BOSTON – They scored one run, squandered another terrific start by righthander Jose Berrios, and fell out of first place after just one day. Yet it’s hard not to feel like there was some great news for the Twins in Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Red Sox: They won’t face Chris Sale again this year.
Well, unless it’s in the playoffs.
“Bring it on,” Paul Molitor said of the Red Sox ace.
Trouble was, Sale was the one bringing it on Monday. The lanky lefthander limited the Twins to three harmless singles and Chris Gimenez’s titanic home run over 6⅓ innings, struck out nine Twins, all of them swinging and didn’t allow two baserunners in the same inning until the seventh.
“He’s just got a lot of funk in that delivery, and that slider just dives into righthanders, down and in,” Gimenez said. “I feel fortunate he hung one.”
He did, and Gimenez blasted it completely over Fenway Park’s legendary wall and onto the street beyond — an impressive blow had it not constituted the Twins’ entire offensive output on this night, dooming Berrios to only his second loss of the season.
The rookie endured an odd, one-inning Welcome-to-Fenway adjustment period, putting five of the first six hitters he faced on base, including a solo home run by Mitch Moreland. Once that was out of his system, though, Berrios transformed back into the shutdown artist he’s been all season.
“I was leaving the ball almost in the middle of the plate, and they’re good hitters. Obviously I couldn’t keep doing that if I wanted to last in the game,” Berrios said. “But I made the adjustment.”
His manager noticed. “His only mistake was the home run, I thought. He missed his spot on that one,” Molitor said. “I was proud of how Jose hung in there. He kept us in the game and we battled. It was a good night for him.”
The rookie, shaking off an illness that had affected a few teammates in Cleveland, allowed only one baserunner over the next four innings, worked out of a two-on-one-out situation in the sixth, and finally succumbed to fatigue, and a solid Red Sox lineup, in the seventh, when his pitch count passed 100. Boston tacked two more runs onto his ledger with Berrios watching from the dugout.
The game might have been different, Molitor said, had things gone differently in the top of that inning, when Robbie Grossman led off with a single off Sale, and Kennys Vargas walked. Molitor signaled for Jorge Polanco to bunt, and after taking a ball, Polanco squared around again. Sale’s fastball came way inside, and Polanco seemed to pull his bat back — but first base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled he tried to bunt.
“I thought it was a huge call. I’m not sure what Jeff saw. You square around and the pitch is coming at your leg, it’s not that easy to move the bat and get out of the way at the same time,” Molitor said. “It was an obvious non-attempt from what I saw, and it changed the at-bat. Now he’s got one pitch to try to get the ball down.”
Polanco fouled off Sale’s next pitch, then struck out on a pitch in the dirt. The Red Sox changed pitches, Heath Hembree got Gimenez to hit into a double play, and the Twins’ best opportunity — and their one-day stay in first place, once Cleveland rallied past Texas — was history.