You could spend hours making a list of all the things wrong with the Twins this season. Paul Molitor needed only seven words.
“We’re not getting outs that we should,” the manager grumbled after the Twins choked on their myriad mistakes — and a nonstop offensive onslaught by Boston — to fall for the ninth time in 12 games, 15-4 at Target Field.
Molitor, whose team has given up 33 runs the past three days, was talking about his blundering defense, but he could have included the starting pitching and the bullpen in that indictment, too. Each of those three departments was responsible for one of the three four- or five-run innings by the Red Sox in Saturday’s game, a total — you’ll want to sit down for this — that in one day equaled the Twins’ production of big innings for the entire season.
Xander Bogaerts, who leads the AL in hits and batting average and also is among its top-fielding shortstops, was in the middle of it all, having put together consecutive four-hit games at Target Field, with a home run in each. He’s doing a decent impression of the destruction David Ortiz always does in this ballpark — and by the way, Big Papi has four hits this weekend, too.
Let’s catalog the ways the Twins were humbled:
• Starting pitching: Kyle Gibson, making his first start since April 22, gave up first-inning four runs, a discouraging start punctuated by Bogaerts’ RBI double and Jackie Bradley’s three-run homer. “That’s the one that set everything off and really caused it to go from a decent outing against a really good team to a pretty below-average outing,” Gibson said of the two-out, first-pitch fastball to Bradley. “I worked really hard during the offseason to limit innings like that. To be down 1-0 and not make a pitch to get out of it is really frustrating.”
• Defense: Oswaldo Arcia pinch hit in the bottom of the seventh inning and trotted out to right field for the eighth with Boston up 5-4, and it took two pitches for the baseball to expose him. Dustin Pedroia’s deep fly ball came down on the right-field warning track, where Arcia waved off center fielder Byron Buxton — and then dropped the ball. That two-base error triggered a five-run outburst that included a Bogaerts homer off Ryan Pressly and a costly throwing error by pitcher Buddy Boshers.
“We found a way to get back in the game, and then we missed a play,” Molitor said. “Good teams capitalize on those mistakes. … There were some other plays there at the end that didn’t go particularly well, but that was the biggest play of the game, I thought.”
Yeah, Arcia couldn’t disagree. “Of course I know that. After I dropped the ball, the game took a whole different direction,” the 25-year-old outfielder said in a somber clubhouse. “I know that. I know it’s my fault.”
• Bullpen: Three of the five Twins relievers surrendered runs, but the most painful was J.T. Chargois in his major league debut. The righthander’s pitches regularly hit 98 miles per hour, as advertised — but Boston regularly hit them, too. Chargois gave up five ninth-inning runs on three hits and two walks, and retired only two batters.
For part of the afternoon, it appeared Bogaerts’ baserunning, not his hitting or fielding, might be the deciding factor. On first with the score tied 4-4 in the sixth thanks to Kurt Suzuki’s three-run homer, Bogaerts watched the Twins shift third baseman Trevor Plouffe to the right side of second base, in anticipation of an Ortiz double-play ball. Ortiz obliged, but Dozier bobbled it briefly, and Bogaerts made a clever calculation: Rather than sliding, he sped up and rounded second base, beating Dozier’s throw — and then raced to the uncovered third base. A moment later, he scored the tiebreaking run on Hanley Ramirez’s sacrifice fly.
“Just a heads-up play, very instinctual,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Just an electrifying type of play. It turned our dugout on, because you don’t see it often.”
He’s right. You don’t often see such smart, winning baseball these days. Not at Target Field, anyway.