Rincon stranded a runner at second base in the seventh and Nathan retired the final three batters after a leadoff double in the ninth, preserving the Twins’ 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night.
“No matter where you go in the major leagues, you’re going to find solid lineups,” said Nathan, who got his 20th save in 21 chances. “These guys are definitely up there among the best.”
One part of that lineup, second baseman Pokey Reese, partially tore a ligament in his left thumb but won’t need surgery and could play again by the weekend, Red Sox team physician Dr. Bill Morgan said.
Reese was hurt while diving for a grounder in the second inning. Luis Rivas got a single on the play.
“I’m trying to stop it from getting to the outfield,” said Reese, who left the game after the bottom of the second. “It’s just the way I play.”
In the past two weeks, Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon came off the disabled list for the first time this season. Third baseman Bill Mueller still is sidelined but may be back before the All-Star break.
First-place Minnesota moved two games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Boston has lost three of four and five of its last eight.
Then Rincon held an opponent scoreless for the 17th time in 18 appearances and Nathan did the same for the 27th in 28 chances.
“Our bullpen had a bad game yesterday, but they’ve been doing a very good job,” Silva said.
On Wednesday, Rincon retired all five batters he faced after Silva left following a double by Jason Varitek in the seventh. Nathan allowed a leadoff double in the ninth by Garciaparra before retiring Nixon on a popup and Kevin Millar and Varitek on groundouts.
“The chance of this offense scoring two runs isn’t very good,” said Derek Lowe (6-6), who hadn’t allowed an earned run in 18 innings coming in.
Lowe pitched well after allowing three runs in the first on singles by Cristian Guzman, Doug Mientkiewicz and Lew Ford and consecutive forceouts. Corey Koskie started the sixth with a double and Hunter hit his 10th homer.
Those were the first two fly balls against the sinkerballer.
“In my career, I’ve never been able to hit a fly ball off him ,” Hunter said. “He’s a ground-ball pitcher. All you can do is try to get under it.”
Nixon pulled the Red Sox within two in the seventh when he hit his third homer since he was activated June 16.
Silva allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. He was 2-4 in his previous eight starts after opening the season at 5-0 in his first six.
Garciaparra went 1-for-4 and is 11-for-43 (.256) since returning. … The Red Sox were hurt by two double plays—one by Manny Ramirez with runners at first and third in the first and the other by Johnny Damon with runners at first and second in the fifth. … Boston’s opponents have three errors in their last 12 games—Minnesota hasn’t made any in the first two games of theseries.