MINNEAPOLIS — It was an important pitch, a chance to extend the game for at least another inning. So Red Sox catcher David Ross went to the mound to talk about it with Andrew Miller.
The two decided Miller would throw a full-count fastball to Minnesota’s Aaron Hicks with two outs and a runner on second base in the bottom of the 10th inning on Thursday afternoon.
The 95-mile-per-hour pitch was inside to Hicks, a switch-hitter batting righthanded. But Hicks was strong enough to drop the ball into left field for an RBI single that gave the Twins a 4-3 victory.
The pitching staff has almost unquestioned faith in the judgment of Ross, a catcher with 13 seasons of experience, and Miller was comfortable with the pitch he threw.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “Rossie came out, had a discussion. Guy knows what he’s doing back there. I’m going to take it and I’m going to execute it to the best of my ability with confidence.”
Hicks hit the ball off the handle of his bat and the ball landed one hop away from Grady Sizemore. But with Kurt Suzuki running from second base with two outs, there was little chance for a play at the plate.
Miller walked off the mound with his hands on his hips, then squatted down and looked off in the distance. As the Twins celebrated, Miller (1-2) was the last Red Sox player to return to the dugout. It was his second walkoff loss in three days. He allowed a home run by Chris Parmelee in the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday.
As a result, the Sox finished 3-3 on the road trip, losing two of three to the Twins.
“It stinks,” Miller said. “I felt good out there but I blew two games. We lost the series.”
The biggest regret Miller had was falling behind Suzuki, 2 and 0, and throwing a fastball over the plate that resulted in a double to left field.
The Sox, down 3-1, tied the game in the ninth inning against Minnesota closer Glen Perkins. But they left two runners on that inning and the Twins capitalized when they had their chance.
“There’s a willingness and a relentlessness to the group to fight back, tie things up,” manager John Farrell said. “We were a swing of the bat away from walking out of here with a series win.”
Twins starter Phil Hughes entered with a 5.70 ERA in 22 career appearances against the Sox. He allowed nine runs over 4⅔ innings against them last season while a member of the Yankees.
The Sox lineup had an aggregate .395 batting average against Hughes with nine home runs.
But Hughes allowed one run on five hits over six innings. He struck out eight without a walk.
Xander Bogaerts, hitting second in place of a resting Shane Victorino, singled in the fourth inning and scored on two-out singles by Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp.
The Red Sox were lifeless offensively until the ninth inning against Perkins.
David Ortiz — 8 for 14 in the series — singled and was replaced by pinch runner Jonathan Herrera. Gomes singled with one out, as did Carp to load the bases.
Ross was allowed to hit and struck out on three pitches. But slumping Will Middlebrooks swung at the first pitch and grounded a two-run single into right field to tie the game.
Middlebrooks was 6 of 41 with 15 strikeouts and two RBIs in May before the single.
“A big hit in the moment,” Farrell said. “A chance to tie it up with a base hit the other way against a very good closer in Perkins. I thought we put up very good at-bats in that ninth inning.”
Jackie Bradley Jr. then had a chance to give the Red Sox the lead but struck out.
The Red Sox did not use Victorino late in the game, Farrell saying that he needed the day off to rest a sore right knee.
Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz went six innings, allowing three runs on 10 hits and three walks. He struck out six. The righthander has allowed 20 hits over 10⅓ innings in his last two starts.
Buchholz did not have command of his changeup and threw only a few effective split-finger fastballs. He has a 6.17 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in eight starts.
Buchholz has allowed 62 hits, only 15 for extra bases. Teams are jabbing him into submission.
“Good luck, bad luck, balls hit through the infield. It sucks to give up that many hits. But when I look back it, it’s ground balls,” he said.
The Twins scored three runs in the second inning. Suzuki singled on a ball that banged off the glove of Middlebrooks at third base. Parmelee then hit his second home run of the series, belting a splitter to right field.
Hicks walked and went to third on the arm of Carp when Eduardo Escobar singled to left field. That allowed Hicks to score on a sacrifice fly to right field by Brian Dozier.
With 40 games done, the 20-20 Sox are three games off the pace they were on last season, but closer to first place in the American League East. They were two games out at this juncture last season and will be no worse than 1½ games out before opening a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Fenway Park.