Mauer's first walk-off HR leads Twins over Red Sox
By Rhett Bollinger and Patrick Donnelly
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer hit his first career walk-off homer in the ninth inning to lift the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Red Sox on Friday night at Target Field.
Mauer's game-winning blast to left field came on a 1-2 fastball from reliever Matt Barnes. It left the bat at 102.4 mph and went a projected 404 feet, per Statcast™. It was his third career walk-off hit, but his first walk-off homer.
Despite being down 1-2 in the count, Mauer thought Barnes might challenge him with a fastball and was able to come through with his second homer of the year.
"I couldn't tell you how he hit it out of the park," Barnes said of the high fastball Mauer turned around. "But he's a good player. He's been around for a long, long time, a great hitter. Tip your cap."
It came after the Red Sox rallied back to tie it in the ninth against closer Brandon Kintzler, keyed by a pair of infield singles to open the inning. Chris Young tied the game with a pinch-hit two-run single down the left-field line. It broke a streak of 10 straight save conversions for Kintzler.
Right-hander Phil Hughes went 6 2/3 innings, limiting Boston to one run on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts, but was saddled with a no-decision after Kintzler couldn't hold the lead. The lone run he allowed came on a solo shot from Andrew Benintendi in the third.
Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was also solid, going six-plus innings and allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk, with six strikeouts.
Miguel Sano opened the scoring with an RBI triple in the first before scoring on a hit from Robbie Grossman. Eddie Rosario, who saw his hit streak extended to a career-best 15 games, tripled off Rodriguez to open the seventh and scored on an RBI single from Mauer off reliever Joe Kelly with the infield in.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Sano's unlikely triple: Sano lifted a high fly ball down the right-field line and didn't even run out of the box, thinking it would go foul. But it drifted back into fair territory and Mookie Betts couldn't handle it near the right-field wall, allowing Mauer to score all the way from first and Sano to reach third for a triple. Sano's hit left the bat at 96.1 mph with a launch angle of 47 degrees, giving him a hit probability of just one percent, according to Statcast™.
"When I hit the ball, I thought it was a foul ball," Sano said. "When I saw Mookie Betts run into the wall, I thought, 'Uh oh.' So I started running."
What a relief! Hughes was one out away from getting through the seventh inning when Dustin Pedroia stroked a double to right-center. Benintendi, who had homered off Hughes in the third, was up next, prompting Twins manager Paul Molitor to bring in lefty Taylor Rogers. Benintendi fell behind, 1-2, and Rogers got him reaching for a curveball that he popped up to right field for the third out, preserving the Twins' 2-1 lead.
"He was throwing me around like a ragdoll. You have to kinda look out for him. But it was fun. It was our first one this year, so hopefully we do it a lot." -- Mauer, on Sano lifting him after he reached home
"That was the exact pitch we were trying to locate, the exact pitch we were trying to throw. Baseball's a funny game, and that happens sometimes. You execute exactly what you want to do and the results aren't what you want them to be." -- Barnes, on the pitch Mauer hit for the game-winning home run
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to Statcast™, Sano's 16-second home-to-third time was the slowest tracked time on a triple this year by more than two seconds, in part because he didn't run initially. The previous slowest time was Justin Smoak's 13.93 seconds. It gives the Twins both the fastest and slowest triples recorded by Statcast™ this year, as Byron Buxton reached third in 10.73 seconds on Wednesday.
DOZIER EXITS EARLY
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier twisted his left ankle while trying to field a ground ball from Xander Bogaerts in the sixth. He initially remained in the game, but Kennys Vargas pinch-hit for him in the ninth and grounded out to first.
"We're not sure the severity of the sprain," Molitor said. "It's probably a mild one in there, so it's a day-to-day situation."
The Red Sox unsuccessfully challenged a play in the fourth, when Eduardo Escobar was initially ruled safe at first base by umpire Brian Gorman. After a review, the call on the field stood.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello (1-4, 4.46 ERA) will try to get back in the win column against the Twins on Saturday at 2:10 p.m. ET. Porcello has lost his last four starts but was 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in two starts against the Twins last year.
Twins: Right-hander Nick Tepesch is set to make his season debut when the Twins host the Red Sox on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Tepesch, who had a 2.00 ERA at Triple-A Rochester, hasn't appeared in a game since April 20, so he'll be limited to roughly 75 pitches.