July 26, 2018

G104: Twins 2, Red Sox 1

Twins   - 000 000 110 - 2  8  0
Red Sox - 010 000 000 - 1  5  0
Kyle Gibson (8-4-1-2-7, 120) stifled the Red Sox, outpitching Brian Johnson (5.2-4-0-3-5, 84). Boston left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth against Fernando Rodney. With a runner on second and two outs, Rodney suddenly became wild, walking two batters. He also fell behind Jackie Bradley 3-0, but came back to strike him out. The Red Sox's lead in the AL East was cut to 4.5 games, as the Yankees beat the Royals 7-2.

Both teams left the bases loaded in the first inning. Johnson gave up a single to Joe Mauer to start the game and Brian Dozier singled with one out. Mauer tried to score on Eduardo Escobar single to left-center, but Bradley's strong throw to catcher Blake Swihart was in time for the out. Johnson then walked Mitch Garver before striking out Robbie Grossman.

With two outs in the bottom half, J.D. Martinez dropped a single into center and Xander Bogaerts doubled into the left field corner. Steve Pearce walked, but Rafael Devers popped out to left on the first pitch.

Boston scored in the second. Swihart lined an opposite-field single to left. Gibson hit Brock Holt in the back foot with a pitch. Bradley forced Holt at second and Swihart went to third. Mookie Betts grounded out to shortstop and Bradley tried to advance to third. Mauer's throw across the diamond was in time. And even though it was ruled a double play, Betts got credit for the RBI.

Johnson was fantastic after the first. He retired 14 batters in a row before walking Eddie Rosario with one out in the sixth. Dozier followed with a single to left. Bradley threw to third, hoping to nail Rosario, but his throw was late. Devers, seeing Dozier trying to get to second, fired to Holt. The play was close, Holt held the tag on Dozier, but the umpire called him safe. Then Rosario broke for the plate. Holt's throw was a bit of a rainbow, but it was still in time for Swihart to slap the tag on the runner for the good old 8-5-4-2 out. Johnson walked Escobar and manager Alex Cora went to the pen.

Heath Hembree got the third out, but allowed the tying run in the seventh. Grossman and Max Kepler started the inning with singles, giving the Twins runners at the corners. Ehire Adrianza grounded into a double play, but Grossman scored. Bobby Wilson singled and Matt Barnes came in to strike out Mauer for the third out.

The first three Twins against Barnes in the eighth struck out, walked, and struck out. On the second strikeout, Dozier stole second base. Graver lined a double to the gap in left-center and Minnesota had the lead.

After scoring in the second, the Red Sox did little to bother Gibson. They had two baserunners in six innings. Devers singled in the fourth, but was stranded at second. Andrew Benintendi walked with two outs in the fifth, but JDM grounded to the pitcher unassisted. They finally got a chance at a real rally against Rodney in the ninth.

Bogaerts grounded a single to center. Pearce tapped a little roller along the third base line. It rolled maybe five feet onto the grass. Wilson pounced on it, turned and quickly fired a bullet to first, seemingly without looking. The throw was perfect, retiring Pearce. Bogaerts was now on second as Devers fouled out to third. Rodney walked Swihart on five pitches and fell behind Holt 2-0.

Rodney's next pitch was well outside, but plate umpire Marty Foster called it a strike. It was a perfect example of how a blown call by the plate umpire could potentially change the outcome of a game. The count should have been 3-0, but it was 2-1, a big difference. As you can see, Pitch #3 was not anywhere near the strike zone.

But Rodney could not take advantage of Foster's gift. Holt fouled a pitch off before Rodney bounced two balls in the dirt, loading the bases. Facing Bradley, Rodney threw ball 1 outside, ball 2 outside and high, and ball 3 inside/in the dirt. One more ball would tie the game - and give the Twins their MLB-leading 21st blown save. But, instead, Rodney broke out his easel and started painting, throwing two perfect pitches for strikes, one inside and one outside. His 3-2 pitch was a fastball at 97, inside and up, and Bradley swung and missed.

NESN: Missed the first pitch to Swihart in the bottom of the seventh because it was showing replays. ... Missed the first pitch to Betts in the bottom of the eighth because it was showing an extended shot of Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp sitting in his seat (he was actually watching what we were missing). ... Missed the first pitch to Benintendi in the bottom of the eighth because it was showing a close-up of the facial expressions of the Twins' shortstop after he threw out Betts.

Dave O'Brien: In the top of the third, he remarked that Dozier would make a "good leadoff man" because "he's hit a lot of home runs". It's worth noting that Dozier came into this game with the worst on-base percentage in Minnesota's starting lineup (.306). By comparison, Bradley's .298 OBP was only .008 lower. How much stock would you put in the opinions of a guy who claimed that the 2018 version of JBJ would make a "good" leadoff hitter?

O'Brien added: "He's hit a lot of home runs as a leadoff hitter in his career. He's hit 28 career leadoff homers ... a second baseman who packs a punch." The correct number is actually 114. (The Twins' Game Notes state that Dozier has hit 28 leadoff homers since 2013.)

Kyle Gibson / Brian Johnson
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Pearce, 1B
Devers, 3B
Swihart, C
Holt, 2B
Bradley, CF
The Red Sox have won 71 games, four more than the Astros. No National League team has won even 60 games.

RIP: Vaughn Eshelman pitched for the Red Sox from 1995-97. He died on Tuesday, July 24, in Texas, at age 49. According to the SoSH thread, Eshelman underwent a liver transplant this past March. Additional information is extremely scarce.

He made his debut on May 2, 1995, throwing six shutout innings against the Yankees, part of an 18-inning scoreless streak to begin his career.

AL East: KCR/MFY, 7 PM. The Yankees are 5.5 GB.

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