BOSTON -- The Red Sox had no time for dejection even after a lead slipped away from the normally trustworthy Craig Kimbrel in the top of the ninth.Instead, Rafael Devers (game-tying homer in bottom of the ninth) and Mookie Betts (walk-off homer in the 10th) turned it into elation, and
BOSTON -- The Red Sox had no time for dejection even after a lead slipped away from the normally trustworthy Craig Kimbrel in the top of the ninth.
Instead, Rafael Devers (game-tying homer in bottom of the ninth) and Mookie Betts (walk-off homer in the 10th) turned it into elation, and a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Twins. It was the first career walk-off homer for Betts, who is having an MVP-caliber season.
The beauty of the 2018 Red Sox isn't just their record (72-33) or place in the standings (five games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East) but the way they always feel they are a swing or a pitch away from turning adversity into prosperity.
There was never a better case in point than in the late stages of this one.
"That's the definition of a team," said Betts. "We've just got to pick each other up. We may not do everything well in one particular day, but if we can find a way to win a game, I think that's what makes us good."
The air was briefly taken out of Fenway Park when Kimbrel couldn't protect a 2-1 lead in the ninth. One strike away from converting a save for Chris Sale, who was dominant yet again, Kimbrel walked Jorge Polanco to put runners on first and second.
Up next was Eddie Rosario, and he smashed a 97.4-mph fastball on a 1-2 count for a two-run double that gave the Twins their first lead of the night at 3-2. It was Kimbrel's third blown save of the season.
"I definitely didn't have my best stuff going out there tonight. I did my best to try to work through it. Disappointing," said Kimbrel. "I think any time we have Sale on the mound, he deserves the W. But blowing the save, I think our guys did a tremendous job. Devers hit the home run and then Mookie hit the walk-off. We were down, but our guys showed a lot of fight. It's nice to have a bad night and our team still comes back and wins."
Devers brought a surge of momentum back to the Red Sox when he unloaded on a 2-1 fastball by Twins closer Fernando Rodney and hammered it into the Boston bullpen for a game-tying solo shot. Right fielder Max Kepler tried to make a play on it, but he couldn't get enough reach into the bullpen after running into the short wall.
The 15th homer of the season by Devers was absolutely smoked for an exit velocity of 112.1-mph, marking the hardest long ball of his career. It was an absolute laser beam, with a launch angle of just 17 degrees.
"I actually thought it was a little harder than that," quipped Devers. "I'm just fortunate enough to have had the hit that tied the game. Yeah it was low, but I knew I hit it hard, and when you hit it hard, there's a good chance it's going to travel."
The second Betts made contact, everyone knew where the ball was going to land. The superstar right fielder clocked the second pitch of the bottom of the 10th inning by Twins righty Matt Belisle and smashed it over the Monster to send everyone home and set off a mob scene of red jerseys at home plate.
"It feels good, but I've got to give credit to Devers," said Betts. "He got us to that spot. We had to pick up Craig there. He came in and got us out of the eighth. In the ninth right there he gave up a run or two, but Devers did great, picking us up and giving us an opportunity."
Sale continued his torrid stretch with another power-pitching clinic. Over six shutout innings, Sale allowed three hits, walked two and struck out 10, running his record to 12-4 and lowering his AL-leading ERA to 2.04.
As impressive as Sale's numbers were, it was basically on par with what he has done in a nine-start stretch that started on June 8. Since that date, Sale is 7-1 with a 0.67 ERA, striking out 97, walking 12 and allowing no homers in 60 innings. In Sale's last six starts, he's been unscored on five times.
"I try to be good every time. I'll be completely honest, I'm not the biggest fan of talking about stuff like that," Sale said. "For me, when I'm handed the ball, I have a job to do and I try to do that job to the best of my ability, no matter what, no matter where we're playing, the temperature, the score, this guy, that guy, sore, not sore, flights, whatever, I try to win. It never changes, good, bad or indifferent."
In the first inning, Sale struck out the side to reach 200 strikeouts for the sixth straight season. Sale reached that milestone in just 136 innings, faster than any pitcher in American League history. Sale held the previous mark, set last season in 141 1/3 innings.
Jackie Bradley Jr. supplied some early firepower when he belted a two-run homer over the Green Monster in left-center against Twins starter Lance Lynn to snap a scoreless tie in the fifth.
"It felt good," Bradley said. "Any time you can do something positive, help the team, it's always a good thing."
For the Red Sox, it was another night to remember in what is shaping up as a memorable season.
"A lot of emotions, a lot of emotions," said Betts. "It was huge for us to come in, get excited, get ourselves going, definitely the crowd helped for sure. We've got a good team, we never give up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sale's escape in fourth: The one stressful portion of Friday's game for Sale was in the top of the fourth. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, he walked two and hit a batter to load them up with two outs. Jake Cave worked the count full, but Sale thrilled the crowd when he fired a 97.3-mph heater on the eighth pitch of the at-bat for a strikeout to end the inning.
"I just got jammed up," said Sale. "Walked a couple of guys, hit a guy, not what you're looking for right there. At the time, you've got a locked-up ballgame, so it was really important keeping a run off the board."
The Red Sox continue to be nearly unstoppable when they play power ball. Boston is now 14-2 in games with three or more homers and 40-6 when it hits two or more.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the top of the seventh and leading by just a run, Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier was in a tough spot, with runners at the corners and one out. The righty got the grounder he needed from Rosario, and Steve Pearce fielded the grounder and fired to shortstop Xander Bogaerts for the force at second.
In his haste to get back to the bag, Pearce stumbled and fell. Bogaerts saw his teammate lying on the ground and put the throw in the perfect spot for him. Even though Pearce's left leg was flat over the base, with his head and glove hand pointed toward right field, he still caught the throw from Bogaerts to complete one of the most incredible double plays you'll ever see. Pearce, fearing he was going to get stepped over by Rosario, had a huge sigh of relief when he escaped the play without injury.
"To me, Bogey made a better play than I did. He put it in the only place I could catch it," Pearce sad. "After that, I was just bracing for pain. I thought I was about to get murdered. I was going to do whatever I could to make the play. Thankfully he missed me."
Right-hander Rick Porcello (12-4, 3.93 ERA) tries to carry the momentum over from his last start when he pitches Saturday against the Twins. In his first start after the All-Star break, Porcello scattered six hits and struck out six over six shutout innings in a win over the Orioles. Porcello has pitched a season's worth of games against the Twins in his career, going 11-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 30 starts. The Twins counter with right-hander Jake Odorizzi (4-6, 4.37 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.