MINNEAPOLIS — Bobby Dalbec got ahead in the count in the third inning Tuesday, then drove a low fastball from Minnesota Twins starter J.A. Happ to right field.
It was 107.4 miles-per-hour off the bat, one of his hardest-hit balls of the season. But right fielder Ryan Garlick ranged back and made the catch.
“That’s a win in my book even though I lined out,” Dalbec said. “Just trying to win at-bats and hitting the ball hard is a win for me.”
A good process is fine; good results are even better.
Dalbec won his at-bat against Happ again in the fifth inning, when his RBI double to right field tied the game. Then, he gave the Sox the lead with another double to right in the eighth inning.
On a day better suited for the Patriots and Vikings in December, Dalbec and the Red Sox beat the Twins, 4-2. That’s seven wins in a row for the Sox, their longest streak since winning 10 straight from July 2-12, 2018.
It’s the longest win streak in the majors this season, and five of the victories have been comebacks.
It was 33 degrees and snowing when the game started. According to Baseball-Reference.com, it was the coldest game for the Red Sox since April 7, 1979, when it was 32 degrees at first pitch at cavernous Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.
The Sox lost that game, 3-0, and were held to one hit, a single by Jerry Remy in the sixth inning.
This game was more eventful as the Sox fell behind, 2-0, in the first inning before winning again on the road.
The Sox are the first team since the 1991 Seattle Mariners to open the season with a losing streak of three or more games, then immediately win seven or more in a row.
The Mariners finished in fifth place that season, so don’t get too excited yet, but the Sox are showing good balance and a sense of resolve early in the season.
The bottom three hitters in the order — Hunter Renfroe, Christian Arroyo, and Dalbec — were 5 for 10 with four extra-base hits, three RBIs, and three runs scored. The last three spots in the order have hit .280 during the winning streak, with eight extra-base hits and seven RBIs.
“We feel from top to bottom we’re good. But that’s a game changer,” manager Alex Cora said. “I do believe we’re going to hit for power at the bottom of the lineup. But at the same time, when the game is on the line, we can put up good at-bats and that’s the most important thing.”
Said Dalbec: “I think it can be a dangerous lineup, any part of it. Just try and build off each other.”
The Twins scored twice off Martín Pérez in the first inning as he threw only 12 of 25 pitches for strikes. He couldn’t feel his fingers in the wintry conditions, he said.
Byron Buxton led off with a double. Pérez then hit Kyle Garlick and walked Mitch Garver. Jorge Polanco followed with a sacrifice fly.
When Miguel Sanó walked to reload the bases, Cora came to the mound as the bullpen started to stir.
A run scored on a ground out by Luis Arraez, but Perez escaped further damage.
Pérez went four more innings without allowing a run, leaving five runners stranded. His biggest adjustment may have been shedding the long-sleeve shirt he had under his jersey in the first inning.
“I feel too tight in the first inning. I don’t feel loose,” Pérez said. “I just told myself I have to be me. Got to go out there and do my job.”
Happ, who has bedeviled the Red Sox for years, did so again for four innings, allowing one hit. But Renfroe homered in the fifth, his first with the Sox.
Arroyo followed with a single up the middle, and scored from first when Dalbec stayed on a two-strike fastball from Happ and drove it down the right field line for a double.
That same combination clicked again in the eighth inning when Arroyo and Dalbec doubled off Randy Dobnak to give the Sox the lead.
Dalbec started the season 2 for 21 with nine strikeouts, but his contact rate — and confidence — is improving.
“We trust him,” Cora said. “We know that there’s going to be a few days that he might swing miss a lot. But we do believe that he can make adjustments and he can go the other way.”
Rafael Devers added to the advantage with a home run beyond the seats in right field in the ninth inning.
Perez and four relievers held the Twins to five hits. Adam Ottavino was the winner, with Matt Barnes getting his first save.
After a dismal 2020 season, the Sox are, if nothing else, an interesting team.
“It’s a testament to them,” Cora said of his players. “Last year it was tough to watch; it was tough for them that were here. Now, it’s still early, but they can see the talent that we have and what we’re doing.
“It’s fun for them again. Baseball is fun for them.”