- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Andrew Miller folded his 6-foot-7 frame in half as he crouched on his haunches in foul territory beyond the third-base line, staring out toward left field.
Most of his Red Sox teammates had already disappeared down the dugout steps toward the clubhouse after Thursday afternoon’s 4-3, 10-inning loss. Only the Minnesota Twins lingered, reluctant to end Aaron Hicks’ first walkoff dance any sooner than they had to.
Miller ignored the celebration. But even he knew that no matter how hard he stared, the ball was still going to drop in front of left-fielder Grady Sizemore, and Kurt Suzuki would gallop home, and Miller would be left with the burden of two walkoff losses in the span of three games.
It’s not what the Red Sox reliever had envisioned when he launched a full-count fastball, the pitch upon which he and catcher David Ross had agreed just seconds earlier, the ball running in on Hicks and jamming him, connecting not with the sweet spot of the bat but the handle, but with enough contact to send the ball caterwauling over the infield.
“What I saw," Miller said afterward, “what I envisioned behind me, I thought it was an out. Pretty disappointing. It wasn’t a loud crack of the bat."
It might as well have been a thunderclap. Sizemore, who had just entered the game as a pinch runner the previous inning, was not playing a shallow left field, and made the calculation that he would not arrive in time to make the catch. The ball found a welcoming patch of grass, Sizemore fielded it on the hop, and his tepid throw home arrived long after midnight for the Red Sox, even if it was the middle of the afternoon.
“It stinks," said Miller, who had taken a step toward the showers, still in uniform, but returned to his locker when he saw reporters closing in on him. “I feel like I feel good out there, but I blew two games. I lost two games in the series with my name attached to it, so it stinks."
Tuesday night, Miller had struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up a two-out single to Suzuki, setting up Chris Parmelee to unload a two-run, walkoff home run.
Thursday afternoon, Miller entered after Will Middlebrooks, with the Sox down to their final out in regulation, tied the score with a two-run single in the top of the ninth. He breezed through the bottom of the ninth on six pitches, and had one out in the 10th before that man Suzuki got him again, this time with a double over the head of Middlebrooks after Miller had fallen behind, 2 and 0.
Miller blew away Parmelee in the rematch on three pitches, Parmelee waving at a two-strike slider, and had Hicks 2-and-2 when he threw another slider, a good one, that Hicks, a .161 hitter, managed to lay off. Ross went to the mound for a conference, and prevailed upon Miller to throw a fastball.
“The guy [Ross] knows what he’s doing," Miller said. “I’m going to take it and execute it. I had 100 percent confidence when I threw it.
“Like I said, he hit it off the handle. If he hits it off the barrel, he probably hits it right to Grady."
Instead, Hicks, a 24-year-old outfielder with the pedigree of a first-round draft pick (2008) but still struggling to show he belongs, had the first walkoff hit of his career. It was also his first hit in 12 at-bats this season with two outs and runners in scoring position.
“I haven’t seen the location," Miller said, “but I was happy with the contact. Every pitch you throw, you try to get bad contact. I threw a fastball in, tried to jam the guy, jammed him, and it just fell down."
3dTony Lee, Special to ESPN.com