From time to time this season, yours truly has opened one of these game recaps by stating that the individual game we’d just witnessed was essentially a microcosm of the season.
I’ll be honest. Following yet another bullpen/defensive meltdown, I wrote the intro to this recap explaining that I was going to stop doing this, because, as it turns out, many of the close losses have a similar rhythm. I thought, at least in that moment, that this was yet another one, and at some point, it’s no longer just a microcosm of the season. It is the season.
You know the drill: the Twins methodically build a lead over the span of a few innings while the pitching staff dips, dives, and dodges any real damage. One begins to think that the Twins will, in fact, hold on for a close victory. And then, the bullpen does 2021 Twins bullpen things, and that’s that.
That all happened on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, but there was an unexpected twist that occurred after the bullpen/defensive collapse.
The Twins received a stellar start from Bailey Ober, who has pitched to the tune of a 2.11 ERA in four August starts. In this one, the rookie scattered four hits and a walk over five impressive innings, striking out seven Red Sox. Ober departed after five, however, with only 81 pitches thrown as the Twins continue to intently watch his workload.
While Ober was shutting down the Sox, the Twins scratched across the game’s first run in the top of the second on a Nick Gordon walk, a Ryan Jeffers hit-by-pitch, a Jake Cave force-out that moved Gordon to third, and an Andrelton Simmons single drove in the run.
In the third, Miguel Sano decided that he absolutely hated the ball that Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta spun over the plate, and the hulking first baseman clobbered it an insane 495 feet to left-center-field and out of Fenway Park. The shot ties the longest home run hit in baseball this season.
With a 2-0 lead, Simmons blooped a single to centerfield with one out in the fourth. Two batters later, Jorge Polanco continued his tear by depositing a two-run homer into the seats in right field, extending the Twins’ lead to four runs.
After Ober departed, Danny Coulombe entered in the bottom of the sixth and immediately found trouble, giving up a single to Kyle Schwarber and issuing a walk to Xander Bogaerts. But he set down the next three batters in order, escaping with no damage done.
The Twins put together a two-out threat with a Josh Donaldson double and an intentional walk to Luis Arraez, but Sano grounded into a force-out to end the inning. Tyler Duffey gave up a run on three hits in the bottom of the frame before Caleb Thielbar came in to get two outs and put out the fire.
The Red Sox did manage to push across another run in the eighth. With two outs, Alex Verdugo singled. Two pitches later, Hunter Renfroe knocked a single off the Green Monster in left, getting Verdugo to third. But the throw from Rob Refsnyder, who pinch-hit for Nick Gordon in the previous half-inning, short-hopped Polanco at second base. Polanco failed to stop the ball and it rolled away, allowing Verdugo to score after a sloppy sequence of events from the Twins.
With a 4-2 lead, Rocco Baldelli turned to Alex Colomé for another ninth-inning adventure. And if that’s what he was expecting, well, he got what he was bargaining for, and in a hurry.
After a Kiké Hernandez double, Schwarber tied the game on the very next pitch. It didn’t seem as though the Red Sox are done, either, after a Bogaerts single and a Rafael Devers walk. J.D. Martinez lined out to right field, allowing Bogaerts to get to third representing the winning run with just one out. But Verdugo struck out on three consecutive breaking balls and Renfroe popped out on the first pitch he saw, and the game went to the 10th inning.
But just when it seemed as though the Twins would pack up and head back to the hotel, the onslaught was underway. Donaldson crushed a two-run homer to right-center field on a 1-0 offering from former teammate Hansel Robles. After groundouts from Arraez and Sano, Refsnyder singled and Ryan Jeffers was hit by a pitch. Following a mound visit, Jake Cave murdered a center-cut fastball to center field for a three-run homer, giving the Twins a 9-4 lead.
- Ober was legitimately impressive, sitting at 93-94 miles-per-hour with his fastball and keeping Boston batters off-balance with his improving slider. It seems likely at this point that Ober is in the rotation come next spring.
- In case you were wondering, the Twins aren’t the only ones with a bullpen problem. The funny thing is, the Red Sox thought they could help solve their problem by bringing in Hansel Robles. Woo-eee.
- Of course, the Twins bullpen was not good, either. Here’s their cumulative line: 5 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 11 H, 3 K, 2 BB.
- Everyone in the Twins’ starting lineup reached base at least once, and everyone had a hit except for Jeffers and Arraez.
- Josh Donaldson: 2-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI
- Jorge Polanco: 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB
- Jake Cave: 1-for-5, HR, 3 RBI
- Bailey Ober: 5 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 7 K, BB
- Tyler Duffey: 1⁄3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H
- Alex Colomé: IP, 2 ER, 3 H, BB, K