Preview: Twins vs. Red Sox
MINNEAPOLIS — After earning a victory for the first time in 12 starts in his last outing, Minnesota Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson will try to make it two in a row Thursday afternoon as the Twins look to finish off a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Gibson (2-4, 3.27 ERA) threw six shutout innings to earn the win against Baltimore in his season debut but was 0-4 over his next 12 starts despite posting a 3.75 ERA during that stretch as the Twins’ offense struggled to generate run support.
He finally snapped the drought last week, outdueling Cleveland ace Corey Kluber by holding the Indians to a run over seven innings.
“There’s no complaints around here about how Gibby’s been throwing the ball,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Can’t explain some things that happen. For him to go whatever it was, 10 or 11 weeks, as well as he’s been pitching. But we backed him up a little bit, got to a tough pitcher.”
Gibson is 1-2 with a 3.08 ERA in four career starts against Boston.
How Molitor plans to protect any lead Gibson and the lineup can generate remains to be seen.
Molitor has been rotating relievers through late-inning roles after Addison Reed was removed from the setup role to get the right-hander back on track.
Reed has pitched just once since June 10, with right-handers Trevor Hildenberger and Ryan Pressly and left-handers Zach Duke and Taylor Rogers expected to get a chance to bridge the gap to closer Fernando Rodney.
“There’s no question that while we get Reed back to where we want Reed to be, I think he’s getting a little antsy to pitch,” Molitor said. “I’m looking for a chance to get him in there.”
Second baseman Eduardo Nunez will likely be back in Boston manager Alex Cora’s lineup Thursday as the Red Sox look to avoid being swept for the first time this season.
Nunez has seen the bulk of the action at second base with Dustin Pedroia on the disabled list, but Nunez has not produced at the plate or in the field. He is batting .247 with a .625 OPS this season and is last among American League second baseman with minus-10 defensive runs saved.
He took early work at second base ahead of Boston’s game Monday with Pedroia and infield coach Carlos Febles looking on.
“We need this guy to get going,” Cora said. “I saw what he did last year. We know there’s more there.”
Obtained from the San Francisco Giants last July, Nunez batted .321 with an .892 OPS in 38 games after the trade, and the Red Sox signed him to a one-year deal as they prepared to open the season without Pedroia.
“Eduardo is not known for his defense,” Cora admitted. “He’s an offensive player. He’s doing his best. He’s making the routine plays.”
Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.70) gets the start for Boston in the series finale.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA over his last four starts, and he had his string of three straight outings allowing two earned runs halted when the Mariners tagged him for four over six innings in a loss at Seattle on Friday.
Porcello is 10-10 with a 3.90 ERA in 29 career starts against Minnesota, but he has yet to face the Twins this season.