The Minnesota Twins are one of the few teams in the American League without a sliver of hope of appearing in the postseason.
They arrived at Fenway Park trailing by 13 games in their division and 12 in the wild-card race. No team in the league had been outscored by more runs and only the Royals had a worse record.
So what does it say about the Red Sox that they were beaten by the Twins, 5-0, on Thursday night and held to two hits, both by Adrian Gonzalez?
It’s yet another sign the Sox will be watching the playoffs at home for the third straight season unless something changes soon.
The Sox did not advance a runner beyond second base, getting stuffed by little-known starter Samuel Deduno and two relievers. The two hits matched their fewest this season and the last 10 Red Sox hitters went in order.
“Just didn’t have our offense tonight,” manager Bobby Valentine said.
At 53-53, the Red Sox are back at .500 for the 16th time. At least they’re consistent.
Jon Lester fell to 5-9, giving up three runs on seven hits over eight innings. He struck out seven without a walk and pitched well enough to win on most nights.
“Jon pitched great, offense stunk,” Dustin Pedroia said. “There’s no more [expletive] questions or anything. You don’t have to ask anybody else. Jon pitched great; we stunk.”
The Sox are 8-14 in the games Lester has started and he has not won consecutive decisions since May 14 and 19. Some of it is bad pitching, but plenty of it is bad luck. Lester has the 11 quality starts and the Sox have lost eight of those games.
“It’s been a tough year for me personally. But nobody in this clubhouse is going to feel sorry for me. Nobody out there is going to feel sorry me,” Lester said. “I’ve got to keep showing up every day and doing my work. That’s all I can control.
“I threw the hell out of the ball tonight. I don’t feel like I’ve thrown the ball that well all year.”
Lester, who threw to rookie Ryan Lavarnway for the first time this season, has pitched better in his last two starts, challenging hitters with his cutter and looking more like the ace he’s supposed to be.
The lefthander has given up seven earned runs over his last 14 innings. This year, at least, that represents progress.
“I’ll keep sticking with the process. It’s been going in the right direction the past two for me. So I’m happy with that,” Lester said. “Obviously the results still aren’t there.”
Denard Span had a double down the line to drive in a run for Minnesota in the third inning. He then scored on a single that just got over the head of shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.
Justin Morneau had a double into the corner in left with two outs in the sixth inning and scored on a double by Ryan Doumit that got between Gonzalez and first base.
Lester left trailing, 3-0. Alfredo Aceves put the game out of reach, giving up a towering two-run home run to Brian Dozier that smacked into one of the billboards above the wall in left.
All four of Minnesota’s run-scoring hits came with two outs.
Prior to this season, Deduno had pitched in six major league games, all in relief, and was not considered much of a prospect.
The 29-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Twins over the winter and spent only a brief time in the major league camp before being assigned to Triple A Rochester.
The Red Sox didn’t know much about him and it showed. Deduno (3-0) walked four and struck out only one, but left six runners stranded.
“It’s the unknown factor. You can only see so much on video until you see him,” Gonzalez said. “Some guys, [the video] doesn’t do their velocity justice.”
Deduno had a 2.14 earned run average in nine starts at Rochester. That included a start at Pawtucket July 2, when Deduno took the loss, giving up two unearned runs on five hits over seven innings.
He didn’t leave much of an impression in that game, apparently, as Lavarnway could not remember facing him.
The Twins, desperate for starters, gave Deduno a shot in their rotation July 7 and he has been a revelation, posting a 2.48 ERA in five starts, with the Twins winning four times. In his last three starts, he has allowed only two earned runs over 19⅓ innings.
The Sox had a chance to take a lead in the first inning when Pedroia and Gonzalez drew two-out walks, but Cody Ross popped to shortstop.
The Sox put two runners on in the fourth when Gonzalez doubled to left and Lavarnway drew a two-out walk. This time, Will Middlebrooks flied to center field.
Gonzalez singled and Ross walked with two outs in the sixth inning. Lavarnway hit the ball hard, but Doumit snapped up his line drive to left.
The Sox have three games remaining with the Twins. They can still win the series and perhaps gain the momentum that has gone missing all season. But with each day that passes, the odds grow longer.
“I don’t think we’re deflated. We’ve been fighting all year. We’ll keep fighting,” Valentine said. “Maybe a little deflated right now. We just got shut out. But I think we’ll also be angry.”