Minnesota Twins Fumble Chance to Win Series in Boston

Jul 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) celebrates his home run against the Boston Red Sox with right fielder Miguel Sano (22) during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) celebrates his home run against the Boston Red Sox with right fielder Miguel Sano (22) during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Twins had a chance to win series against Boston Red Sox, but throw it away

It’s hard to be disappointed in Minnesota after they split a four game series against the AL East-leading Red Sox in Boston. Especially after bouncing back from a series-opening blowout to win back to back games Friday and Saturday.

But the series was there for the taking on Sunday.

Despite another short start by another Minnesota Twins’ starter, the team clawed back into the game, and even had the tying run on third base in the eighth inning.

Again, like so many other games this year, Twins batters struck out when important runners were in position to score.

In the end, the Minnesota Twins and Red Sox played to a 2-2 series split, with the Boston out-scoring the Twins, 31-22.

Xander Bogaerts had 11 hits in the four-game series, finishing up the season series against Minnesota 21-for-32 (.656), the highest average by an opposing hitter with at least 20 at-bats in Twins history.

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Wade Boggs has the highest hit total (27) ever in a season series, but those 27 hits were accumulated in 12 games in 1985. Bogaerts got 21 in just seven games.

He scored six times during the weekend series, but somehow only had two RBI, and those came in his very first at-bat of the series on Thursday night.

This series was full of big moments, and some historical ones as well.

Mookie Betts led off both Thursday’s and Friday’s games with home runs. With Ian Kinsler doing the same during the Detroit series finale on Wednesday, it marked the third straight game in which Minnesota pitching had allowed a home run to the lead-off hitter – a franchise record.

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After the 13-2 shellacking on Thursday, Minnesota Twins starter Kyle Gibson allowed Betts’ homer.

He then proceeded to strike out Dustin Pedroia, but the pitch got away from catcher Juan Centeno enough for Pedroia to reach first base.

After a Bogaerts single, it appeared the Twins were in for another long night as David Ortiz strode to the plate. Instead, Gibson induced Big Papi to ground into a double play and struck out Hanley Ramirez to end the threat.

He did not allow another hit all night.

Gibson was magnificent, tearing through the Red Sox lineup. He did not allow another Red Sox base-runner until the eighth inning, giving up a lead-off walk but got out of the inning facing the minimum by inducing his second double play.

Gibson threw only 96 pitches through eight innings. Yet manager Paul Molitor pulled Gibson in favor of Brandon Kintzler.

Perhaps Tommy Milone‘s near collapse after throwing a one-hitter through eight innings in Tuesday’s 6-2 win over Detroit was fresh in Molitor’s mind.

While the 6-2 score seems like an easy win, the Tigers had the tying run at the plate with one out, and ending way more stressful than it needed to be. So Molitor went to his bullpen to secure a much-needed win.

Uneventful does not describe Kintzler’s save on Friday. He gave up back-to-back singles to begin the ninth.

Luckily, the free-swinging Bogaerts walked to load the bases. Once again, Ortiz strode to the plate, this time with the Red Sox faithful screaming their approval.

With Fenway Park literally rocking, Ortiz grounded into a double play (home to first) to allow Minnesota to cling to the lead. Kintzler then recorded the final out on a line shot off the bat of Hanley Ramirez to Max Kepler to end it and further gray the hair of his manager.

Ricky Nolasco followed up Gibson’s gem with a stinker. He lasted just two innings, throwing 65 pitches and putting up the ominous slash of six hits, six runs, with six earned.

In the middle of the second inning in which Boston scored five times, catcher Kurt Suzuki suffered a cut to his chin on a foul tip.

Suzuki had to leave the game for treatment. He needed eight stitches to fix the wound, and his status is day-to-day.

Molitor said that shortstop Eduardo Escobar will be the emergency catcher for Juan Centeno.

Centeno did not disappoint at the plate, going 5-for-8 (with three RBI) filling in for most of Saturday’s game and getting the start Sunday. He was definitely the Minnesota’s MVT for the Sunday’s finale.

Trailing 7-4 in the sixth inning against Boston’s David Price, Minnesota began one of their biggest comebacks this season. After a Byron Buxton sacrifice fly got one run back for the Twins in the sixth inning, the Red Sox pulled Price in favor of beleaguered pitcher, Clay Bucholz.

After getting out of the sixth, Bucholz would not see the end of the seventh. With two outs, and a man on for the Minnesota Twins, Kepler got his first triple of the season to score the first run. Kennys Vargas then doubled home Kepler.

Eddie Rosario then stepped to the plate with the Minnesota Twins trailing, 8-7.

Rosario lined a single to left field, with Vargas running with the crack of the bat since there were two outs.

The throw beat Vargas to the plate, and Vargas was initially called out. After seeing the replay, the Twins challenged and the call was overturned. Molitor said Kennys pulled off, “a perfect slide.”

Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

After loading the bases, the Twins’ All-Star, Eduardo Nunez, delivered a two-run single to give Minnesota the lead back, and for good. A massive home run by Sano in the eighth completed the scoring, and Kintzler collected his eighth save in an 11-9 win.

Which brings us to Sunday. After an emotional comeback, the Twins took an early 2-0 lead on the strength of Centeno’s double. In the bottom of the third inning, starting pitcher Milone got two quick outs.

After a Pedroia single, Bogaerts lined a shot off the glove of Sano, which defleted to Nunez. It was ruled an infield single, but should have gotten the Twins out of the inning.

With this being the 2016 Minnesota Twins, it wasn’t surprising that Hanley Ramirez proceeded to hit the first pitch he saw from Milone over the Green Monster for a three-run homer.

It got worse for Sano in the fifth inning. With one run in on a Pedroia homer and two outs, a run in, Boston had runners at the corners. The score was 4-3 Boston, and Milone appeared to get out of the inning by getting Aaron Hill to ground out to third base.

Instead, Sano booted it once again (his 10th error in 22 games at third base) to allow one run to score. And once again, the next batter hit a three-run homer giving Boston an 8-3 lead.

Milone was pulled in favor of Trevor May, but deserved a better fate.

Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

He allowed 10 H, 8 R, 4 ER – but in reality, only one run was truly earned as Sano should have got to the first grounder as well.

While these miscues aren’t as embarrassing as dropping a pop-up like he did on Friday night, they proved costlier, setting up another Minnesota Twins’ loss.

The Twins had one more comeback left in them. In the seventh, Buxton delivered a rare clutch hit. His two-run single got Minnesota within three runs, trailing just 8-5 with one out in the inning.

After Nunez struck out, Boston pulled starter Rick Porcello. Before today’s game, Porcello was 9-0 at Fenway Park with a 2.98 ERA.

He was also winless against the Twins in his last six starts versus them.

Porcello would gain his 10th win of the season at home, but he had to sweat it in the dugout as the Twins scored two more runs in the eighth inning.

The Minnesota Twins loaded the bases with no outs against Boston reliever Matt Barnes.

Vargas greeted reliever Junichi Tazawa with a drive to the Green Monster. Left fielder Bryce Brentz timed his jump perfectly to make the first out, a sacrifice fly that pulled the Twins to within 8-6.

Again, timely strikeouts proved costly for the Twins.

With runners now on first and second and one out, Eddie Rosario swung at a pitch in the dirt for the second out.

Unable to move the runners over came back to haunt Rosario as Centeno grounded a single to right to get the Twins within one.

Buxton then swung at ball four to end the inning and the Twins’ last threat. The Twins struggled against breaking balls all day, getting only two hits against 49 Porcello off-speed pitches.

Against Tazawa’s splitter, the Twins struck out twice in clutch situations.

Brad Ziegler‘s sinker nailed down the ninth inning for Boston, and in the process, he earned his 19th save in a game (and a series) that was there for the Twins to take.

B. 43 hits, 8 walks, 39 strikeouts, 2 home runs and 11 for 35 with runners in scoring position. The Twins collected a season-high 19 hits in Saturday’s 11-9 win, and home runs from <a href=. . Juan Centeno. OFFENSE

Team totals: 27 hits allowed, 5 walks, 6 home runs and 12 strikeouts. Gibson’s stellar start keeps this from being a failing grade, though Milone deserved better. He did not recover from adversity well, however, giving up two 3-run homers when Sano should have gotten him out of the inning. Twins starters only threw 17 innings, eight of them by Gibson. . . Kyle Gibson. STARTERS . C-

B. Team totals: 19 hits allowed, 5 walks, 2 home runs and 15 strikeouts. Kintzler got his 7th and 8th save, <a href=. . Kintzler. RELIEVERS

D. The Minnesota Twins made four errors in the series,  three by Sano. Overshadowed some stellar plays in the field, including some by Sano himself. While starting the year (and spending valuable Spring Training practice time) in right field, the Twins must evaluate Sano’s value to the team at the plate versus his being a liability in the field going forward. How many DH/first basemen can one team carry?. . Sano. DEFENSE

Next: Is Molitor's Job Really Safe?

MVT: Kyle Gibson

The Twins have tomorrow off as they travel home to Minnesota. They will begin a six game homestand with two games against last place Atlanta, the makeup game with Baltimore on Thursday, and a three game series versus the White Sox.