The Red Sox opened the home slate of their 2022 schedule with an 8-4 loss at the hands of the Twins at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon. Boston’s two-game winning streak has come to an end and they have fallen to 3-4 on the young season.
Nick Pivetta, making his second start of the year for the Sox, lasted just two innings and allowed four runs (all earned) on five hits, two walks, and two strikeouts. The right-hander ran into trouble right out of the gate when Alex Verdugo lost a ball off the bat of Byron Buxton in the sun that would go down as a leadoff double.
Luis Arraez drove in the first run of the day on a line-drive RBI single, and Minnesota was on the board without yet recording an out in the top of the first. An inning later, Pivetta gave up three additional runs by serving up a two-run home run to Twins slugger Miguel Sano and RBI double to Arraez that put Boston in an early 4-0 hole.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 54 (32 strikes), Pivetta threw his four-seam fastball 44% of the time he was on the mound Friday. The 29-year-old hurler averaged 92.5 mph with the pitch, down 2.3 mph from where he was sitting with it last week.
Shortly after Pivetta’s day came to a close, the Red Sox lineup got something going against Twins rookie starter Joe Ryan. With one out and the bases empty in the bottom of the second, Alex Verdugo launched a 410-foot solo shot to the right field bleachers on the very first pitch he saw: a 94 mph heater down the heart of the plate.
Verdugo’s second homer of the season left the outfielder’s bat at 109.6 mph and trimmed the Sox’ deficit down to three runs at 4-1 heading into the third. Phillips Valdez got the first call out of the Boston bullpen in relief of Pivetta and turned in a quality outing by fanning four of the eight batters he faced over two scoreless frames of work.
In the fifth, Hirokazu Sawamura came on for Valdez and immediately issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Correa. Jorge Polanco followed by ripping a ground-rule double to right field to put runners at second and third with no outs. Former Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez plated both runs on a two-run single that got past a sprawling Xander Bogaerts.
Now trailing 6-1, Sawamura managed to get through the rest of the fifth and faced the minimum in the sixth after Christian Vazquez gunned down Arraez (who reached base via a two-out walk) at second base to end the inning.
Ryan Brasier was next up for the seventh, and he needed 18 pitches to punch out the side. Austin Davis stranded one runner in an otherwise clean eighth inning.
Offensively, the Red Sox were limited in what they could do against Ryan on Friday. After Verdugo homered in the second, Boston failed to push across another run.
Their best chance to score off Ryan came in the bottom of the fourth, when Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez reached base on a pair of singles to put runners at the corners with one out. Verdugo, however, grounded into an inning-ending double play.
In the fifth, Trevor Stroy notched his first hit at home as a member of the Red Sox and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a bunt single of his own that put runners at first and second with one out. Once more, though, Vazquez flew out and leadoff man Enrique Hernandez flew out to extinguish the threat.
After Ryan completed his six innings of one-run ball, the Boston got back on track against Minnesota’s bullpen. Jhoan Duran, equipped with a 101-102 mph fastball, made quick work of Verdugo, Story, and Bobby Dalbec in the seventh, but yielded a leadoff double to Bradley Jr. to begin the eighth.
Vazquez was unable to advance Bradley Jr., but Hernandez did by lacing an RBI double down the left field line to plate Bradley Jr. and make it a 6-2 game. Devers made things more interesting by golfing a 1-1, down-and-in fastball that wasn’t even a strike 363 feet to right field.
Devers’ two-run shot — his second big fly of the season — had an exit velocity of over 103 mph and pulled the Red Sox to within two runs of the Twins at 6-4. Duran got through the rest of the eighth by punching out Bogaerts and Martinez.
After pushing across three runs to make it a two-run game, Matt Barnes struggled with is command of the strike zone in the ninth. The veteran reliever issued two straight one-out walks before surrendering a back-breaking RBI single to Max Kepler.
Barnes then plunked Sanchez in the wrist to load the bases before Trevor Larnach scored Polanco from third on a softly-hit groundout to first base. That increased the Twins’ lead to four runs at 8-4.
Down to their final three outs and now trailing by four in their half of the ninth, the Sox went down quietly against Emilio Pagan. Verdugo flew out and Story and Dalbec both struck out to kill any shot of a rally.
Some notes from this loss on Jackie Robinson Day:
Six different Red Sox pitchers (Pivetta, Valdez, Sawamura, Brasier, Davis, and Barnes) combined to walk eight and plunk two Twins batters on Friday.
The Red Sox went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Friday and left three runners on base as a team.
Next up: Gray vs. Houck
The Red Sox, wearing their Boston Marathon-inspired City Connect uniforms, will look to even this four-game series at 1-1 on Saturday afternoon. Tanner Houck is slated to get the ball for Boston and he will be opposed by fellow right-hander Sonny Gray for Minnesota.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)