BOSTON – That ladder, painted the same pale green as everything else here so it's hard to see against the Green Monster, has probably been attached to that wall since Fenway Park opened 105 years ago. Paul Molitor played more than 100 games here and can't recall that ladder ever coming into play.
So of course it did Thursday night, right in the middle of a Red Sox comeback, right when it could affect the outcome of the game. The Twins blew an early three-run lead and fell behind for good during one of their unluckiest innings of the season, with that ladder a memorable participant. The final score was 6-3 Boston, and the Twins left Fenway Park shaking their heads.
"A ball gets hung up in the ladder, and it happens in as bad an inning as you could draw up," grumbled Kyle Gibson, who was hardly blameless for the Twins' third loss in four games here, but who also encountered plenty of misfortune behind him, too. "It's just really unfortunate. I thought I was throwing the ball really well."
That's at least partly true, though Gibson made some bad pitches, too. Like the one he threw inside to Mookie Betts in the fourth inning, just after the Twins staked him to a 3-0 lead, a fastball that Betts clanged off another ancient feature of that big green wall: the light tower atop it. "He's hit that pitch out on me before," Gibson said. "I tried to go in. It was off [the plate], but he's really good at hitting that pitch."
The fifth inning, though, is when the Twins messed up and got messed with, in ways Fenway-related and otherwise. Gibson got ahead of Hanley Ramirez 1-2, but then threw three consecutive balls. Ramirez flinched at a slider for ball four, and the Twins thought he might have swung, but they didn't get the call.
And if you're familiar with Gibson's work, you know a leadoff walk seems to be a trigger: Things get bad, fast. Jackie Bradley Jr. fouled off a pitch that just carried out of reach, keeping him alive. He cashed in by smacking a ball off that ladder in left — and it ricocheted straight down, landing at the base of the wall.
"It really deadened it. Obviously changed the carom. Came straight down and died on the track, allowing Hanley to score" from first, Molitor said. "It's been in play as long as I can remember, [but I] can't think of one that had that type of effect on a baseball."
Christian Vazquez then hit a grounder at shortstop Jorge Polanco that glanced off his glove for an error. Then, with the Twins anticipating a Tzu-Wei Lin bunt and using the "wheel" defense, which sends the shortstop to cover third and the second baseman to cover first, Gibson fielded a comebacker, a seemingly sure double play. But when he turned to second base — nobody there. He settled for one out, but it was at first, not third, with both runners moving into scoring position.
"I never even thought about being in the wheel there and not having anybody at second," Gibson said. "It's not a play you practice — you always go to second to start the double play. It wasn't in my mind that I needed to go to third."
The tying run then scored on a chopper to third, and Betts put the Red Sox in front for good with a perfectly placed grounder up the middle, just out of Polanco and Brian Dozier's reach. A walk, one well-hit ball, and four straight grounders — that was the Boston rally. Gibson gave up another long home run an inning later to Ramirez, but the Twins, who had grabbed a 3-0 lead against David Price, couldn't generate anything after that.
"It was one of Gibby's better nights," Molitor said. "He was attacking, used his fastball well, got some jam shots on righthanders. Just some bad luck changed it."