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Red Sox 1, Twins 2: The bats go quiet at the worst possible time

The Red Sox waste a big night on the mound for Nathan Eovaldi and the bullpen.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox had a chance to grab a series victory despite dropping a frustrating opener on Tuesday, and they got a big performance from Nathan Eovaldi and the defense in their quest to do so. The righty wasn’t perfect and Red Sox pitching allowed a ton of walks throughout the night, but they continuously found ways to get out of it. They only allowed two runs in the game, and with the way Boston’s bats have been going that’s generally more than enough to win. The Red Sox offense was totally shut down, though, managing only two hits on the night, both from Mookie Betts. The end result was another disappointing, gut-punchy loss and another lost opportunity to stay in the wildcard race.

In the rubber match of this series between the Red Sox and Twins, it was fair to expect a whole lot of offense. Both of these teams have deep and powerful lineups. We know what the Red Sox have done with the bats this year, and the Twins have already set the single-season home run record with about a month of baseball left to be played. On top of that, both teams were starting inconsistent pitchers in Nathan Eovaldi and Martín Pérez. Both guys have the potential to be outstanding on any given night, but it hardly would have been unthinkable to favor the offenses on both sides of this game before things got started.

As you can probably guess from the tone of that little preamble, however, that’s not how things played out. This one was a pure pitcher’s duel early on with both starters dominating their conversation. Eovaldi was riding high heading into this game coming off his best start of the season and looking to carry the momentum over against this scary Twins lineup.

The first inning is always a key for a pitcher, especially for a guy like Eovaldi who seems to let poor command snowball as outings go on. Fortunately, he got off to a strong start. Luis Arraez did smack a single in the second at bat of the game, but that was immediately followed by a double play from Nelson Cruz to end the inning. That double play was one for the defense, with Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt pulling off a nifty turn to complete it.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Eovaldi really settled in for a few innings after that. He struck out two and only allowed a walk in the second before retiring six in a row in back-to-back perfect innings in the third and fourth.

On the other side, the Red Sox struggled to get anything going early against Pérez. The lefty’s numbers don’t look good this year, but he’s had a strange season with some really good starts and some really bad ones taking his numbers down with them. This one was one of the former. Boston went down in order in each of the first three innings, with Sam Travis coming closest to a hit. Even that one was just a slow roller on which Miguel Sanó made a great play.

As we entered the bottom of the fourth, the pressure seemed to be mounting for the Red Sox offense to not waste such a strong effort from Eovaldi. Mookie Betts apparently got the memo. After getting ahead 2-0, Betts got a fastball on the outer half of the plate and poked it off Pesky’s Pole in right field for a solo homer. Just like that, the perfect game, no-hitter and shutout were all broken up with one swing of the bat, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

Now, Eovaldi came back out for the fifth looking for a shutdown inning to keep momentum on Boston’s side. He did not get off to the start he was looking for. After his command had looked so solid all night, he lost the zone in the fifth and walked each of the first three batters he faced. With the bases loaded and nobody out, it looked like it was going to be a rough inning where the Twins could build a big lead. Instead, they got one run on a double play, a trade off the Red Sox will take ten times out of ten. Eovaldi then got a fly ball to right field to end the inning, and while the score was tied it was certainly a victory considering the start.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

That would mark the end of the night for Eovaldi, with Marcus Walden coming in to the tie game in the sixth. He issued a one-out walk, but once again the Red Sox were able to turn a double play — their third of the game — and the righty faced only three in the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox gave themselves a chance to take the lead back with a two-out rally. Betts was once again at the center of it, kicking things off with a double out to left-center field. Xander Bogaerts would follow that up with a walk, and both runners moved up a base when Pérez inexplicably tried to pick Betts off at second and threw it into center field. That gave Rafael Devers a big chance with a pair in scoring position, but he hit a weak ground ball to first base to strand the runners and keep the score tied at one.

Andrew Cashner would then get the call for the Red Sox in the top of the seventh, and after a quick first out he’d walk the next two he faced. He came back with a big strikeout after that, but then walked yet another batter and Matt Barnes was called in with the bases full and two outs in a tie game. He got to two strikes against pinch hitter Willians Astudillo, but when he tried to sneak a high fastball by him for strike three Astudillo poked a base hit into right field, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead. Barnes did come back with a strikeout to end the inning, but the Red Sox offense now had three innings to get going.

They did not get the job done in the seventh, going down 1-2-3 in part thanks to a great diving catch from Jake Cave in center field. Barnes came back out and followed that up with a 1-2-3 inning of his own in the top of the eighth, but the offense went down in order yet again in the bottom of the frame.

Colten Brewer then came on for the ninth, and while a couple Twins got on with a walk and an error on Mitch Moreland, the Red Sox got yet another double play to escape the inning without damage.

That left it all up to the top of the lineup to score at least one with Sergio Romo coming on for Minnesota. Betts started out with a pop out to first base that almost dropped over the glove of C.J. Cron for the first out. Bogaerts would then follow that up with a little base hit out to left field, putting the tying run on base. The Twins would then bring in lefty Taylor Rogers to face Devers. He would nearly end the game on a double play, but hustled down the line to keep the night alive for J.D. Martinez. The slugger got a hold of one and put it off the wall in left field, and Devers tried to get around from first to score. Eddie Rosario threw a bullet in from left, though, and easily got the runner on a one-hopped throw to end the game. Just an absolute gut-punch of an ending.

The Red Sox now stay at home for a big four-game series against the Yankees starting Friday night. Boston has to go with a bullpen game after David Price was scratched, while the Yankees send Domingo Germán to the mound. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.