BOSTON (AP) — Eddie Rosario knew he was the only chance Minnesota had at avoiding extra innings when he saw J.D. Martinez’s drive heading for the big left field wall at Fenway Park.
Rosario was positioned perfectly for the bounce off the Green Monster and delivered a strike to home plate for the final out, preserving the Twins’ 2-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.
“I like the spotlight — moments like that,” Rosario said in a jubilant Minnesota clubhouse, where the Twins were celebrating the completion of an 8-2 road trip that moved them closer to an AL Central title.
Rafael Devers tested Rosiaro’s arm and lost when he attempted to score from first base on Martinez’s double with two outs in the ninth.
Pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh with just the second hit of the night for the Twins, who compensated by capitalizing on nine walks.
Clutch as Astudillo was, the play of the night belonged to Rosario. After playing the Green Monster correctly, which is no easy task for visiting left fielders at Fenway, Rosario’s throw reached catcher Jason Castro on one hop.
“I think it was a perfect way to end the game. It was a phenomenal throw,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Obviously strong, accurate — as big of a moment as we’ve had all year long in any game.”
The Twins took two of three in Boston and extended their AL Central lead to 6 1/2 games over Cleveland. They will be back home this weekend hosting the Indians for three games.
The Red Sox lost for the third time in five games, further diminishing their chances of making the postseason after winning the World Series last year.
“Give credit to Eddie Rosario,” manager Alex Cora said. “He made a great play.”
Cora also stood by the decision to send Devers as he attempted to score the tying run.
“I just tried to be aggressive on that play,” Devers said. “I just put my head down and went full speed and I actually thought I had a good chance of scoring but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Mookie Betts homered for the third time in two nights and added a double. He had Boston’s only two hits until Xander Bogaerts singled with one out in the ninth.
Minnesota starter Martín Pérez (10-6) allowed one run and two hits in six innings. Taylor Rogers got his 24th save, thanks to Rosario’s throw that was in plenty of time to get Devers.
“He’s got a knack for that stuff,” said Rogers, who was backing up home plate and had a perfect view of the play. “Obviously he’s got a great arm and a knack, so it’s kind of the perfect combination.”
Cora said the Red Sox initially thought Martinez came through with a two-run homer that would have won it for Boston. When the drive came up a little short, Cora said the Red Sox were still pretty confident the double would drive in at least the tying run.
“We didn’t make adjustments offensively today, but we had our chances,” Cora said. “We thought it was out. When it bounced off the wall, we score, and all of a sudden, he throws a strike to the plate.”
The Red Sox didn’t have a hit until Betts lined a homer off the Pesky Pole in right in the fourth to put Boston up 1-0.
Boston pitchers loaded the bases on walks twice and Astudillo made them pay the second time with a single that scored Miguel Sanó.
Andrew Cashner (11-8) got two outs in the seventh but loaded the bases on three walks. Astudillo batted for Jonathan Schoop and singled to right off Matt Barnes, the only Boston pitcher not to walk a batter.
“We have a lot of different guys that can do a lot of different things on our team,” Baldelli said. “Willie has that really unique ability to hit pitches that almost nobody else in the game can get a barrel on and he does it regularly.”
Minnesota tied it in the fifth when C.J. Cron grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.
Nathan Eovaldi pitched five innings for Boston, allowing one run on one hit and four walks. He struck out three. Marcus Walden worked a scoreless sixth before Cashner took over in the seventh.
Twins center fielder Jake Cave robbed Christian Vázquez of extra bases with a diving catch on a sinking drive to right-center in the seventh.
Twins: SS Jorge Polanco was out of the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game in the eighth inning with a sore knuckle on his right hand.
Red Sox: LHP David Price experienced tightness in his wrist while throwing Wednesday and will not pitch this weekend against the Yankees, according to Cora. Price just came off the injured list Sunday after missing most of August with a cyst on his left wrist.
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (11-5, 4.11 ERA) starts Friday against Cleveland RHP Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.53).
Red Sox: Had not announced a starter for Friday’s opener against the Yankees and RHP Domingo Germán (17-3, 4.01).
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