BOSTON -- After a rough outing in Detroit last Saturday night, Tyler Thornburg was openly wondering when things would click so he could start pitching like his pre-injury self again.Here it is, a week later, and everything is clicking for Thornburg, who pitched a shutdown eighth inning when the game
BOSTON -- After a rough outing in Detroit last Saturday night, Tyler Thornburg was openly wondering when things would click so he could start pitching like his pre-injury self again.
Here it is, a week later, and everything is clicking for Thornburg, who pitched a shutdown eighth inning when the game was still on the line, helping the Red Sox to a 10-4 victory over the Twins at Fenway Park.
There were numerous hitting heroics, including a two-run triple by Jackie Bradley Jr., a towering solo shot onto Lansdowne Street by J.D. Martinez -- his MLB-leading 32nd homer -- and an insurance double by Mookie Betts on which Bradley roared all the way around from first.
And in the bottom of the eighth, after Thornburg had protected a two-run lead with a 12-pitch inning, the bats broke it open with a four-spot. Eduardo Nunez's two-run double was the big hit there.
But in the long-term view, the performance by Thornburg was as significant as anything that took place on Saturday. At a time the Red Sox are trying to solidify the bullpen in the days leading up to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Thornburg's emergence could be pivotal.
"Obviously he's gotten a little bit of a chance to settle in," said Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie. "He's starting to trust his stuff and trust where he's at physically, knowing he can rebound day in and day out, he's getting back into the flow of being a Major League pitcher."
In his last four outings, Thornburg hasn't allowed a baserunner. This was the first time manager Alex Cora has used him in a truly high-leverage situation since his return from missing a season-and-a-half of action following surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder.
"He's a work in progress," said Cora. "We feel he was throwing the ball well. You don't pitch for a year and then you go out there in Kansas City and everything is going 1,000 mph, it's not that easy. He had a bad one and then that one in Detroit, the pitch to [Jose] Iglesias. Fastball away, digged in and hit it out of the ballpark. The next day he did an outstanding job. We're comfortable with him."
What has enabled Thornburg to settle down over the last week?
"He's made a few adjustments," said LeVangie. "He's shortened his stride a little bit, he's not getting so deep into his back leg. That's allowing him to manipulate the ball a bit more, that's the biggest thing he's done. Other than that, he's a guy that's starting to get comfortable doing what he's doing right now."
With the win, the Red Sox are 73-33 and lead the Yankees by 5 1/2 games in the American League East.
By the end of the night, it was easy to forget that winning pitcher Rick Porcello (13-4, 4.03 ERA) and the Red Sox trailed 4-1 in the early stages of this one.
But the deficit was erased with a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth to tie it.
And in the bottom of the fifth, Martinez untied it with a rocket that left his bat at an exit velocity of 107 mph and traveled a projected distance of 412 feet, per Statcast™. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez ranks second behind Martinez with 30 home runs. Martinez also leads the Majors in RBIs with 86.
All nine Boston starters had at least one hit. Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Martinez, Rafael Devers and Nunez (double, triple) each had two hits. Devers exited in the eighth inning with a hamstring injury and will likely head back to the disabled list.
"We've been seeing it for a while now this year, it's easy to take it for granted, but it's pretty incredible what everybody's doing, top to bottom," said Porcello. "Everybody got on base tonight and did something at the plate, that's firing on all cylinders for sure. Our offense is in a great spot. Us as a pitching staff, we just have to keep the game close and give them a chance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nunez erupts in late innings: It has been a tough season at the plate for Nunez, but he showed signs of a breakout in this one, belting a triple and a two-run double in his final two at-bats. For the season, Nunez has a line of .255/.284/.366 with six homers, which is far below the pace he produced at last year for the Giants and Red Sox.
"[Hitting coach] Timmy [Hyers] also identified something in his setup. They've been working hard," said Cora. "Those days he didn't play, he's been in the cage working with [assistant hitting coach] Andy [Barkett] and Tim, probably the whole game, they were going at it. It's good to see him swing the bat well. I go back to videos from last year and he was a force for this team. He put pressure on the opposition, hit some balls off the wall and it was instant offense, and it's good to see him swing the bat this way the last two days."
The 73 wins in the first 106 games of the season for the Red Sox ties a team record with the 1946 club that won the pennant and lost to the Cardinals in the World Series. The Red Sox are the 20th team in the modern era (since 1900) to win as many as 73 of the first 106 games. Of the previous 19 to achieve that feat, 17 went on to win their league's pennant and nine won the World Series.
HE SAID IT
"I think we all just enjoy winning. Winning is fun, losing is not. Any time we win, it's just contagious. We feel good when we win." -- Bradley, on how the Red Sox are able to avoid complacency during what has been a dominant regular season so far
Hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA) will make his debut for the Red Sox in Sunday's finale of this four-game series against the Twins. Eovaldi was acquired from the Rays on Wednesday for Minor League righty Jalen Beeks, formerly Boston's No. 15 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. This will be Eovaldi's first appearance at Fenway since 2016. The Twins counter with ace Jose Berrios (10-7, 3.48 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.