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Devers' furious sprint falls short at the plate

Red Sox third baseman tagged out, ending loss to Twins
@IanMBrowne
September 6, 2019

BOSTON -- Down to their last strike, J.D. Martinez gave the Red Sox a flicker of hope when he sent one soaring toward the Green Monster in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday night at Fenway Park. Initially, it looked like it might have had enough to get

BOSTON -- Down to their last strike, J.D. Martinez gave the Red Sox a flicker of hope when he sent one soaring toward the Green Monster in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday night at Fenway Park.

Initially, it looked like it might have had enough to get over the wall for what would have been a thrilling two-run, walk-off homer.

When it clanged off the wall, the Red Sox went for the alternative of tying the game. Third-base coach Carlos Febles furiously waved Rafael Devers home.

But as has been the case too many times this season for the defending World Series champions, Plan A and Plan B both went off-track in a gut-wrenching, 2-1 loss to the Twins.

Box score

Minnesota left fielder Eddie Rosario fired a one-hop strike, and catcher Jason Castro slapped the tag on Devers before he could get his hand on the plate and the game was over, just like that.

For several minutes, Devers and teammate Christian Vazquez sat silently in the dugout processing the stunningly abrupt nature of what just occurred.

“I was just trying to soak in what just happened, obviously,” Devers said. “I was really upset about the at-bat I had and obviously not being able to score when J.D. hit that ball. That’s something that stuck with me, so I just don’t like to lose, so that’s pretty much it.”

Xander Bogaerts had created the first sign of hope in the bottom of the ninth inning when he laced a one-out single to left. The dangerous Devers stepped up next against the Twins’ closer, lefty Taylor Rogers, but he could only muster a grounder to second. Give Devers credit for this, though: He motored down the line and avoided a game-ending double play, putting the game in Martinez’s hands.

Then, after the crack of the bat by Martinez, Devers went on a full sprint again -- this time first to home -- and Febles never hesitated. Unfortunately for Boston, neither did Rosario.

“I had to wait and let the play develop. Rosario was playing in the left-center gap,” Febles said. “Ball hits off the wall. I know Raffy’s coming hot. Now, he has to make a decision: Throw it to the plate from there or hit the cutoff man. He came up and made a perfect throw to the plate.”

The Twins -- who are in the drivers’ seat to win the American League Central -- were the ones who joyously walked off at Fenway after a perfectly executed play that was extra sweet in the heart of a pennant race.

“Yeah, I think it was a perfect way to end the game,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It was a phenomenal throw. Obviously strong, accurate. As big of a moment as we’ve had all year long in any game.”

If it was perfect for the Twins, it was perfectly frustrating for the Red Sox.

“Actually, I’m like, laughing at it,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He hits the ball, you think it’s out of the ballpark. The ball bounces off the wall, you think he’s going to score, and he’s out.”

And so it goes for the defending World Series champs, who are in a hole that might be too sizable to climb out of in the fight for the postseason.

With 22 games left, the Sox trail the A’s by 6 1/2 games for the second Wild Card spot. They’d also need to climb over the Indians, who lead them by 5 1/2 games. The Rays are in possession of the first Wild Card spot by a half-game and seven over the Red Sox (six in the loss column).

Facing a sizable deficit to all three of those teams, the Sox would have to vault over two of them to play in the Wild Card game.

“Every loss is tough for the club,” Febles said. “It doesn’t matter how you lose the game. Unfortunately we lost a game that way. That’s how the game goes sometimes. All we can do is get ready for tomorrow.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.