BOSTON – As Twins manager Paul Molitor spoke in his office Saturday night, his players continued to yell excitedly in the clubhouse.
The Twins’ 11-9 victory over the Red Sox took a little bit of everything. They blew a lead and botched some plays, but they had short memories. They got some breaks and made some breaks. They used clutching hitting, added on runs and outlasted a Boston team playing in one of the most intimidating venues in sports.
So, yeah, they were fired up.
“We stayed in there and fought until we were able to win the game,” said third baseman Miguel Sano, who gave up on a pop-up in the fourth that fell for a hit and committed a throwing error in the sixth but also crushed a homer in the eighth for the final run of the evening.
It took a while, but sometimes good things take time. The Twins led 4-1, fell behind 6-4 and were down 8-5 when they hit Boston with a five-run seventh that put them in the lead for good. It took 4 hours, 11 minutes for this one to play out, a club record for a nine-inning game.
“It felt like a record,” Molitor said. “One of those games where there’s a lot of trading punches and you just try to find a way to sustain. It’s easy to preach about trying to play nine innings, but sometimes you’re challenged to dig a little bit deeper.”
For a while, Ricky Nolasco’s inability to pitch in Fenway Park — he was removed after two innings and has given up 15 earned runs in his last 5⅓ innings there — and Sano’s inability to play third base seemed destined to send the Twins crashing to their latest defeat.
That changed in the seventh with the Twins down three.
Max Kepler tripled in Sano when his drive was misplayed by Boston right fielder Michael Martinez. Vargas followed with a run-scoring double that left fielder Brock Holt missed while trying to make a sliding catch.
The Twins took off from there.
Eddie Rosario singled to center off reliever Tommy Layne. Vargas was waved home and appeared to be tagged out by catcher Sandy Leon for the final out. The Twins challenged, and replays showed Vargas twisted his body around the tag attempt and touched the plate safely with his right hand. The score was tied 8-8, and the inning continued.
“I was thinking that [Leon] was going to look for the inside corner of the plate,” Vargas said. “And I just try to fake him and hit the top of the plate with my right hand.”
Juan Centeno singled, and Byron Buxton walked to load the bases. Then Eduardo Nunez, facing Heath Hembree, stroked a 3-2 pitch to center for a two-run single and a 10-8 Twins lead. All five Twins runs in the inning came with two outs.
David Ortiz’s RBI double in the bottom of the inning got Boston within 10-9, but Sano’s homer in the eighth restored the two-run lead. The Twins’ 19 hits were a season high, led by Rosario’s 4-for-4 performance. Sano finished 3-for-5.
One night after wiggling out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam, Brandon Kintzler pitched a perfect ninth to earn his eighth save, capping a game that Molitor called “A Fenway Special.”
“One of those crazy nights in Boston,” Molitor said. “You see a lot of games [like it] throughout the year. I don’t know how they do it 81 times a year.”