MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Eduardo Escobar, yet again, gave the Minnesota Twins the go-ahead hit.
Two of them, of course. He’s become a doubles machine.
With a two-base hit that drove in two runs off Chris Sale in the sixth inning and another that launched a four-run eighth, Escobar led for the Twins to a 6-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
“I don’t know if he can keep up that kind of torrid pace, but we’re seeing a guy who is supremely confident,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Robby Scott (0-1), just recalled from Triple-A, relieved Sale to start the eighth and walked the first two batters. Joe Kelly entered, and Escobar’s one-out line drive bounced in front of Jackie Bradley Jr. and skipped past the center fielder as two runs scored. The official scorer later changed his ruling from a single to a double, giving Escobar a majors-leading 32 for the season. Robbie Grossman broke the game open with a two-run triple.
Escobar is on a season-long pace for 75 doubles, which would blow by Earl Webb’s record of 67 doubles in 1931 for the Red Sox.
“Let me tell you: If they don’t catch the ball I’m going to run to second base, 100 percent,” Escobar said. “My mentality when I make contact with the ball is to run all the way to second base.”
Escobar, who will be a free agent in the fall, has for the fourth straight season been slated for a utility role only to hit his way into regular duty after a setback in the infield. This year, injury and ineffectiveness for third baseman Miguel Sano paved Escobar’s way into the everyday lineup.
“If he doesn’t have a double a day, it’s like a disappointment right now. He’s unbelievable. He always finds a barrel,” said teammate Trevor Hildenberger, who struck out American League RBI leader J.D. Martinez with runners at second and third to end the seventh after relieving Jose Berrios.
The Red Sox went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.
“Whenever you have a chance, you have to catch him,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.
The late surge masked a classic pitching duel between Sale and Berrios, the six-time All-Star against the budding ace. Sale retired the first 14 batters he faced before Ehire Adrianza’s soft roller to Rafael Devers at third base went for an infield single.
With a two-out home run by Devers in the sixth off Berrios, the Red Sox were in control. All it took was a single by Ryan LaMarre and a hit by pitch for Joe Mauer, though, to start a rally in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Escobar drove a 1-1 slider near the dirt from Sale down the left-field line for a 2-1 lead. Escobar pumped his arms back and forth before clapping and pointing at his teammates in the dugout.
“You know this guy. Every pitch is nasty,” said Escobar, once a minor league teammate of Sale’s in the Chicago White Sox system. “I guess I made good contact.”
Sale finished seven innings, the 12th time in 16 starts this season he has logged at least six. This was the 11th turn in which he’s yielded two runs or fewer and his fifth double-digit strikeout performance. In his last three starts, he has allowed only 11 hits in 21 innings. Yet the Red Sox are only 8-8 with him on the mound.
“I’m not going to hang my head about it. I know these guys in here want to win. I know they’re not doing anything different on my day,” Sale said. “Maybe I’ll bring popsicles or something for the boys.”
Struggling Twins right-hander Addison Reed, who has appeared in only one of the previous six games, has been at least temporarily removed from his setup role. Zach Duke (3-2) took the eighth inning instead and, with two outs, surrendered Sandy Leon’s tying single that drove in Devers.
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who has played in only three games this season because of inflammation in his left knee, has still not been cleared for baseball activities since returning to the DL three weeks ago. The lack of progress has been concerning, Cora acknowledged. “It was major surgery. We didn’t know what to expect. So we are where we are now, hoping that, yeah, he’ll be back. When? We don’t know,” Cora said.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana, yet to appear this season because of a slow recovery from surgery on his middle finger, threw a 35-pitch bullpen session before the game. He’ll face live hitters on Friday, another step forward after his setback last month.
Red Sox: LHP David Price (8-4, 3.76 ERA) pitches Wednesday night. He is 6-0 in his last seven starts, with two runs or fewer allowed in all but one of those, when he gave up three runs. Price is 10-3 with a 2.52 ERA in his career against the Twins.
Twins: RHP Lance Lynn (4-5, 4.98 ERA) takes the mound in the middle game of the series. He’s 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA over his last five turns, with a .195 batting average against him and 30 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings.