Red Sox starter Chris Sale was immaculate on Thursday — at least for an inning. Twins pitchers were decidedly less so.
They haven’t been, for the most part, during the entirety of the six-game road trip, which the Twins capped off with a 12-2 loss on Thursday night at Fenway Park. The loss, which included a two-homer, seven-RBI effort by Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec, dropped them to 1-5 on the road swing through New York and Boston.
“These are good tests, and the truth of the matter is you have to play well. You have to execute pitches continually,” Baldelli said. “If you fail to do so, if you start scattering the ball, you’re not going to probably lose by a run. … You have to play at a high level to beat good teams. When you don’t do that, you’re going to lose games. There’s literally no way around that fact.”
The trip began with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees. Twins pitchers gave up 24 runs in those games, and the Twins also saw Kenta Maeda depart his start early with an injury that looks as if it will keep him off the mound for the rest of the season. The fourth game of the series was rained out, which will force the Twins to return to the Bronx next month on what was originally a scheduled off day.
Things didn’t get much easier in Boston, where the Twins (55-72) began the series by giving up 11 runs on Tuesday. They earned a hard-fought, extra-innings win on Wednesday after watching a two-run lead disappear in the ninth inning and finished the tough trip by getting drubbed in the series finale.
Starter John Gant gave up four runs in four innings, running into trouble, as he often has this season, by issuing free passes. Gant walked the first two batters of the second inning and gave up a three-run blast to Dalbec later in the frame.
“I walked a couple guys. You never want to give those free passes,” Gant said. “But basically, it all came down to one big swing. The man of the night was ol’ Bobby Dalbec for the other team. You know, he had a night. Sometimes you’re going to run into that. I mean, he was kind of a buzzsaw for us tonight. That man had a game.”
Dalbec helped provide far more run support than Sale — and the Red Sox bullpen — needed. Sale, in his third start since coming back from Tommy John surgery, was stingy.
In the third, Sale threw an immaculate inning, recording strikeouts of Nick Gordon, Andrelton Simmons and Rob Refsnyder — all swinging — on nine pitches. Sale has accomplished the rare feat on three separate occasions, but it was the first time the Twins had been involved in an immaculate inning — on either side — in club history.
“He was very sharp today. He looked like his old self,” Baldelli said of Sale. “I know the years go by and everyone gets a bit older and normally there’s some decline there, but he still looked like a dominant, top-of-the rotation starter to me.”
The Red Sox ace struck out eight and allowed just a pair of hits in 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Jeffers’ dribbler down the third-base line that Sale watched to see if it would roll foul broke up his no-hit bid in the fifth inning.
Immediately after, Willians Astudillo smacked a home run off an advertisement above the Green Monster for the Twins’ only two runs of the game. Astudillo made an appearance on the mound in the eighth inning, allowing one walk but no hits or runs while lowering his season earned-run average to 2.25 over four innings, in an attempt to help preserve the club’s bullpen at the end of a taxing trip.
“Our performance was not quite what it had been coming into this road trip,” Baldelli said. “When you run into good teams and you don’t play your best, you end up getting beat a good bit, and we did. That’s what we’re looking at on this road trip.”
Jeffers was pinch hit for late in the game after being hit on the heel while catching. Jeffers initially stayed in and continued catching but was replaced by Max Kepler in the ninth inning.
Baldelli said Jeffers was not going to be able to hit or run on Thursday and the team “has some things to figure out before tomorrow at 7 o’clock to figure out who is going to be behind the plate,” as Mitch Garver is currently dealing with back tightness and they’re still working to determine the severity of Jeffers’ injury.