Baseball is full of complex statistics, but the math on this one is fairly simple: 2-2=0. Take an offense with only two dynamic hitters, subtract both of them because of injury, and the result is exactly what you would expect: zero chance of winning.
Eddie Rosario’s sore shoulder kept him out of the lineup, Eduardo Escobar’s elbow — after being bruised by a first-inning Rick Porcello fastball — knocked him out of the game, and the rest of the Twins managed only four hits Thursday in a 9-2 loss to the Red Sox at Target Field.
Porcello “threw the ball well. He had a lot of stuff working,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But you know, the guys who go out there have to try to find a way to get it done.”
None of them could, at least not until the game had turned from mismatch to farce. Logan Morrison pushed a single into left field in the first inning, and Ryan LaMarre beat out an infield hit in the eighth. In between? Plenty of peace and quiet while the 32,631 in attendance wondered where the Twins’ offense went.
Mostly, it was in the trainer’s room. Molitor scratched Rosario from the lineup 90 minutes before first pitch, when he was informed that his hottest hitter was nursing a sore throwing shoulder, a minor injury that the Twins are determined not to allow to become major. And when Escobar used his right forearm to block a pitch he feared was headed for his head, the major league extra-base-hit leader was able to remain in the game only two more innings.
“He’s sore and swollen. It got the bottom of the triceps more than the elbow,” Molitor said of Escobar, who after the game displayed a dark bruise with the baseball’s stitching visible. “He gave it a go, but you could tell he was having trouble swinging in that second at-bat.”
It was worse than that, actually, Escobar said. “I wanted to stay in there for my teammates,” he said, “but I couldn’t throw the ball when we went out the next inning to warm up.”
Without that duo atop the batting order, the Twins’ offense worked like a flashlight without batteries.
Porcello overpowered the Twins with two-seam fastballs to retire the last 16 hitters he faced. He struck out five over seven innings to record his seventh career victory at Target Field. That ties Porcello with his former Tigers teammate Justin Verlander for most wins by a visiting pitcher in the stadium’s nine-year history.
“We tried our best,” Kyle Gibson said, “and unfortunately we just couldn’t get anything going.”
His day was the biggest casualty of that short-circuit, because Gibson — asked to fight with virtually no ammunition — somehow manage to make the Twins competitive while he was in the game. Working with virtually no margin for error, the righthander had only one inning among his six without a baserunner and he walked three Red Sox, but he continually worked out of trouble. A two-out single off Joe Mauer’s glove in the fourth inning by Sandy Leon scored a run, and Mookie Betts belted his 19th home run to lead off the fifth inning.
“Betts likes to take a lot of first pitches, and then once in awhile he ambushes,” Molitor said. “He got [Gibson] that time.”
Despite it all, Gibson still lowered his ERA to 3.25 and turned in his fifth quality start in his past six games. The fact that the Twins have won only two of them is directly attributable to this fact: The Twins have scored one or two runs in the other four.
And once he departed, Boston took out two days’ worth of frustration on the Twins’ bullpen, scoring in every Gibson-less inning. Andrew Benintendi homered, Xander Bogaerts had a two-run double, and the Red Sox took a 9-0 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. Mitch Garver and Brian Dozier combined to produce two way-too-late runs (which scored on a groundout and a flyout, naturally), but the Twins finished with fewer than a half-dozen hits for the fourth time this month.