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Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Phil Hughes fires one in against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Elise Amendola, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

Boston’s Dustin Pedroia called for time out after sliding in safely on a double as second baseman Brian Dozier tried to tag him.

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Hughes sharp but lack of offense leads to another loss

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • June 18, 2014 - 6:31 AM

– A couple of excruciating offensive droughts ended for the Twins in Fenway Park on Tuesday night. But the most painful one remains: They’ve lost four games in a row.

Jon Lester became the latest starting pitcher to suffocate the Minnesota offense, and Phil Hughes became the latest Twins starter to suffer a loss he didn’t deserve, as the Red Sox picked up a 2-1 victory. That’s three runs allowed by the Twins in two games in Boston’s century-old bandbox, and they have nothing to show for it but a record that’s now a season-worst five games below .500.

“Giving up two runs in this ballpark, you can’t ask for much more than that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We need to knock in some runs.”

Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester prevented it, even after the Twins forced him to throw 33 pitches in the first inning. But the Twins came away empty, and Lester had little trouble thereafter, cruising to his eighth win of the season while allowing only four hits in 6⅓ innings. His lone hiccup: a pair of doubles in the sixth inning that cut his 2-0 lead in half.

For the Twins, that rally was significant because it’s become so rare. Danny Santana led off by hitting a hot smash down the left-field line for two bases, his second hit of the game. Brian Dozier, in a 3-for-24 slump since leaving Target Field, sacrificed Santana to third, and Joe Mauer followed with a line drive that left fielder Jonny Gomes dived for, but couldn’t catch.

“The way it’s been going lately, I’m glad he didn’t,” Mauer said. “I saw I had good numbers against [Lester] before, but I don’t know how, to be honest.”

Mauer’s double scored Santana, breaking a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings for the Twins. And it represented the first run that Mauer has driven in since May 27, a drought of 18 games and 79 at-bats.

“Whether they’re on base or not, it hasn’t been too [good] lately,” Mauer said.

The inning ended when Lester got Josh Willingham to pop up and Kendrys Morales to ground out, and the Twins never advanced another runner as far as second base.

The night goes down as the first time all season that Hughes has made a quality start and taken a loss anyway. He dropped his ERA to a season-low 3.09, yet fell to 7-3 on the season after allowing two runs on eight hits over eight innings.

Brock Holt, the Red Sox’ recent phenom, was the man most responsible. Holt led off the first inning with a single, moved up on a ground out, and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s ­double to left-center.

Two innings later, Holt — playing center field after Boston designated for assignment veteran Grady Sizemore earlier in the day — doubled off the wall in left. He stole third base, then scored on Xander Bogaerts’ ­sacrifice fly.

Hughes didn’t allow another run, and didn’t allow a walk for the third consecutive start and ninth time this season. And he received the ultimate compliment from manager Ron Gardenhire in the eighth inning when — though he had surpassed 100 pitches and given up two hits — Hughes was allowed to face David Ortiz for the fourth time.

Or maybe he talked his way into staying in the game. “I was kind of caught up in the moment,” Hughes said, “and Andy might have been a little scared of me, I don’t know.”

Anderson agreed:

“He would probably have pinched my head off” if he had been removed. But Hughes stayed in, decided against walking Ortiz to face Mike Napoli, and got Ortiz to reach harmlessly for an outside cutter, popping it to left.

A small victory. One that unfortunately doesn’t register in the standings.

“It’s a tough thing to lose a game when you throw that way,” Anderson said. “But he’s using all his pitches. It’s really fun to watch him grow.”

© 2014 Star Tribune