With no margin for error if they are to make the postseason, the Boston Red Sox have all hands on deck.
Right hands, left hands — doesn’t matter as long as they throw. The team is carrying a whopping 21 pitchers on its active roster following a series of promotions Wednesday, and it might need to turn to more than a few in the rubber contest of a three-game series with the visiting Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 6.23 ERA) will get the start for the Red Sox, his fourth since returning to the rotation last month following a stint in the bullpen upon his recovery from elbow surgery.
Eovaldi reached four innings for the first time in his last outing, when he allowed a run on three hits against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
Taking full advantage of the last year of 40-man rosters in September, Boston manager Alex Cora made sure he has plenty of insurance in case Eovaldi falters.
“Obviously it’s not perfect, but our starters are not giving us enough,” Cora said on Wednesday before Eduardo Rodriguez threw seven shutout innings in a 6-2 Boston win.
“Luckily, I work in an organization that, we’re not going to tap out, we’re not going to wave the white flag and we’re going to keep pushing.”
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Left-hander Martin Perez (9-6, 4.89 ERA) will take the mound for the Twins in Thursday’s finale.
Prior to Rodriguez’s gem Wednesday, the Boston rotation ranked 20th in the major leagues with a 5.03 ERA as a group. While the bullpen has been lights out of late and the offense poses an ever-present threat, the struggles of the starting pitching often result in the team playing from behind while it tries to remain relevant in the tightly contested American League wild-card hunt.
Mookie Betts made sure that wasn’t the case in Game 2 against the Twins, homering on the first pitch he saw leading off the first inning and adding a three-run blast on the first pitch he saw in the second. He finished the contest 4-for-5 with five RBIs to highlight Boston’s fifth win in the past seven games.
Minnesota lost for just the second time in 11 games as it remains comfortably ahead of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central standings. The Twins received a scare when Max Kepler, the club’s leader in home runs, exited Wednesday with a chest injury, but manager Rocco Baldelli deemed the move precautionary.
“It was uncomfortable and a little different, something he hasn’t felt much of and really with the explanations that we’re getting, he explained himself and also said, ‘I can stay in the game,'” Baldelli said postgame. “At that point, I thought it was more important to get him off the field and get looked at, but he’s doing fine right now.”
Perez will look to rebound from his last start, when he allowed eight runs (seven earned) in 2 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. The southpaw has fared little better against the Red Sox for his career, going 2-2 with a 5.68 ERA in seven starts.
Eovaldi has faced the Twins six times, all starts, going 3-3 with a 5.50 ERA.