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Travis Shaw hits new low in Red Sox's loss

MINNEAPOLIS -- Regrets? Yeah, the Boston Red Sox had a few -- more than enough to mention, actually -- after getting walked off by the lowly Minnesota Twins, 7-4, in 10 innings here Sunday.

  • Red-hot shortstop Xander Bogaerts regretted a pair of uncharacteristic errors, including a low throw that first baseman Hanley Ramirez was unable to scoop in the sixth inning. Both miscues led to Twins runs and proved, in Bogaerts' words, "I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, too. If I make that third out right there, the chances that we win is pretty big."

  • Hard-throwing reliever Matt Barnes regretted throwing a two-strike fastball over the plate, instead of up and in, to Twins rookie Max Kepler, who launched it to dead center for his first career homer. More that that, though, Barnes regretted the leadoff walk to Joe Mauer -- "Especially up 0-1 [in the count]," he said -- that started the winning rally. "I've walked more people this year than I would've liked," Barnes added, "and they always seem to come around and bite me in the butt."

  • The highest-scoring offense in the majors regretted a 1-for-10 outage with runners in scoring position. After outscoring the Twins by a 23-5 margin in the series' first two games, the Red Sox missed out on what should've been a slam-dunk sweep by stranding five runners in the last four innings.

And then there's third baseman Travis Shaw, who punctuated a 1-for-17 road trip by bunting into a double play to crush a potential rally in the ninth inning.

The idea that Shaw would be bunting in the first place was a testament to how badly he has been struggling. He didn't start the game, manager John Farrell opting for Josh Rutledge against Twins left-hander Pat Dean, a Boston College product who yielded one run on three hits in six innings. And although Farrell wouldn't say the Red Sox will move to a strict platoon at third base, he also can't ignore Shaw's numbers against lefties: 6-for-42 (.143) with 14 strikeouts.

"Lefties have given him something to contend with," Farrell said. "He's been pitched to here."

Farrell brought Shaw off the bench in the seventh inning to face right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen, Minnesota's erstwhile closer. Shaw struck out with two runners on base, stayed in the game at third base, then came up again in the ninth against hard-throwing lefty Fernando Abad.

Shaw had never before been asked to bunt in the big leagues. Asked later if he could recall the last time he got a bunt sign, Shaw said flatly, "No." But given the matchup and the situation (runner on first, nobody out), Farrell directed Shaw to drop one down.

"That's something we don't typically call on for him," Farrell said. "But the way he's swinging the bat of late, looking to move a runner."

Said Shaw: "I mean, I can understand it. I don't think I got a hit the whole road trip. It's a decent spot to do it. I've still got to execute."

Instead, Shaw bunted the ball back to Abad, who turned and threw to second base to start a double play.

It was a new low for Shaw, who was batting .329 on May 17 but is stuck in a 15-for-90 funk that has dropped his average to .266 and his on-base percentage to .322. He has one homer and only seven extra-base hits in his last 95 plate appearances, his first significant slump since beating out $95 million veteran Pablo Sandoval for the third-base job in spring training and one of his few prolonged dry spells since making his big-league debut last summer.

"Just not swinging at good pitches," Shaw said. "Chasing a lot of elevated fastballs and swinging at a lot of sliders out of the zone. Nothing mechanical. Mainly pitch selection."

Indeed, Farrell said the Red Sox have noticed "some definitive attack plans" against Shaw, including pounding fastballs inside early in the count to speed up Shaw's bat before getting him out with offspeed stuff. Other times, pitchers are getting Shaw to simply chase high heat.

"That’s the book that’s out on him right now," Farrell said. "We also know that in his past coming to the big-league level there has been stretches where he might go through some swing-and-miss stretches."

Coupled with first baseman Hanley Ramirez's month-long downturn (he hasn't homered since May 10, a span of 124 plate appearances), there's suddenly little protection for cleanup-hitting David Ortiz, who figures to see fewer fastballs if Ramirez and Shaw aren't posing as much of a threat.

Needless to say, Shaw will be happy to see Fenway Park this week. He's a .313 career hitter with a .940 OPS at home compared with .223 with a .660 OPS on the road.

Regardless, though, Shaw will need to prove once again that he can make adjustments as he goes through the league. Earlier this season, Shaw impressed his teammates and coaches by recognizing a troublesome trend in which he appeared vulnerable to inside fastballs early in the count and doing a better job of anticipating those pitches. Now, he must do it again.

Otherwise, Shaw will regret more than merely a botched bunt on a Sunday in June.