The Red Sox are after a winning streak in Minnesota, with Josh Beckett facing Nick Blackburn in the second of this three game series.
While the Red Sox finally snapped their losing streak last night, it came only with the help of Daniel Bard out of the bullpen. With Bard having informed the team he doesn't feel comfortable pitching back-to-back nights after avoiding those situations in the spring, and his next scheduled start coming on Friday, it seems highly unlikely he'll be making any such appearances tonight.
Can Josh Beckett keep providing scoreless innings? Can the Red Sox keep scoring runs? Is there any lead large enough for the bullpen?
We'll keep you up to date as the Sox hope to answer all those questions in the affirmative.
Red Sox 11, Twins 2, Final -- And the Red Sox win! Matt Albers gives up a one-out double, but nine runs, shockingly, is too wide of a gap to cover in the ninth. Even against this pen.
Red Sox 11, Twins 2, Mid 9th -- Mike Aviles records his fourth hit of the night--a single--in an otherwise quiet top of the ninth.
Red Sox 11, Twins 2, End 8th -- Scott Atchison makes quick work of the Twins in the bottom half of the eighth, striking out Joe Mauer and Clete Thomas before inducing a ground ball to Lars Anderson off the bat of Justin Morneau for out number three.
Red Sox 11, Twins 2, Mid 8th -- Jeff Gray is out of the game, and the Red Sox are back to scoring, with some replacements providing some help in the attack. Lars Anderson started things off with a single into left, and then moved along to second on David Ortiz' walk, and third on Nick Punto's. Darnell McDonald would end up with the RBI on a ground out.
Red Sox 10, Twins 2, End 7th -- Scott Atchison enters the game in the seventh after Beckett reached 100 pitches in the sixth, and gives the Sox a refreshingly clean inning of relief, striking out Denard Span in the process.
Red Sox 10, Twins 2, Mid 7th -- Jeff Gray continues to roll, retiring Kelly Shoppach and Mike Aviles with strikeouts before inducing a fly ball from Ryan Sweeney to close out his second 1-2-3 inning.
Aviles' strikeout, for what it's worth, may not have been a strikeout. The Sox continue to have arguments with home plate ump Adrian Johnson, who called Mike Aviles out on a check swing that may not have been without checking down to first.
Red Sox 10, Twins 2, End 6th -- Josh Beckett is just getting stronger now, striking out the side on 15 pitches. Gone are the difficulties of putting batters away with two strikes, clearly.
Red Sox 10, Twins 2, Mid 6th -- Minnesota has its first scoreless inning since the second, courtesy of Jeff Gray, who gets Kevin Youkilis, Cody Ross, and Marlon Byrd in order.
Red Sox 10, Twins 2, End 5th -- The Twins finally get to Josh Beckett again in the fifth, putting together a pair of doubles--a blooper to left that Mike Aviles couldn't make the basket catch on to lead the inning off, and a ground ball down the third base line with two outs--to push their second run across. Still, Beckett is through five on 85 pitches with some decent results so far.
Red Sox 10, Twins 1, Mid 5th -- The Sox send seven more men to the plate in the fifth, and add three runs to their tally to take it into double digits. Marlon Byrd continues to reach base after his change-of-scenery trade from Chicago, and now has just as many hits in a Sox uniform as he'd had in Chicago to start the year after a leadoff single. Kelly Shoppach would strike out behind him, but Mike Aviles came through with his third hit of the night, doubling to left to bring Byrd in to score. Two more doubles would come from Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez, adding another pair of runs before the frame was over.
Red Sox 7, Twins 1, End 4th -- Another compact 8-pitch inning leaves Josh Beckett poised to go at least into the sixth barring a meltdown. Quite the bounce back given how poorly things started for him in his three-walk first.
Red Sox 7, Twins 1, Mid 4th -- Nick Blackburn is out of the game, but Matt Maloney is faring little better against the Red Sox than his starting counterpart. Mike Aviles gave him a rude welcome to the game by wrapping a solo shot around the left field foul pole (why was he bunting?!). Ryan Sweeney kept it rolling with a double to center, and then scored on a one-out single from Adrian Gonzalez to make it 7-1.
Red Sox 5, Twins 1, End 3rd -- Beckett found himself in trouble again after Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham singled and doubled with one out, but managed to escape unharmed. A line drive from Justin Morneau found its way right into Mike Aviles' glove for the second out, and while Marlon Byrd almost played a weak fly into a hit, he recovered in time to record the all-important third out.
Red Sox 5, Twins 1, Mid 3rd -- Nick Blackburn, as a rule, throws pitches that can be hit. David Ortiz, as a rule, hits pitches. Put these two together, and you get perhaps the loudest homer of the season for the Red Sox, as Papi loses one into the stands in right with Adrian Gonzalez already on base via a walk. Cody Ross almost added another shot, and Marlon Byrd singled as the Sox keep plugging away at Blackburn.
Red Sox 3, Twins 1, End 2nd -- A blissfully short bottom of the second for Josh Beckett, who elevates with a fastball to strike Chris Parmelee out on four pitches, and needs just five more to retire the side. The pitch count is still way too high, but it's not quite as bad as it was.
Red Sox 3, Twins 1, Mid 2nd -- A puzzling bunt disrupts what could have been a good inning for the Red Sox. With Kelly Shoppach leading the frame off with a double, the Sox were 6-for-9 against Nick Blackburn the first time through the lineup. Given that Mike Aviles started it all off with a double, it makes not a lick of sense that he then squared around to bunt Shoppach to third.
Now with an out in his pocket, Blackburn managed to get Sweeney to ground out to first with the infield in, and then got Dustin Pedroia to do the same to short to end the inning.
Red Sox 3, Twins 1, End 1st -- Josh Beckett allowed just the one run, but after 37 harrowing pitches you would be forgiven for thinking the Twins had taken a lead.
Taking a different approach from Blackburn, Beckett chose just to walk his baserunners. After giving up a leadoff single to Denard Span, Beckett would nearly get two outs from a Jamey Carroll ground ball, and then got ahead of the next three batters 0-2, 1-2, and 0-2.
All three walked, bringing a run in. While Josh Beckett did plenty of shouting at the home plate umpire on close pitches, the fact is Beckett just couldn't put guys away with shaky off-speed stuff. He's lucky to have escaped with just the one run in, as Ryan Doumit struck out and Danny Valencia grounded to third.
Red Sox 3, Twins 0, Mid 1st -- The Sox make their way through nearly their whole lineup in the top of the first, scoring three runs with Mike Aviles' leadoff double the only extra-base hit involved. Ryan Sweeney would score him with a single in the Sox' second at bat of the night, and after Dustin Pedroia grounded out, it was off to the races. Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and Kevin Youkilis each recording singles, loading the bases and bringing home another run.
Unfortunately, the Sox would only manage to score one of their remaining baserunners, with Cody Ross hitting a weak dribbler to first base that thankfully was too slow to provide a double play ball. Marlon Byrd grounded out to third to end the threat. Still, another good start for the Sox.