranda and striking out the pinch-hitting Kyle Garlick on six pitches. With the right-handed hitting Gio Urshela due to hit next for Minnesota, Cora swapped Strahm for John Schreiber.
Urshela won the righty-on-righty battle, as he connected on a 3-2, 83.1 mph slider from Schreiber and roped a bases-clearing, three-run double to the right field corner. That gave the Twins their first lead of the night at 4-2 and that is where the score would stay.
Bello was charged with three of those runs while Strahm was tagged for one. For Bello, the 23-year-old wound up allowing three earned runs on five hits, three walks, and two strikeouts over four-plus innings of work. He threw 84 pitches (51 strikes) in the process of raising his ERA on the season to 7.27. The Red Sox have yet to win a game he has pitched in.
Following that disastrous fifth inning, the Twins bullpen took over by limiting Red Sox hitters to one hit — a single — over the final 4 1/3 frames of Monday’s loss.
On the flip side, the two relievers Boston called up to take the place of Austin Davis and Hirokazu Sawamura pitched relatively well. Zack Kelly and Kaleb Ort have grown accustomed to following one another out of the bullpen in Worcester. On Monday, they got to experience that for the first time at the major-league level.
Kelly, making his big-league debut, needed just 18 pitches (10 strikes) to face the minimum in a scoreless sixth inning. The 27-year-old struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up a two-out single to Luis Arraez. But that was quicky negated after Arraez was gunned down at second base by McGuire.
Ort, meanwhile, scattered two walks and two strikeouts over two scoreless innings of work to keep the deficit at two runs. It proved to be for naught, though, as Twins closer Jorge Lopez made quick work of the Sox in the ninth to end it.
All told, the Red Sox went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base as a team. At 62-67, they now sit eight games back of the Blue Jays for the third and final American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Crawford vs. Archer
The Red Sox will look to bounce back against the Twins on Tuesday night. Kutter Crawford is expected to start for Boston while fellow right-hander Chris Archer is slated to do the same for Minnesota.
First pitch from Target Field is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Brayan Bello: David Berding/Getty Images)