Red Sox

Betts' walk-off home run lifts Red Sox over Twins 4-3 in 10

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USA TODAY Sports

Betts' walk-off home run lifts Red Sox over Twins 4-3 in 10

BOSTON -- Mookie Betts ended a series of late rallies with a home run that cleared Fenway Park and set off another celebration in Boston.

Betts led off the bottom of the 10th with a shot well over the Green Monster to lift the Boston Red Sox past the Minnesota Twins 4-3 on Friday night.

"Fortunately, I got enough of a good pitch to hit and got it up in the air," Betts said after his first game-ending home run.

Betts homer capped a wild last few innings. The Twins rallied from a 2-1 deficit to take a one-run lead in the top of the ninth. Rafael Devers hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning to force extras.

"That's the definition of a team - we've just to pick each other up," Betts said. "We may not do everything well one particular night, but we can find a way to win a game and I think that's what makes us good."

It was the 25th homer of the season for Betts, Boston's All-Star right fielder who is leading the majors with a .345 batting average.

Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a two-run homer in the fifth for Boston and Chris Sale struck out 10 over six scoreless innings. Sale was on track to win his sixth straight start before the late hits took both starters out of the decision.

"Just unbelievable. We know what this lineup can do," Sale said. "Our guys are just picking us up."

Tyler Thornburg (1-0) got the win by holding the Twins scoreless in the 10th after Craig Kimbrel blew a shot at his 33rd save in the ninth. Eddie Rosario hit a two-run double with two outs in the ninth to give Minnesota its first lead.

Kimbrel came in for the last out of the eighth but couldn't survive his own control issues in the ninth. Robbie Grossman drew a walk with one out and advanced on a wild pitch, Jorge Polanco walked with two outs and Rosario drove in both with a double to center.

"We hung around, we made Sale work," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We didn't score but we got him up there."

Sale was done after throwing 100 pitches in six innings. The Twins rallied against Boston's bullpen, but couldn't hold the lead themselves.

Devers homered off Fernando Rodney with a line drive to right, just out of Max Kepler's reach as he crashed hard into the short wall. Kepler stayed down on the warning track for a minute or two but remained in the game.

It was the sixth blown save of the season for Rodney. Matt Belisle (1-1) took over in the 10th and faced only Betts, who ended it with his 25th homer of the season.

"We're a good offensive team, we're just kind of struggling right now," Boston manager Alex Cora said.

Lance Lynn also pitched six innings, holding Boston to just two runs on Bradley's homer in the fifth. He struck out three and walked two.

MORE MOOKIE

Betts' teammates cooled him off by dousing him with a cooler full of ice water when he answered the curtain call from the Red Sox fans who stuck around in the heat for the ending.

"I had a feeling it was coming. It was just a little colder than I wanted it to be," Betts said.

ON SALE

Sale extended his scoreless-innings streak to 23 straight innings and picked up his 200th strikeout when he got Mitch Garver swinging to end the first. Sale reached 200 strikeouts in 136 innings, breaking his own AL record of 141 1-3 innings he set last year.

TOP PLAY

Steve Pearce started for Boston at first base and made a key defensive play to end a threat by the Twins in the seventh, starting a double play with a throw to second and completing it by making a catch while lying face-down across first base after tripping.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: 1B Joe Mauer, who has a career batting average of .195 against Sale, had the night off until pinch-hitting in the eighth, flying out to left on the first pitch from Kimbrel. . The Twins were also without IF Eduardo Escobar, who was traded to Arizona earlier Tuesday for three prospects. Escobar was second on the club in hits (101) and led Minnesota with 63 RBIs.

Red Sox: 1B Mitch Moreland was out of the starting lineup for the second straight night with soreness in his left knee. Moreland said he's trying to give the knee a few days of rest and hopes to be back later in the weekend.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-6, 4.37 ERA) is 4-5 in 17 career starts against Boston with an ERA of 4.45.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (12-4, 3.93) didn't allow a run in his last start, scattering six hits over six innings in Boston's 5-3 win at Baltimore on Monday.

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Red Sox can look in one of these two directions to find their next GM

Red Sox can look in one of these two directions to find their next GM

The Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski more than a month ago, and we still can't name a single candidate to replace him.

The mere existence of the opening has contributed to a run on contract extensions in front offices across baseball, however. The latest domino to fall was Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman, who announced on Monday that he's staying in Hollywood. He joins Arizona GM Mike Hazen and Minnesota VP Derek Falvey — two Massachusetts natives — on the list of those either extended or nearing an extension.

Any one of them could've been a compelling candidate in Boston, particularly Friedman, given his track record building winners in both large and small markets. And that's before we even consider hometown hero Theo Epstein, who recently restated his commitment to the Cubs, albeit without receiving a contractual sweetener like any of the above.

When Red Sox owner John Henry noted the difficulty of poaching opposing executives, he wasn't kidding. The team's last two GMs were either hired from within (Ben Cherington) or plucked off the street (Dombrowski).

What should be one of the most coveted jobs in the game is instead serving as little more than leverage for some big names to stay put. So where do the Red Sox go from here?

Their pool may have narrowed, but their general options remain the same: familiarity or change.

The former is represented by the Epstein school of executives with Red Sox ties, as we discussed after Dombrowski's ouster. This starts with Epstein himself, and even if his commitment to Chicago sounds definitive, he can't be entirely discounted until the Red Sox hire someone else. The same goes for Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, who was linked to the job in one report, but hasn't been since.

With Henry claiming he wants to hire an experienced candidate, especially given the challenges facing whoever takes the job, that would seemingly eliminate Arizona assistants Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter, as well as Mets exec Jared Banner, who all spent time here.

What that leaves is Option B — an executive without Boston ties who has demonstrated success elsewhere and can give the Red Sox operation a fresh perspective.

One such man is Tampa's Chaim Bloom, a Yale grad like Epstein who has helped oversee Tampa's resurgence despite one of baseball's smallest payrolls. He's the team's VP of baseball operations alongside GM Erik Neander. The Rays followed up a 90-win 2018 with 96 wins and a wild card berth. They then rode one of baseball's most unconventional pitching staffs to Game 5 of the ALDS against the Astros.

With defending Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell limited to barely 100 innings by injuries and breakout candidate Tyler Glasnow making only 12 starts for the same reason, the Rays still found a way. Of their 14 pitchers who made starts, 11 also pitched in relief. Former Red Sox farmhand Jalen Beeks, acquired in the Nathan Eovaldi trade, threw over 100 innings despite making only three starts.

The Rays found a creative way to build their staff with castoffs and prospects and one targeted free agent strike in All-Star right-hander Charlie Morton, and the result was the best ERA in the American League. The Red Sox, meanwhile, devoted megabucks to Chris Sale, David Price, and Eovaldi, and then watched all three break down en route to a staff ERA of 4.70 — more than a run higher than Tampa's 3.65.

Tampa's ability to find and develop cheap pitching stands in direct contrast to Boston's struggles in that regard dating back to Epstein. The Red Sox have drafted and developed just two starters of note since 2000 — Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz — and had they a deeper well of talent in the minors, they wouldn't have needed to devote more than $400 million to the Big Three.

The Astros, Rays, Dodgers, and Yankees have surpassed the Red Sox from a player development standpoint, which isn't just limited to the minor leagues. Improving the performance of big leaguers matters, too, whether it's New York turning castoffs like Luke Voit and Mike Tauchman into useful sluggers, the Rays finding diamonds under virtually every rock, or the Dodgers hitting on All-Stars Max Muncy and Justin Turner for nothing.

The question will be if the Red Sox can peel anyone away from the aforementioned organizations, especially since Boston's top job hasn't exactly exuded stability recently. And that's before we even consider the challenges awaiting the next GM as they relate to payroll and the future of Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox insist they will cast a wide net, and eventually they'll find their man. But for now it's a tad disconcerting that the best candidates aren't even interested in hearing what Boston has to say.

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Four potentially undervalued pitchers Red Sox could target this offseason

Four potentially undervalued pitchers Red Sox could target this offseason

It's time for the Red Sox to start thinking like a small-market team, because burning money in the name of their rotation could have dire consequences that stretch well into the 2020s.

With Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi set to earn $80 million annually through 2022 despite being major injury risks, the Red Sox will need to bargain hunt to fill the rest of their rotation. So where might they turn?

The key will be finding undervalued assets. One way to identify them is to look for pitchers with the biggest disparity between their ERA and FIP.

The latter — fielding independent pitching — is an ERA-like number derived from the events a pitcher can directly control: walks, strikeouts, home runs, and hit by pitches, the idea being that everything else is in the hands of the defense. FIP has its flaws, because it operates on the assumption that a pitcher can't impact balls in play, which means hurlers aren't credited for the majority of their outs, but it can still be a useful tool.

A wide spread between a pitcher's ERA and FIP can suggest bad luck or bad defense that mask some underlying strengths. The Red Sox, interestingly enough, looked a lot better as a staff via FIP than ERA, led by Chris Sale (4.40 ERA vs. 3.39 FIP), David Price (4.28 vs. 3.62), and even Rick Porcello (5.52 vs. 4.76).

Their staff ERA of 4.70 surpassed their 4.28 FIP by the widest margin of any team in baseball. Defensive metrics are notoriously spotty, but Fangraphs ranked Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts dead last at his position in defensive runs saved, saying he cost the Red Sox 19 runs. Similarly, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (minus-2) and third baseman Rafael Devers (minus-13) were considered negatives, too. Bogaerts and Devers aren't going anywhere, but Bradley, a defending Gold Glover, is likely to be traded this winter. The Red Sox could also upgrade their defense at second base.

In any event, we're drifting a little far afield. The point is finding opposing pitchers who significantly underperformed their FIP, which could make them targets this winter. Here are four names to remember.

1. Joe Musgrove, RHP, Pirates

A first-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was traded to the Astros a year later before joining Pittsburgh as the centerpiece in the 2018 Gerrit Cole blockbuster. He made a career-high 31 starts this year, going 11-12 with a 4.44 ERA that masked a 3.82 FIP.

Those relatively middling numbers still established the 26-year-old as Pittsburgh's most effective starter, and he remains under team control through 2022.

With the Pirates in what feels like an eternal rebuild, it's hard to imagine they'd consider any player untouchable. Musgrove could make for an intriguing target.

2. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Reds

Gausman is a non-tender candidate, since he's set to make at least $10 million in his final year of arbitration. Chosen fourth overall in the 2012 draft by the Orioles, Gausman was once considered a top-10 prospect.

He has yet to live up to that hype, but he's better than the numbers suggested last year between Atlanta, where he posted a 6.19 ERA (and 4.20 FIP) in 16 starts, and Cincinnati, where he found use as a reliever (4.03 ERA, 3.17 FIP). Gausman struck out a career-high 10 batters per nine innings and is still only 28, so perhaps a flyer is in order, particularly if other teams are viewing him as a reliever and the Red Sox give him an opportunity to start.

3. Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Tigers

How does the AL's loss leader sound? Pitching for a woeful team, Turnbull went just 3-17 with a 4.61 ERA in 30 starts. His 3.99 FIP suggests better stuff than results, however, and he doesn't become a free agent until 2025.

Turnbull throws 95-97 and is considered a piece of Detroit's future, but it never hurts to ask. The 27-year-old went winless in his final 18 starts and is a late bloomer who was still pitching in Double A at age 25.

4. Pablo Lopez, RHP, Marlins

The rookie went 5-8 with a 5.09 ERA in 21 starts, but his 4.28 FIP and low walk rates (2.2 per nine innings) suggest some promise. The 23-year-old hails from Venezuela and can't become a free agent until 2025. He features a low-90s fastball and changeup, and the Marlins like his competitiveness. Being the Marlins means they're in perpetual fire-sale mode, however, and Lopez is worth a look.

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