BOSTON – As habits go, falling behind by six runs is a bad one for baseball, especially for a team that hasn't overcome such a deficit since 2018.
But for the fourth straight game, the Twins foundered to a half-dozen-run deficit on Tuesday, then tried to fight their way back against some long odds. That they eventually brought the go-ahead run to the plate was remarkable; that they lost anyway, seemingly inevitable.
Griffin Jax surrendered three home runs to create Boston's lead, Caleb Thielbar uncharacteristically gave up another one to widen it, and the Twins were finally extinguished by a former teammate, losing 11-9 to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"Really tough to win a game when we do certain things," said Rocco Baldelli, likely referring to giving up seven or more runs for the fifth game in a row. "But our guys continue to play on. It ended up a ballgame. … We have things we need to certainly improve on and do better, but there was no quit out there, that's for sure."
Which is great for the self-esteem, lousy for the record. The Twins are a season-worst 17 games below .500, and 0-4 on this East Coast trip, after feeling so much better about themselves and their sudden winning ways a week ago.
Jax, for example, hadn't given up more than three earned runs since his first major league start in July, hadn't given up more than three walks in any appearance, hadn't surrendered more than a couple of home runs. That encouraging run came to an end in Fenway — loudly so.
Travis Shaw lined a home run into the right-field seats in the third inning, and Hunter Renfroe bashed a pair of supersonic clouts over Fenway's looming left-field wall. One of Renfroe's homers brought home a runner who Jax had walked, and both scored someone who had doubled, compounding the deficit. It was 9-3 Red Sox when Renfroe's second one disappeared over the horizon, ending Jax's night.
"He did a lot of the heavy lifting," Baldelli said. "He got to two strikes. He got to two outs. He got to spots where these innings certainly could have been over fairly quickly. And they weren't. "He didn't make those pitches at the end of those at-bats. [But] he's a guy I absolutely know can make adjustments."
So did the Twins, who still managed to lose for the third time this season when scoring at least nine runs. But Jorge Polanco socked a two-run homer over the left-field wall off former teammate Martin Perez. Nick Gordon doubled and added a two-run single that brought the Twins within 9-8 in the seventh inning.
But Thielbar, who hadn't given up a homer in his past 13 appearances, saw that streak end when Kiké Hernandez lifted a fly ball just inside the foul pole in left for a two-run homer, and the Twins couldn't come any closer.
They tried, though, when Josh Donaldson cleared the wall with a cannon-shot to open the ninth against Matt Barnes. Two more runners reached base, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora turned to Hansel Robles, acquired from Minnesota at the trade deadline last month, to record his first save for his new team.
He did, striking out Gordon and Miguel Sano, then retiring Jake Cave on a line drive to end it.
"That's never going to be the result we're looking for, we know that. But you'll always take that type of mentality and that type of play when you're behind. You will always take that, and our guys, nobody folded up today," Baldelli said. "The guys continued to go. You want to see that every time you're down. Our guys have been doing that and playing like this when we have been down."
It's just that they are getting too much practice at it.