Offense knuckles under vs. Wright

Offense knuckles under vs. Wright

BOSTON -- For as rough as this season has been for the Twins, they've been playing better baseball in recent weeks, as they entered Thursday's game against the Red Sox having won 10 of their last 15 games.

But it wasn't pretty in a 13-2 loss in the series opener at Fenway Park, as Tyler Duffey lasted a season-worst 2 1/3 innings, while Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright stymied the offense for eight strong innings. It marked Minnesota's first loss by more than five runs since June 17, when it lost by six to the Yankees.

"It got ugly," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We hadn't had a game like that in a while. We've been competing every day, so you just have to turn the page."

The Twins will be happy not to see Wright again this season, as the knuckleballer has been lights out against them in his two starts, allowing one earned run in 15 1/3 innings. He scattered four hits and struck out nine while walking one to get his 12th win. Wright threw 80 knuckleballs of his 108 pitches, and he clearly fooled Twins hitters, getting 14 swings and misses on his knuckler.

"The knuckleballer was good," Molitor said. "We just didn't have a lot of offense to muster up. He had the lead and you knew he was going to ride it out for a while."

Rookie Max Kepler, who hit the go-ahead homer in the ninth inning of Wednesday's win over the Tigers, picked up two hits against Wright, including Minnesota's first of the game with one out in the fifth. Molitor continues to be impressed by Kepler's approach, but he added it's hard to glean too much off his success against Wright, especially considering he's one of two knuckleballers in the league along with Toronto's R.A. Dickey.

"It's hard to gauge against a knuckleballer, but I'm glad he did well," Molitor said. "He fought off that two-strike pitch to left to get us in the hit column. The one he hit to center field, he hit well and stayed inside it. He just missed one to right field in his last at-bat. So he's doing well."

The offense, though, was also put in an early hole, which didn't help matters, as Duffey gave up a homer to Mookie Betts on his first pitch, and was lifted with Minnesota down, 6-0, in the third. Wright was able to cruise from there, and it became apparent Boston was headed toward a blowout victory.

"Giving up a first-pitch home run never puts a good taste in your mouth," Duffey said. "I was ahead of a lot of guys, but I just didn't put them away. Just get through some innings was all I was trying to do. I tried to get us deep, but I couldn't get guys out."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.