The Minnesota Twins will look to climb back to .500 and win their second straight when Sonny Gray takes the mound on Saturday in the second game of four against the Red Sox in Boston.
Gray, who took a no-decision after allowing two runs on four hits and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings on April 9 against the Seattle Mariners, will look to build upon Joe Ryan’s outstanding start on Friday in the Twins’ 8-4 win.
Ryan struck out seven over six innings of one-run, five-hit ball. It was the second longest of his seven career starts.
“It was six solid, and he pitched himself out of a little something when he needed to,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He was excellent. … It jumpstarts you and keeps you going.”
A first-year Twin, Gray has struggled in his career against Boston, carrying a 1-6 record and a 6.64 ERA in 42 career innings into his 10th appearance and ninth start.
He hasn’t faced the Red Sox since a scoreless, two-inning relief appearance in 2018, when he pitched for the New York Yankees. However, Gray allowed six runs in each of his two other 2018 appearances against Boston, both starts.
The Friday game got off to an inauspicious start for the Twins when center fielder Byron Buxton exited due to right knee soreness after sliding into second base on a leadoff double.
Buxton, who dealt with hip and hand injuries last season, yelled in pain before immediately walking off the field. He was replaced by Nick Gordon, who scored in each of the first two innings.
Buxton went for an MRI exam, but his status wasn’t updated Friday night.
Rafael Devers cut Boston’s deficit to 6-4 with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but the Twins responded by scoring twice in the top of the ninth.
“Those runs are enormous with the swings you get in this ballpark,” Baldelli said. “It’s noticeable here late in games, the Red Sox get stuff going and the (fans) get going with them. Our guys had some good at-bats late in the game.”
Boston will hope for a strong season debut from Saturday starter Tanner Houck after Nick Pivetta was pulled after just two innings on Friday.
Two-hit days from Devers — who is on a 12-game hit streak, the longest of his career — and Jackie Bradley Jr. weren’t enough for the Red Sox, who have lost the opening game in their first three series.
“(Pivetta’s) stuff wasn’t there,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We felt like we were rested enough to get our (bullpen) innings in and stay in the game, and we did. When we got close, we walked too many people and they put the ball in play.”
Houck took a no-decision in his start at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out three over 3 1/3 innings.
Houck’s only career appearance against Minnesota came on Aug. 24, 2021. He struck out six and allowed three runs on eight hits over the first 4 2/3 frames of an eventual 11-9 win.
Houck’s role is even greater with seven-time All-Star southpaw Chris Sale recovering from a right rib stress fracture.
Sale remained at the team’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., as the regular season began last week, but he rejoined the team for the opening homestand and threw on flat ground early Friday.
“Now I’m at the part where I get to have some fun,” Sale said. “We’re in a good spot. The worst part of it is time. The build back up is going to take a little bit of time just because I’ve got to get some innings and get my arm stretched out. We’re on the right path.”
–Field Level Media