Despite what looked a decent enough lead, there seemed little doubt that momentum had shifted and that the Red Sox were heading for a defeat shortly after the Twins’ half of the 8th inning opened on Sunday.
That pivotal 8th inning began with Boston up 7-4 but the bullpen pair of Matt Barnes and Robby Scott couldn’t hold on. Minnesota scored twice and then, with just a one-run lead, just one man out, a runner on third and Joe Mauer stepping to the plate, Manager John Farrell wisely went to Craig Kimbrel for what, at the time, would be his first career five-out close. Kimbrel worked Mauer to a full count before punching him out with a called strike that just grazed the outer edge of the zone. Kimbrel then dispatched Max Kepler on three straight pitches to end the threat.
At this point, a one-run lead was hardly comfortable. Little did we know the Sox’ offensive powder keg was about to explode.
The day had started with a Chris Sale outing that wasn’t nearly as crisp as his others this season. Sales worked 6.0 IP and ultimately came away a win that included another 10 strikeouts. But he walked three and allowed four earned runs over 108 pitches. Indeed, Sale’s 4.37 ERA over 25 career appearances is his highest mark against all American League opponents. Still, when he left the game, Boston led Minnesota 6-4.
Sox Keep The Line Moving
Now, after scuffling in the bottom of the eight, some insurance in the top of the ninth was in order. The inning opened with a Mookie Betts ground out on a close but unchallenged play. But then Dustin Pedroia, who had homered earlier in the game, drew a walk. Xander Bogaerts, hitless to that point in the game, extended his hitting streak to 11-games with a double. Andrew Benintendi was intentionally walked to load the bases, but there would be no double play. Instead, Hanley Ramírez, who had walked three times earlier in the game, hit a solid single for that coveted insurance RBI. Bases re-loaded, Mitch Moreland stroked yet another of his signature doubles, his MLB-best 15th of the season, and Boston was now comfortably in front 10-6. But the Red Sox were just beginning.
Chris Young belted a second double of the game, two more score. The Twins tried a new pitcher. Sandy León responded with his second home run of the game, his very first multi-HR game and his third roundtripper in the past two games. By now, it was 14-6. Deven Marrero grounded out so that sent Betts back to the plate for a second time in the inning. This time he smoked a double to center field. Pedroia reached on sloppy Twins fielding. Chase d’Arnaud, running for Pedey, then came around to score on a Bogaerts triple, his second extra-bit hit of the inning.
Minnesota manager Paul Molitor had, once again, seen enough. He called on one-time Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow who promptly walked Ramírez to load the bases then walked Moreland to score the Sox’ 17th run. A Young fly out finally ended the inning, 39 minutes and ten runs after it had begun. Gone was the notion of a close game and gone, too, was the need for three more outs from Kimbrel. Instead, Joe Kelly mopped up what was left of the game.
The 17 runs were the most scored by the Red Sox on the road against the Twins or their predecessors, the Washington Senators, since at least 1913. It was the most scored against the Twins since beating the club 17-7 at Fenway on May 20, 1986.
AL-Best For Scoring In A Single Inning
Sunday’s ten Red Sox runs in the 9th was was the biggest run scoring inning by any American League team this season but nowhere near the MLB record, which is 18 by the Cubs in the 7th inning of a game on September 6, 1883.
Since 1900, the record for the most runs scored in a single inning is held by the Red Sox, who amassed 17 runs in the 7th inning against the Tigers on June 18, 1953. Since 1900, the most runs ever scored in a 9th inning is 13 by the Angels over the Rangers on September 14, 1978, and by also by the Tigers on August 8, 2001, in a game that was also played against the Rangers.
On April 8, the Phillies scored 12 against the Nationals in the first inning, the most by any MLB team so far in 2017.