Red Sox fret over closer ahead of rematch with Twins

National Sports

Three wins in four games have the Boston Red Sox back on track, but the club still has a significant problem on its hands as it gets set to face the Minnesota Twins in the second contest of a three-game series Wednesday night.

The Red Sox won the opener 11-9, a result marred by the fact they led 9-3 after five innings. While multiple arms in the bullpen faltered, none stood out more than Matt Barnes, who entered the ninth inning with a three-run lead after an Enrique Hernandez two-run home run in the eighth.

Barnes proceeded to serve up a leadoff homer to Josh Donaldson before walking the next two men he faced. He was pulled in favor of Hansel Robles, who recorded two strikeouts on his way to ending the game without further damage.

“We’re concerned,” Boston skipper Alex Cora said of his All-Star closer’s struggles.

Barnes has surrendered 10 runs over 5 1/3 innings in nine appearances this month, including another meltdown Monday in the Red Sox’s walk-off win over the Texas Rangers.

“We have to make adjustments, whatever it is,” Cora said.

The Red Sox send right-hander Nick Pivetta (9-6, 4.43 ERA) to the mound Wednesday looking to rebound from a rough showing against the New York Yankees last time out. The Twins counter with rookie righty Bailey Ober (1-2, 4.38).

Minnesota has lost four straight to drop to the cellar of the American League Central standings.

While Barnes’ struggles take center stage for Boston, the club’s biggest bright spot has been the continued success of Hunter Renfroe. The slugger went deep twice and finished with five RBIs on Tuesday to improve his totals for the month to 10 and 21, respectively.

Renfroe’s 10 homers lead the majors in August and represent a new single-month career high.

“People don’t talk often about him — he’s been amazing for us,” Cora said of Renfroe. “He’s earned every right to go play.”

New addition Travis Shaw has homered in back-to-back games for Boston, while Alex Verdugo has recorded three hits in two consecutive contests.

Minnesota’s bats also showed life Tuesday after the club was held to eight runs total over three straight road losses to the Yankees. Jorge Polanco led the way in the opener at Boston with a home run and three RBIs, while Miguel Sano also drove in three in his return from the paternity list.

“You’ll always take that type of mentality and that type of play when you’re behind,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “Nobody folded up today. The guys continued to go. You want to see that every time you’re down.”

Ober held the Cleveland Indians to three runs (two earned) over six innings in a loss his last time out. He hasn’t won since July 5, a span of seven starts. The 26-year-old will face the Red Sox for the first time in his career.

Pivetta was tagged for four runs over 1 2/3 innings against the Yankees. He had allowed one run total over his previous two starts.

Pivetta opposed the Twins while a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019. He gave up four runs (three earned) over five innings in a win.

–Field Level Media

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