MINNEAPOLIS — There were two moments in Monday night’s 4-2 loss against the Minnesota Twins that help explain why the Red Sox have taken up what appears to be permanent residence in last place this season.
Alex Verdugo was on third base with one out in the third inning when Rafael Devers hit a sinking liner to the gap in right.
Verdugo wandered off the base and when Max Kepler made a diving catch it was too late to go back and tag up. It ultimately cost the Red Sox a run.
The right play would have been to stay on the base knowing that even if Kepler caught the ball, it would have been at an angle prohibiting a strong throw.
The Twins put runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the inning when Carlos Correa grounded to third. Devers fielded the ball and casually trotted to third for a force, believing it was the third out.
The ball was hit sharply enough for a double play had Devers been paying attention instead of turning toward the dugout.
“One hundred percent,” manager Alex Cora said.
His mistake didn’t prove costly when Kepler was retired on a fly ball to deep center. But that’s not the point as far as Cora is concerned.
“For me, I took pride in all that stuff [as a player],” he said. “Sometimes I feel like it’s on us as coaches; it’s on me as a manager. It’s been happening too much.”
Plays like that have been all too frequent for the Sox. The fundamental aspects of baseball have eluded them at different points of the season.
“It has happened a lot. We talk about it,” Cora said. “They’re professionals they understand. They’re humans, too, and they make mistakes.
“But, from my end, I take it personally. We take a lot of pride in this. It’s a reflection of who we are. When people watch that, it’s our team.”
Verdugo and Devers are veteran players. What can a manager do in these cases?
“Just keep talking,” Cora said. “Raffy knows he made a mistake. I understand. I make mistakes managing the game. But at the same time, we’re better than this. We are much better.
“It’s OK to lose games. But the way sometimes we lose games, it’s not acceptable.”
At 62-67 with losses in six of their last eight games, the Sox don’t seem much better.
Rookie righthander Bryan Bello (0-4) pitched into the fifth inning and walked the first two batters, seeding the game-winning rally for the Twins. He walked off the field shouting into his glove, a lesson learned.
“I needed to attack the zone and throw strikes,” Bello said via a translator. “I’m learning a ton with every start. I was pretty upset. I was controlling the game to that point.”
Bello made the best start of his fledgling major league career last Wednesday, allowing two runs over five innings against Toronto and striking out seven.
It was more of the same for three innings on Monday as the 23-year-old didn’t allow a run.
The Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. Jake Cave delivered a sacrifice fly to right field, but Bello held it there in what was a 29-pitch inning.
Bello walked Luis Arraez and Carlos Correa on 10 pitches to open the bottom of the fifth. Cora went to Matt Strahm, who got two outs but also walked Juan Miranda to load the bases.
The next reliever was John Schreiber, usually a late-inning option. He allowed a three-run double by Gio Urshela on a two-strike slider that was down in the strike zone.
But Urshela was able to go the other way and line it into the right field corner.
With a well-rested bullpen, Cora wanted Schreiber for just one out and it backfired.
Bello was charged with three runs on five hits over five innings. He walked three and struck out two. He has a 7.27 earned run average in seven games, five of them starts.
Twins starter Dylan Bundy allowed nine hits over 4⅔ innings but only two runs. Verdugo (third inning) and Reese McGuire (fourth inning) had RBI doubles.
The Sox stranded four runners in scoring position over the first five innings, missing several chances to knock Bundy out of the game earlier.
Minnesota’s bullpen worked 4⅓ innings, allowing one hit and striking out six.