Streak breaker: Kepler single in 9th, Twins edge Red Sox
Max Kepler's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Minnesota a 4-3 victory Thursday over Boston - stopping a five-game losing streak for the Twins and breaking a nine-game winning string for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox, who tied it in the eighth on Alex Verdugo's three-run double, were on their longest winning streak since a 10-game run in 2018, the season they won the World Series.
The Twins avoided matching their longest losing streak in three years under manager Rocco Baldelli, a six-game slide from July 31-Aug. 5, 2020.
Luis Arraez opened the Minnesota ninth with his fourth hit, a single off Adam Ottavino (1-1) and Jorge Polanco was hit by a pitch. Nelson Cruz, on a 10-game hitting streak, then struck out.
Kepler came through with his hit to shallow center, helping the Twins avoid what would've been their first four-game sweep by the Red Sox in 21 years.
Alex Colomé (1-1) pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory, despite a one-out double by Christian Arroyo.
Verdugo capped a 10-pitch at-bat against Taylor Rogers with his two-out double in the eighth that made it 3-all. The Red Sox had loaded the bases against Hansel Robles.
In five of Boston's wins during its victory streak, the Red Sox rallied from a deficit in the fifth inning or later.
Michael Pineda allowed only two singles over seven scoreless innings for the Twins, who had a home run by slump-ridden slugger Miguel Sanó in the sixth.
Pineda's career-best winning streak remained at eight straight decisions, a 15-start stretch with a 2.70 ERA dating to July 26, 2019. The big right-hander served a 60-game suspension for taking a banned weight loss drug, bridging the last two seasons.
Using his trusty slider to help tame the top-scoring team in the American League, Pineda retired 14 straight batters between Kiké Hernández's leadoff single and an infield hit by Xander Bogaerts. He walked one and struck out six, throwing 88 pitches.
Garrett Richards stretched Boston's streak of 10 straight games with the starting pitcher completing at least five innings.
During a tense week in the Twin Cities, with the opener of this series postponed in the aftermath of a fatal police shooting of a Black man, the annual day to honor trailblazer Jackie Robinson felt especially poignant.
"I'm not a big league player or a big league manager without Jackie Robinson," said Boston manager Alex Cora, who is from Puerto Rico.
PLAY IT AGAIN
The Twins won two challenges in the second. Christian Vázquez had a hit by pitch become a groundout in the top of the inning, when replays showed Pineda's fastball plunked the knob of his bat. In the bottom of the frame, Sanó was initially called out on a slide into second after a fielder's choice grounder to first, but Arroyo's toe came off the side of the base as he leaned forward to catch the relay. Arraez gave the Twins the lead, three batters after the reversal.
The last time the Twins were swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox was July 3-6, 2000, at the Metrodome. Boston swept three-game series here in 2012 and 2013 and at Fenway Park in 2005, 2008 and 2014. The Red Sox were the first opponent to play at Target Field and are 21-13 here.
Red Sox: DH J.D. Martinez and IF Marwin Gonzalez were out of the starting lineup to rest, four games into a 14-game, 13-day stretch. "We've just got to be careful with the workload with all those guys," Cora said.
Twins: Baldelli kept CF Byron Buxton and 3B Josh Donaldson on the bench as a hamstring precaution. Buxton missed the Wednesday doubleheader, too, when Donaldson returned from the injured list in the second game. ... RHP Shaun Anderson was recalled from the alternate training site in St. Paul, a fresh-arm swap for RHP Cody Stashak, who has 12 strikeouts and four runs allowed in five innings.
Red Sox: Host the Chicago White Sox in a four-game series starting Friday. RHP Nick Pivetta (2-0, 3.27 ERA) will take the mound for the opener. The White Sox had yet to announce their starter.
Twins: Visit the Los Angeles Angels for a three-game series beginning Friday. Because of the doubleheader Wednesday, the Twins were still determining their pitching arrangement. LHP Andrew Heaney (1-1, 7.00 ERA) will start for the Angels.