BOSTON – Paul Molitor collected 146 hits in Fenway Park, so maybe the Twins manager should tell his players what a great place to hit this ancient ballpark can be. Not sure they would believe him, though.
Just as it did a year ago, the Twins offense disappeared Tuesday amid Fenway’s century-old nooks and corners. The rosters and records are completely different, but the result was exactly as it was in the series opener last year: a 1-0 Red Sox victory.
“It’s a park that’s more famous for 15-10 [scores] than 1-0s,” Molitor said. “So it’s been strange.”
Strangely familiar, actually. The Twins managed only two runs in 28 innings during those three games here in 2014, getting swept despite allowing only five runs themselves. Those three Boston starters are no longer even in the American League, but the spirit of those games lived on in Clay Buchholz and hard-luck Mike Pelfrey.
Pelfrey lasted seven innings, the first six of them scoreless. He induced one ground ball after another, and worked his way out of a couple of tight situations, leaving three runners stranded in scoring position. But in the seventh inning, when all seemed to be going so well that the Twins didn’t even have a reliever warming up until two runners were on base, he couldn’t make one final escape.
“I’m going to have a hard time sleeping,” Pelfrey said of that inning. “I’m going to have to take something so I can get to sleep.”
After retiring the first two batters easily, Pelfrey (4-2) got two quick strikes on shortstop Xander Bogaerts, then tried a split-fingered fastball. Bogaerts pounced on it and drove it off the center field wall, missing a home run by about 6 feet.
“Being 0-2, two outs, then hanging a split, it’s going to kind of eat at me,” Pelfrey said. “I don’t think he was happy it stayed in. I didn’t know if it was going to, either.”
He made the mistake worse by walking .182-hitting rookie Sandy Leon on five pitches. “I think we wanted to go at him. But Leon had a couple of hits against Mike up in Minnesota, so I think he was trying to be a little careful when he got behind,” Molitor said. “[Catcher Kurt] Suzuki went out to talk to him, and they ended up taking their chances with [Rusney] Castillo.”
Another bad decision. The Cuban rookie battled Pelfrey through a six-pitch at-bat, fouling off three consecutive pitches before getting a 92-mph sinker he liked in the middle of the plate with a 1-2 count. Castillo hit a hard grounder up the middle, out of shortstop Danny Santana’s reach, and Bogaerts came around to score. Leon was thrown out trying to advance the third, but the way the Twins hit in this ballpark lately, a one-run deficit felt more like 10.
The Twins have played 37 innings in this ballpark in two years, after all, and been held scoreless in 35.
Still, the Twins came close. Aaron Hicks led off the eighth moments later and blasted a pitch about 375 feet into the Twins bullpen — or that’s where it would have landed, if Castillo hadn’t reached up and caught it at the last minute.
“I thought I hit it pretty well,” Hicks said, “but it’s a big field out there.”
That one blow amounted to the Twins’ biggest threat against Buchholz (3-6), who lost to Pelfrey 2-1 a week earlier at Target Field after giving up two first-inning runs. The Boston righthander never let the Twins to put more than one runner on base Tuesday, and only one even reached second.