BOSTON – The biggest victory on the greatest road trip during the most preposterous season deserved the most unbelievable finish, too.
Leave it to Eddie Rosario, the human exclamation point.
Rosario, born for these oh-my-goodness moments, calmly gloved the rebound of J.D. Martinez’s wall-scraping double, pivoted toward the plate, and unleashed a one-hop laser to catcher Jason Castro, who applied the tag to a futile slide by Rafael Devers. And just like that, the Twins’ most successful road trip in decades concluded with an iconic maybe-it’s-meant-to-be memory, a euphoric celebration — and an oddball 2-1 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“It was a perfect way to end the game. A phenomenal throw, obviously strong, accurate,” gushed Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “As big of a moment as we’ve had all year long.”
And it was the zenith to the Twins’ spectacular 10-game road trip, a three-city trek that included eight victories — the first time since, gulp, the 1991 championship season that Minnesota took eight out of 10 on one swing — plus their first series victory in Fenway since 2013.
That success nearly doubled their lead in the AL Central. The Twins, who left Target Field with a 3½-game lead over second-place Cleveland, now come home for a weekend “showdown” with the Indians sporting a 6½-game lead.
“It was a wonderful trip, all the way around,” Baldelli said. “We had to win games in many different ways, [which] just shows everyone, shows ourselves a little bit just what we are capable of.”
The most prodigious home run-hitting team of all time, he means, won this game with stout pitching, dazzling defense and an offensive arsenal that consisted of eight walks, a couple of paper clips, two measly singles and some chewing gum. The Twins scored both of their runs after Red Sox pitchers walked the bases loaded, in the fifth inning on a double play (one of four the Red Sox turned), and in the seventh on Willians Astudillo’s pinch-hit, looping line drive that he had just predicted to hitting coach James Rowson.
Yeah, that kind of night.
It broke a 1-1 tie and delivered the Twins’ first victory with so few hits since Aug. 23, 2005, when Johan Santana, backed by only one hit from his teammates, beat the White Sox.
This time it was another Venezuelan lefthander, Martin Perez, making do with little help. Perez threw only 70 pitches, enough to mow down the Red Sox for six innings with only one mistake: a two-out double to deep center field by Mookie Betts in the sixth. But Perez escaped the jam when Rafael Devers grounded out.
Oh, the run he allowed? Pardon Perez if he’s not impressed. Betts, who belted two homers the night before over the Green Monster, blooped a soft pop fly to right field in the fourth inning. It came down only 321 feet from home plate — but not before glancing off the right-field foul pole — the Pesky Pole — awarding Betts the shortest home run possible in the major leagues.
Did it feel like he had allowed a home run? “Ah, no,” said Perez, who became a 10-game winner for the fourth time in his career. “It was … I’m not allowed to say.”
The Twins’ rapidly solidifying bullpen allowed even less, though it had some help. Trevor May relieved Perez for the seventh inning and retired three hitters in order, but with a catch: The second of them, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez, crushed a long fly ball to deep center, a certain extra-base hit that Jake Cave turned harmless with a diving catch.
Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect eighth, and Taylor Rogers, after Sergio Romo allowed a single, closed out the game to earn his 24th save — albeit in the most dramatic way possible.
“When I saw the ball off the wall, I was thinking I had the chance to take this guy at home plate. I tried to make a good throw,” Rosario said. “Since I was younger, I liked the spotlight, moments like that. I try for those and I think I do a good job.”
And this one? “I did everything perfect.”