BOSTON – The Red Sox had a chance in the ninth inning. They had the wrong hitter at the plate.
The Sox trailed the Twins 2-1, but had the bases loaded with two men out with Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate. Minnesota closer Fernando Rodney, who had just walked two hitters in a row, fell behind Bradley 3-0, but battled back and struck him out swinging.
Manager Alex Cora elected not to use Mitch Moreland as a pinch-hitter for Bradley, despite saying after the game that Moreland was healthy and available off the bench.
The Bradley at-bat finished off a night where the Red Sox couldn’t get much going at the plate. They had no answer for Twins starter Kyle Gibson (5-7), who pitched eight strong innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out seven and issuing two walks. The righty threw 120 pitches, a career-high.
Mookie Betts drove in the lone run for Boston.
Meanwhile, concerns remain for the Red Sox bullpen.
Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes (3-3) were tagged for two runs in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Since the All-Star break, Boston relievers have allowed 12 runs in 18 innings of work.
Hembree and Barnes helped spoil one of Brian Johnson’s best starts of the year. The southpaw tossed 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He struck out five, walked three, and allowed four hits.
It was Johnson’s second-longest outing in 2018, behind only his April 2 start in Miami in which he went six innings in a 7-3 win over the Marlins.
Johnson struggled in the first, but stranded three runners to end the inning without any damage. The lefty then settled in nicely and set down 14-straight hitters.
Johnson did not allow more than two runs in any of his six starts since returning to the rotation on June 28. He is scheduled to move back to the bullpen with the addition of righty Nathan Eovaldi via a trade with Tampa Bay Wednesday.
How it happened:
Both teams squandered opportunities in the first. Bradley cut Joe Mauer down at the plate with an outfield assist. Johnson scattered three hits, a walk, and a wild pitch but got out of the inning unscathed when he struck out Robbie Grossman. The Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but Rafael Devers flew out to left to end the frame.
Betts opened up the scoring in the second with an RBI groundout, scoring Blake Swihart. The inning ended on the same play when Bradley ran into an out at third base, the latest in a season-long series of miscues on the bases for Boston.
The Twins ran into another out at home again in the sixth. With Eddie Rosario on first, Brian Dozier singled to center. Rosario beat a throw to third and Dozier took second. Rosario tried to score with the play going to second and was thrown out by Brock Holt.
Johnson was pulled from the game with two out and two runners on in the sixth, giving way to Hembree who closed out the inning with a groundout.
The Twins tied the game at one in the seventh. Grossman singled to left and advanced to third on a single by Max Kepler. The run came in to score when Ehire Adrianza grounded into a double play. Hembree allowed three hits in the inning and was charged with the run.
Barnes issued a one-out walk to Dozier in the eighth inning. Dozier stole second and came around to score on a two-out, RBI double by Mitch Garver, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead.
Potential Sox trade target Fernando Rodney was wild in the ninth, loading the bases by allowing a single to Xander Bogaerts and walking Holt and Swihart. Rodney was on the verge of walking in the tying run when he battled back from a 3-0 count to strike Bradley out to end the ballgame.
It was the 22nd save for the righty this year.
Chris Sale (11-4, 2.13 ERA) takes the ball Friday night against Twins righty Lance Lynn (7-8. 5.23 ERA)