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While you were sleeping, Red Sox run out of gas, lose to Twins in 17 innings

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 6/19/2019
a man swinging a baseball bat in front of a crowd: Mookie Betts opened the scoring in the fourth inning and homered in the 13th. © ADAM BETTCHER/Getty Images Mookie Betts opened the scoring in the fourth inning and homered in the 13th.

MINNEAPOLIS — As he took stock of his team Tuesday afternoon prior to its game against the Twins, Alex Cora smiled at the thought that a change had arrived in his team.

A club that was searching for ways to win through the early months of the season, the manager said, had now arrived at a point where it expected to find its way to victory.

On Tuesday night, that script flipped.

Despite a standout pitching performance through 16 innings against the league’s best offense, that excellent performance was undone by an offense that provided runs in drips rather than floods, and that treated opportunities like radioactive waste.

BOX SCORE: TWINS 4, RED SOX 3 (17)

The result was an exhausting, painful, 4-3, walkoff loss in 17 innings to the Twins, a defeat that halted a season-high six-game winning streak for the Red Sox. 

In a 5-hour, 45-minute contest, the Red Sox claimed three one-run leads; each time, they fumbled them almost immediately. Three times in extra innings, the Red Sox had the go-ahead runner on third base with fewer than two outs; each time, they stranded him. The Sox were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.

Though the Sox’ bullpen was charged with two blown saves (Brandon Workman in the eighth and Hector Velazquez in the 13th) and the loss (Brian Johnson in the 17th), it was hard to fault a group that largely dominated the Twins for a second straight night.

David Price contributed five sharp innings in which he allowed one run before being lifted – after just 73 pitches — for what the Red Sox described as non-injury-related reasons. From there, a succession of relievers continued to keep Minnesota at bay.

But finally, Johnson – the Red Sox’ ninth pitcher of the night and the final line of defense – faltered, permitting an RBI single down the right field line to Max Kepler with the bases loaded.

The winning hit came in a cloud of controversy, as Cora argued that Eddie Rosario of the Twins stepped out of the batter’s box while fouling off a bunt attempt — a misstep that should have resulted in an automatic out — before Rosario laced a key double that set up the winning hit.

Still, the Sox had more reason to lament their offensive shortcomings than the performance of any pitchers, or perhaps even that of the umpire.

The team struck out 17 times — with J.D. Martinez (0 for 8, 5 strikeouts) and Michael Chavis (1 for 7, 4 strikeouts) enduring particularly long nights.

Twice in extra innings, Christian Vazquez had a chance to drive in the go-ahead run from third base with one out; both times, he flied weakly to the right side. After Andrew Benintendi reached third with no outs in the top of the 17th, Martinez struck out and Rafael Devers grounded to first.

The dominance of the Twins’ bullpen (11 innings, 12 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 runs) prolonged the game long enough for Minnesota to push across the winning run. The extra innings rendered the strong starts of Twins righty Michael Pineda and Price distant afterthoughts.

Each starter was sharp, allowing single runs with two outs in the fourth inning (Pineda on a Devers single, Price on a C.J. Cron hit), though both left with relatively low pitch counts.

After Price departed, rookie righty Mike Shawaryn somehow delivered a scoreless sixth, with a literal and figurative assist from Vazquez.

Shawaryn allowed a leadoff double to Mitch Garver, who advanced to third on a Nelson Cruz single. But on a 1-and-1 pitch to Rosario, Vazquez fired a snap throw to third, where he caught Garver so unaware that the Twins catcher didn’t even think to slide.

The pickoff was the third of the year for Vazquez and the fourth for Red Sox catchers, tied for the most in baseball by an individual and team.

The first out of the inning proved huge, giving Shawaryn wiggle room in an inning when he later drilled a batter and walked another to load the bases with two outs. He stranded three by punching out Miguel Sano on a slider that kept the 1-1 knot intact through the sixth.

With Pineda (six innings, one run, five hits, five strikeouts, one walk) departing the game, Devers wasted little time in untying the contest against Ryne Harper. The Red Sox third baseman launched a curveball into the bleachers down the right field line for a solo homer, the 12th of the year for the 22-year-old.

In so doing, Devers continued to scorch the ball with an unmatched frequency, having put a major league-leading 119 balls in play with an exit velocity of at least 95 miles per hour.

Glimmering defense again kept the Twins at bay in the seventh, when Jorge Polanco blasted a ball to the fence in right-center with two outs off of Ryan Brasier. Jackie Bradley Jr. tracked the ball and timed his leap against the padding of the wall to corral the drive and to avoid a jarring collision that would risk injury or the loss of the ball.

Still, the sixth and seventh innings suggested a relief corps that was teetering, and in the eighth inning, it slipped off the beam.

Workman, who had managed to dance around free passes for much of the year, was victimized by a pair of free passes Tuesday, with Kepler ripping a first-pitch fastball to right to plate the tying run.

Thus began the revolving door of symmetrical reliever performances, with both teams delivering scoreless frames in the ninth through 12th innings. Finally, the Sox broke through in the 13th, when Mookie Betts led off the inning by jumping on a full-count fastball from Mike Morin, gonging a line drive off the foul pole in left for his 12th homer.

Yet the 3-2 lead proved short-lived, with Hector Velazquez — making his first big league appearance since returning from the injured list — allowed an astronomical solo homer to Kepler that tied the game.

Velazquez settled to deliver four innings without further harm, but left with an injury in the 17th, bringing Johnson to the mound.

Related slideshow: The 2019 MLB season (Provided by imagn)

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