Red Sox see 9-game winning streak come to an end in 4-3 walk-off loss to Twins

It turns out winning 10 consecutive Major League Baseball games is actually a difficult task. The Red Sox found that out themselves on Thursday when their nine-game winning streak came to an end following a 4-3, walk-off loss at the hands of the Twins at Target Field.

Matched up against veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, the Sox lineup struggled to get anything going offensively, as they were limited to no runs on two hits in the seven innings the ex-Yankees hurler was on the mound.

Alex Verdugo, the star of Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep, was able to finally get his side on the board in the top half of the eighth.

There, with two outs and the bases loaded, the left-handed hitter greeted recently-inserted Twins reliever Taylor Rogers by putting together what might go down as the best at-bat of any Red Sox hitter this season.

After fouling off a plethora of sinkers and sliders, Verdugo — on the 10th pitch of the at-bat — laced a line-drive, bases-clearing double down the left field line to knot things up at three runs apiece.

Alas, Verdugo’s triumphant three-run double would not turn out to be enough in the end, as the Twins bounced back to walk things off an inning and a half later.

Richards solid once again

While Boston’s winning streak may have been halted at nine games, Garrett Richards became the 10th straight Sox starter to go at least five innings into his start.

Over those five innings of work, Richards held the Twins to two runs on four hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs the right-hander surrendered wound up being unearned, as a walk and a throwing error committed by Bobby Dalbec in the second would later result in the Twins plating their first two runs of the day on a two-run single off the bat of Luis Arraez.

From there, though, Richards was able to settle in and actually retired 10 of the final 13 hitters he faced in this one.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (56 strikes) while lowering his ERA on the year to 6.00, the 32-year-old’s next start should come against the Mariners back at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Bullpen gives up two runs over four innings

In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the bottom of the sixth, and he gave up his first run of the season by serving up a towering 404-foot solo shot to Miguel Sano.

From there, Josh Taylor tossed a scoreless seventh inning and Matt Andriese and Darwinzon Hernandez combined to work their way around traffic in a scoreless bottom half of the eighth after the Sox had battled back to tie things up at 3-3.

After nearly plating a fourth run when Christian Arroyo reached base on a one-out double — and was stranded at second — in the top of the ninth, that set the stage for Adam Ottavino to come on for the bottom half of the frame.

The righty reliever put the first two Twins he faced on base via a leadoff single and HBP, which put a runner in scoring position with one out for Max Kepler, who proceeded to hit a walk-off single on a jam shot of a flyball to center field to win it for Minnesota, 4-3.

Some notes from this loss:

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected from this game in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Andriese appeared to punch out Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers on a swinging strike in the dirt, home plate umpire Jordan Baker ruled that Jeffers had fouled the pitch off, though it was abundantly clear the ball had missed the bat entirely.

Cora came out to argue that was indeed the case, but after convening with the other umpires, Baker upheld the non-reviewable call and the Sox skipper was tossed as a result of his continuous arguing.

For what it’s worth, Andriese fanned Jeffers on the very next pitch.

There was also a siren delay that lasted approximately five minutes during the top half of the fifth inning.

Next up: 10-game homestand

Coming off a 6-1 road trip despite falling to 9-4 on Thursday, the Red Sox will head back to Boston to begin their longest homestand of the season on Friday night.

Welcoming in the White Sox for the first of four to kick off Patriots’ Day weekend, the Red Sox will turn to right-hander Nick Pivetta for Friday’s series opener. He will be opposed by fellow righty Dylan Cease.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN, though the weather does not look particularly promising.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo had a feeling he would make game-saving catch against Twins moments before it happened: ‘It’s one of those plays that you think about right before it happens’

Before making the defensive play of the day in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s Game 1 victory over the Twins, Alex Verdugo had a feeling the ball was going to come his way.

With two outs in the final inning of the day cap of Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Twins had put the tying run on base when Jake Cave drew a leadoff walk off Red Sox closer Matt Barnes.

Cave also managed to steal second, which put the tying run in a 3-2 contest in scoring position as leadoff man Luis Arraez was due to hit for Minnesota.

The left-handed hitting Arraez had already hit two balls to the left side of the field, which gave Verdugo — who had shifted from center to left field in the sixth — something to think about.

On a 3-1, 86 mph curveball from Barnes, the Twins third baseman swatted a screaming line-drive with an exit velocity of 95.5 mph in Verdugo’s direction.

Verdugo had been playing relatively deep in left field at that moment, so he was forced to charge towards the ball, which was dying quickly and on the verge of landing on a soft patch of grass.

In a matter of seconds, the 24-year-old left his feet, dove head-first, made the proper adjustments, and snagged Arraez’s liner with his Mexican flag-inspired glove all before the ball hit the ground.

Per Baseball Savant, Verdugo had just a 29% chance of making that clutch, game-sealing catch, but he made it look relatively simple all things considered.

One reason behind that would be because Verdugo anticipated making that highlight play well before it actually happened.

“It was actually weird because it’s one of those plays that you think about right before it happens,” Verdugo explained when speaking with reporters Wednesday night. “And it just so happens that it was exactly what I had thought about. I knew the hitter, I knew that he’s been hitting line drives that way and likes to go oppo. So I was kind of already on edge knowing that Barnesy’s throwing hard and going to get after him.

“It was just one of those ones, man,” he continued. “It kind of manifested into my mind, and it came out. We made the play and held onto it. Any game we get a W and clinch one and don’t have to go to extras or waste any more arms, it’s a huge day.”

The diving catch Verdugo made at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon was reminiscent of the one former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi one made at Minute Maid Park to seal a Game 4 victory for Boston in the 2018 ALCS.

What was at stake in the games these catches were made in differs drastically, obviously, but the catches themselves were similar to one person who saw both of them up-close in Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“Of course,” Cora said when asked if Verdugo’s grab on Wednesday reminded him of Benintendi’s now-famous catch. “That was a great play by Alex.”

The fact that Verdugo was in left field to make that play in the first place was Cora’s doing. As previously mentioned, the Arizona native started out in center field in Game 1 and eventually moved over to left after Kiké Hernández pinch-hit for Franchy Cordero in the sixth.

“That’s why we talk about our defense in the outfield,” said the Sox skipper. “You guys talk about moving guys around late in games. We pinch-hit with Enrique (Hernández) for Franchy and our defense is still good. Alex had a great jump and made the right decision and he caught the ball.”

By the time Wednesday’s doubleheader had ended and the Sox had wrapped up their ninth consecutive win, Verdugo had played all three outfield positions in one day, as he started Game 2 in right field.

It was not too long ago when it looked like Verdugo would be Boston’s everyday centerfielder in 2021, but he has now played every outfield position at least four times since the season began earlier this month.

For Verdugo, not having an everyday position comes as a welcome challenge as he is showing that he can play left, center, and right field at a high level regardless of the opponent or ballpark.

“I feel like at this point now, there shouldn’t really be any questions about versatility or playing any of the different positions at a lower level,” Verdugo said. “I feel like I hold myself to a high standard out there, and I hold it to a high standard in right, center, and left with making plays and throwing people out. So I don’t see any difference with the position.”

(Picture of Matt Barnes and Alex Verdugo: AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Powered by strong performances from Alex Verdugo and Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox extend winning streak to 9 consecutive games with 7-1 victory over Twins to sweep doubleheader

A half-hour intermission between games during Wednesday’s doubleheader at Target Field could not slow Alex Verdugo down, as the outfielder once again played a key role in the Red Sox’ 7-1 victory over the Twins in Game 2 of the twin bill.

After making a game-saving catch for the final out of the day cap, Verdugo picked up where he left off by going 3-for-4 at the plate in the night cap.

Matched up against another tough opponent in Twins right-hander Jose Berrios, it took the Sox offense as a whole some time to get going on Wednesday, but they eventually broke through in the fifth.

There, already trailing by a run, a one-out single off the bat of Bobby Dalbec filled the bases for Franchy Cordero, who proceeded to draw a four-pitch walk to drive in his side’s first run of the night.

The Twins then pulled Berrios for Tyler Duffey, though the stalemate they had put themselves in did not last all that long.

That being the case because with two outs in the frame and the bases still loaded, Verdugo drilled a two-run, go-ahead single to right field to give the Sox their first lead of the night.

A wild pitch from Duffey allowed Cordero to score from third to make it a 4-1 contest, and two more walks once again filled the bases for Rafael Devers.

Devers, who led off the top of the fifth with a double, greeted new Twins left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar by lacing a two-run single to right, which gave the Red Sox a 6-1 edge in the late stages.

Verdugo provided some insurance in the seventh by taking Thielbar deep to right field on a a down-and-in fastball for his second home run of the season.

The 24-year-old’s 406-foot blast put Boston up 7-1, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

Rodriguez pulls it together for 5 strong frames

Another game, another Red Sox starter providing five solid innings of work on Wednesday.

This time around, it was Eduardo Rodriguez’s time to shine, as the left-hander held the Twins to just one run on five hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts in his second start of the young season.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (51 strikes), the 28-year-old ultimately improved to 2-0 following Wednesday’s impressive showing. His next start should come against the Mariners on Tuesday.

Pair of rookies wrap things up

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock came on for his first appearance in six days and needed all of 10 pitches to retire the three hitters he faced in order in the sixth.

From there, another rookie reliever — Eduard Bazardo — got the call for the seventh inning in what was his big-league debut.

The 25-year-old righty out of Venezuela was called up from Boston’s alternate training site to serve as the club’s 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader.

He worked his way around two walks and picked up his first major-league strikeout en route to preserving the 7-1 victory for the Sox.

Next up: Last game of road trip

After sweeping Wednesday’s twin bill and extending their winning streak to nine consecutive games, the Red Sox will go for the four-game sweep over the reeling Twins on Thursday afternoon.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be getting the ball for Boston in the series finale, and he will be matched up against fellow righty Michael Pineda.

First pitch Thursday (also Jackie Robinson Day) is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their 10th straight win.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo comes up with game-saving catch as Red Sox top Twins, 3-2, for eighth straight win in Game 1 of doubleheader

In the first game of a straight doubleheader at Target Field Wednesday afternoon, the Twins had Red Sox closer Matt Barnes on the ropes.

With a 3-2 lead to protect, Barnes had recorded the first two outs of the bottom half of the ninth, but only after putting the tying run on base in the form of a leadoff walk to Cave.

Cave stole second base to advance into scoring position, which brought Luis Arraez to the plate with the chance to knot things up at three runs a piece.

After falling behind in the count at 3-1, Barnes delivered an 86 mph curveball that Arraez — a right-handed hitter — slapped the other way.

Alex Verdugo, having moved from center to left field in place of Franchy Cordero an inning prior had just seconds to react to the screamer heading in his direction.

The young outfielder sprawled out to his right and wound up making a catch that was eerily similar to the one Andrew Benintendi made at Minute Maid Park in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS.

Verdugo’s was still awe-inspiring snag secured a 3-2 victory for the Red Sox that extends their winning streak to eight consecutive games.

Arroyo, Renfroe stay hot at the plate

Facing off against a tough opponent in Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda, a three-run second inning is what gave the Sox the edge in this one.

Hunter Renfroe stayed hot and got his side in the board first by scoring Marwin Gonzalez from second on an RBI single.

After advancing to second on another single off the bat of Cordero, Renfroe came into score when upon fielding a softly-hit bunt from Kevin Plawecki, Maeda attempted to get the force out at third and instead air-mailed his throw well over Arraez’s head.

That blunder doubled Boston’s lead, and Christian Arroyo tacked on another run by plating Cordero on an RBI base-hit to left field. Arroyo also doubled in the top of the fourth.

Eovaldi improves to 2-1 on the season

The Red Sox continue to get consistency from their starting rotation, and Nathan Eovaldi provided that consistency in his third start of the season on Wednesday.

Over five solid frames of work, the veteran right-hander held the Twins to two runs on five hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs Eovaldi gave up came in a rather laborious bottom half of the third, but the fireballer rebounded by retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced through the end of the fifth — with some defensive help mixed in there as well.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (60 strikes), the 31-year-old topped out at 99.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 34 times. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Monday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the middle of the sixth. The 24-year-old needed all of seven pitches to retire the side in order before Barnes came on for the seventh.

Next up: Game 2

Next up, the Red Sox will wrap up this twin bill against the Twins later Wednesday evening.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will make his second start of the season for Boston, and he will be opposed by ace right-hander Jose Berrios for Minnesota.

First pitch of Game 2 is scheduled for approximately 5:25 p.m. eastern time. Red Sox will be going for their ninth straight win.

(Picture of Matt Barnes and Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec goes 2-for-3 with 2 hard-hit RBI doubles in Tuesday’s win over Twins: ‘Today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results,’ Alex Cora says

Bobby Dalbec’s first weekend in Baltimore as a big-leaguer did not go great.

After struggling and only playing in four of a possible six games during the Red Sox’ first homestand of the 2021 season, the rookie slugger went 1-for-11 at the plate with one double, one RBI, two walks, and five strikeouts during his first visit to Camden Yards.

On paper, those numbers do not translate to success. But there were instances where Dalbec showed signs that he was perhaps ready to break out of the season-opening slump he has been mired in.

On three separate occasions last weekend, the 25-year-old recorded an exit velocity of over 100 mph on balls he put into play. Granted, only one of those balls – a 110 mph double — went for a hit, but the hard contact was promising nonetheless.

In his first game since the Sox left Baltimore, Dalbec — batting out of the nine-hole — went 2-for-3 with a pair of clutch, run-scoring doubles against the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.

The first double, which came off Twins starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning, knotted things up at two runs a piece. It left Dalbec’s bat at 105.6 mph and was laced down the right field line.

The second double, which came off Twins reliever Randy Dobnak in the eighth inning, gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. It left Dalbec’s bat at a searing 111.3 mph and also wound up in the right field corner.

The one time Dalbec did not reach base on Tuesday, he lined out sharply to Twins right fielder Jake Cave in the third inning on a line drive that had an exit velocity of 107.4 mph.

To put it simply, Dalbec has been crushing the ball as of late, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed the right-handed hitter’s recent turnaround to what he was able to accomplish against the Orioles.

“I think the at-bats in Baltimore started everything,” Cora said of Dalbec following his team’s 4-2 victory Tuesday. “He hit the ball hard. Today, he stays on a pitch and he drives it the other way against a tough lefty (Happ).”

In addition to hitting the ball hard, Dalbec did not strike out at all on Tuesday, which is something he had only been able to do once through his first seven starts of the year.

The young corner infielder came into the week having swung and missed at 20% of the pitches he has seen so far this season, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark among qualified American League hitters, per FanGraphs. He only whiffed two times on Tuesday.

“When you control the strike zone, and you can control your aggression in the strike zone, you’re going to see results,” Cora said of Dalbec’s offensive approach. “We trust the player. We trust him. We know that there’s going to be a few days that he might swing-and-miss a lot, but we do believe that he can make adjustments and he can go the other way. That’s the most important thing with him: He drives the ball to right-center. So today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results.”

For Dalbec, the fact that he went to the opposite field three times on Tuesday did not come as much of a surprise. After all, it’s not uncommon to see hitters use the opposite field when they are looking to break out of a slump.

“I think it always ends up working out that way, whether I’m trying to or not,” Dalbec responded when asked about the approach he takes when he is struggling at the plate. “I would say using center, right-center, and right field is kind of a good spot for me to get back in line. I felt like I did that in Baltimore… If I’m thinking that way and react, that’s the way it goes sometimes for me.”

Following Tuesday’s showing, Dalbec is now slashing .179/.258/.286 through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign

Slow starts to a season are something Dalbec has grown accustom to since being drafted by the Sox out of the University of Arizona in 2016, but after showing what he is capable of doing against big-league pitching last year (eight home runs in 80 at-bats), the former second-round pick is hopeful he is about to get back on track.

“I’ve always kind of been a slow starter. Hate to say it, but that’s just kind of the way it is,” said Dalbec. “Obviously, I’d like to work that out in the future. But once I get more comfortable and settled at the beginning of the season, I start to get in a good spot. So hopefully this continues right now.”

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Jesse Johnson/USA Today)

Red Sox likely to call up pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Twins

The Red Sox and Twins will play the middle two games of their four-game series at Target Field in a straight doubleheader on Wednesday. Each game will be seven innings long with the second one starting approximately 30 minutes after the first one ends (first pitch of the first game is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time).

Because of Wednesday’s twin-bill, both the Sox and Twins will be permitted to carry an extra player on their major-league roster for both games.

An official announcement has yet to be made by the Sox, but it would appear that right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo will be the 27th man for Boston on Wednesday.

Per his Instagram story, Bazardo, who began the season at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester, boarded a flight Tuesday morning from Boston to Nashville, then another one from Nashville to Minneapolis.

Additionally, Red Sox manager Alex Cora hinted that the team would call up a right-handed pitcher for Wednesday’s doubleheader when speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

“We’re talking about it. We’re going to go with a pitcher unless something weird happens today,” Cora said via Zoom when asked if a decision has been made as to who will be added to Boston’s roster. “But most likely we’ll add a pitcher.”

Minnesota boasts a right-handed heavy lineup that usually includes the likes of Nelson Cruz, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano, among others. Because of this, Boston seems keen on adding a right-hander to counter that potent offensive potential from the same side of the plate.

“We’re going to talk a little bit after this with [Dave Bush] and with Chaim [Bloom],” explained Cora. “And we’ll make the best decision for this team. [The Twins] are very right-handed. Their best hitters right now are right-handed hitters. So we’ll make decisions based on that.”

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the 28th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The Venezuelan hurler was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November on the strength of an impressive showing at the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

At fall instructs, Bazardo “was the most impressive arm” there, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“At Instructs, all of Bazardo’s stuff was improved, as he sat 93-97 mph and often pitched at 95-96 with, as one scout called it, a ‘silly’ curveball,'” Cundall wrote of the young righty back in November. “His curveball elicited some horrible swings, and its spin rate topped 3000 rpm, which is elite. His fastball is now a plus-to-better pitch, and his curveball is solidly a plus pitch as well. His control has always been good, but he showed improved command of both his fastball and curveball. Bazardo also mixed in an occasional fringy splitter, which gave hitters something else to think about and another pitch in a different velocity band to keep them honest.”

Originally signed by the Red Sox out of Venezuela for just $8,000 in 2014, Bazardo owns a lifetime 2.55 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 100 total appearances (31 starts) and 310 innings of work across six minor-league levels since making his professional debut in June 2015.

This past spring, the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler allowed one earned run on two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over four Grapefruit League appearances spanning five innings pitched.

If Bazardo is indeed called up on Wednesday, his stay with the Sox likely won’t last too long considering the fact the team’s roster will revert back to 26 players once the doubleheader is over.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Monday’s Red Sox-Twins game postponed

Monday afternoon’s game between the Red Sox and Twins at Target Field has been postponed. The decision was not weather-related, but was instead for safety purposes.

The Twins released the following statement as to why Monday’s contest was postponed.

(Picture of Target Field: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)