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Red Sox look to stay hot, turn to Michael Wacha vs. Twins

Apr 16, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story (10) throws over Minnesota Twins first baseman Miguel Sano (22) during the third inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox look for their fourth win in five games as they host the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon.

Boston pitched its first shutout of the young season and evened the four-game series with Saturday’s 4-0 win. Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts hit two-run home runs to account for all the offense in support of Tanner Houck, who pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings.

The Sox have hit multiple homers in back-to-back games after being held to one or fewer in their first six. Verdugo has left the yard in each game against Minnesota.

“Just experience and trying to get certain pitches,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said, has helped Verdugo hit for more power. “He’s more mature and he’s a little bit stronger this year. … As long as he stays ‘humble,’ there’s no problem with that. So far, he’s staying humble.”

Michael Wacha (0-0, 2.08 ERA) is set for his first Red Sox home start. He allowed one run on two hits and three walks while striking out four in a 4 1/3-inning no-decision last Monday in Detroit.

Wacha, who has a 2-1 record, 5.71 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17 1/3 career innings against Minnesota, looks to follow up Houck’s excellent Saturday outing.

“They showed some discipline early on, but in the end it was weak contact,” Cora said of what led to outs on Saturday. “(Houck) was able to give us 5 2/3 and just passed the baton to the bullpen to finish it.”

In the most recent of Wacha’s three career starts (two last season) against Minnesota, he fanned seven over six innings of two-run ball in a Sept. 3 win. Prior to 2021, he hasn’t faced the Twins since 2015 with St. Louis.

The Twins will start Bailey Ober (1-0, 7.20 ERA), who got his second MLB season off to a winning start after throwing five innings of four-run ball in last Sunday’s 10-4 home win over Seattle.

Ober allowed all four runs in the third inning — including three on a Mitch Haniger home run — and bounced back to put up zeroes in the fourth and fifth.

“(He) fought through the start, which was great to see, and he (got) us through five on a day where he threw probably a handful of pitches that he didn’t want to throw or were maybe a tick off,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “… You add that all together, I consider that a really good start.”

Baldelli will need Ober to do the same after Sonny Gray left Saturday’s start with right hamstring tightness in the third inning. The injury is not expected to be severe.

Ober, who was 3-3 with a 4.19 ERA in 20 starts for Minnesota last season, was outstanding during his only career start against Boston last Aug. 25. He shut out the Red Sox over five innings of four-hit ball with seven strikeouts at Fenway Park.

Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli said that an MRI of center fielder Byron Buxton’s sore right knee didn’t reveal any structural damage. Buxton left Friday’s series opener after coming up awkwardly on a slide into second base.

“Relatively positive news on Buck,” said Baldelli, who expects Buxton to travel to Kansas City for the Twins’ next series. “… We’re still going to take some time over the next couple of days to continue to assess him.”

–Field Level Media