While you were sleeping, the Red Sox and Twins played one hell of a baseball game on Tuesday night.
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Minnesota prevailed 4-3 in 17 innings after 5 hours and 45 minutes in the longest game in both innings and time in the nine-year history of Target Field in Minneapolis and the Red Sox' longest since their epic, 18-inning loss to the Dodgers in the World Series. This the finish did not lack for controversy. Red Sox manager Alex Cora and right-hander Rick Porcello screamed at the umpiring crew over a foul bunt by Eddie Rosario in the final frame when it looked like he made contact while stepping out of the batter's box, though Cora later apologized.
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The Twins walked it off on Max Kepler's single into the right-field corner. But between Miguel Pineda's first pitch at 8:10 p.m. and Brian Johnson's last just moments before 2 a.m., a week's worth of action occurred.
"There was a lot of stuff weird in this game," Cora told reporters, later adding, "we'll build from this. I know that for a fact."
Let's dive in!
So about that Rosario bunt. Cora and catcher Sandy Leon believed he had made contact after leaving the box, but replays showed that not to be the case, which Cora acknowledged in his postgame apology. It's easy to understand why the Red Sox wanted the out, because Rosario then doubled to right to put runners at second and third with one out.
David Price lasted only five innings and 73 pitches, departing in a 1-1 tie. The Red Sox announced that his absence had nothing to do with anything physical, but it still makes you wonder. Price was obviously worlds better than his last start, when he recorded only four outs vs. the Rangers, but he lacked his best stuff, recording just two strikeouts. Cora told reporters that the plan had been to limit Price's innings from the start.
It's hard to say which slugger had the rougher night -- J.D. Martinez or Miguel Sano. The Red Sox DH went 0 for 8 for the first time in his career and struck out five times, including in the 17th with no outs and the go-ahead run on first. The Twins third baseman went 0 for 7 with five punchouts of his own and stranded five baserunners.
The Red Sox stayed in the game with some outstanding defense. Catcher Christian Vazquez picked off Twins counterpart Mitch Garver at third base for the first out of the sixth, snuffing the first-and-third rally. Center fielder Jackie Bradley added to his legend with an absurd over-the-shoulder catch while leaping into the center field wall like Spiderman to rob Jorge Polanco of possibly three bases in the eighth. First baseman Michael Chavis snared a C.J. Cron line drive and doubled off Eddie Rosario following a leadoff double in the 15th. Xander Bogaerts made a tremendous throw from deep in the hole. Mookie Betts briefly stranded the eventual winning run at third with a perfect relay. The defense gave the Red Sox every opportunity to win.
The bats? Another story. The Red Sox went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and worked just two walks. They recorded 17 hits, but stranded 14 runners. Every regular except Betts and Chavis recorded at least two hits; unfortunately, almost none of them were timely.
The beleaguered bullpen delivered a no-name tour de force. The Red Sox used nine pitchers, including fifth starter Brian Johnson, who entered in the 17th when Hector Velazquez couldn't continue after a recurrence of the back injury that had disabled him since May 29. The Red Sox received scoreless outings from Mike Shawaryn, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, and Colten Brewer.
The box score will show four one-run innings with three strikeouts for Velazquez. The box score does not tell the story. The Twins hit rockets right at defenders. Per Baseball Savant, the expected batting average on five of his outs were .520, .430, .620, .480, .510. That might've had something to do with the fact that Velazquez started grabbing his back midway through the outing. He may end up back on the IL.
Defending MVP Mookie Betts delivered one of his first legitimately dramatic hits of the season, a solo homer in the 13th. Unfortunately, Kepler matched him with a solo blast of his own in the bottom of the frame.
Months after losing an 18-inning World Series marathon before rebounding to sweep the next two games and claim a championship, the Red Sox hope to be similarly inspired before Wednesday's finale. Cora praised the energy in the dugout and the fact that everyone was engaged.
The teams have about 18 hours to recover before first pitch in Wednesday's finale.
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