Final, Red Sox 6-4: Well, it wouldn't be a Red Sox game without some intrigue. Vicente Padilla let it get interesting at the end. He gave up two homers — to Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit (Justin Morneau, who walked, also scored a run).
But even Padilla and his erratic ways couldn't derail a persistent Red Sox team today. Alfredo Aceves closed down the Twins on the final three outs to get the Sox on the winner's board at least once in the series.
A bigger test awaits tomorrow, of course. With the Rangers coming into town, the Red Sox need to get their game together, and fast. Another listless series could put this team away from good.
The offense worked very well today, but the key for the Red Sox is still the pitching. Franklin Morales is great in a spot start, but Boston's starters and its bullpen will have to ratchet it up against a great Texas team.
Boston has a couple of things to enjoy after this game. Carl Crawford looked like the Crawford everyone has waited for since he signed with the Sox. And Adrian Gonzalez continues to be solid at the plate. On a day when the Red Sox could have wilted, they showed this team still has fight.
We'll be back tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. for Red Sox Monster Monday, with the Rangers and Red Sox facing off at 7:10.
End 8th, Red Sox 6-1: Ryan Kalish has joined the party. He's got a double and a run scored to his name after Jacoby Ellsbury sent him home on a sacrifice fly. Now it's just up to the Sox to close this one out.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-1: It's been a team effort today for the Red Sox, who are just one frame away from getting out of this one with a win and somewhat salvaging a horrid series.
Craig Breslow got the final out on a bouncer to short, stranding Jamey Carroll on base after Mark Melancon gave up a leadoff double.
4:18 p.m.: Craig Breslow is in for Mark Melancon.
End 7th, Red Sox 5-1: Carl Crawford has fulfilled his birthday expectations.
He now has three hits today plus an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored.
That could have been a bigger inning for the Red Sox, but Ben Revere made a great catch of a long Jarrod Saltalamacchia fly in center, doubling Adrian Gonzalez off second base. Still, the Sox go into the last couple of innings with a nice cushion.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-1: Mark Melancon has picked up where Franklin Morales left off.
Melancon breezed through that inning, working up two groundouts and a strikeout.
The top of the order will be back out for the Sox in the bottom of the seventh, with a chance to score some runs and — more importantly — get primed for what should be a tough series against the Rangers starting tomorrow night.
3:51 p.m.: Mark Melancon is in for relief for the Red Sox.
End 6th, Red Sox 4-1: The Red Sox didn't do any scoring in that frame, but they still had some life.
Will Middlebrooks and Mike Aviles both had hits off new Twins pitcher Jeff Manship. That leaves just Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Kalish as Red Sox players without hits today.
3:39 p.m.: Jeff Manship is in to pitch for the Twins.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-1: Franklin Morales was reportedly on some kind of pitch count, but he came out again for the sixth and looked good doing it.
After key strikeouts early, he's gotten most of his outs in other ways since (just four Ks on the day).
Jacoby Ellsbury polished that inning off with a nice running catch. The flyout was Morales' 106th pitch, so that has to be it for him — but what a day. He did just what the Sox needed all afternoon, and his moderate effectiveness is a far cry from the struggles other Red Sox starters have had this year.
Today may be enough to set up Morales for a prolonged stay in the rotation.
End 5th, Red Sox 4-1: OK, so Red Sox fans are ticked. They're beyond ticked. They're officially abandoning this team and giving up on the season.
But does a home run like that from Adrian Gonzalez change anything? Or is it too little, too late?
Gonzalez has been solid today. He has two hits and three runs batted in, plus a couple of nice defensive plays. But is that moot at this point in the season, where this Red Sox team seems to have officially lost the fans' hearts after its most recent four-game slide?
The Rangers are coming to Fenway Park tomorrow, and they could provide incredible definitive answers. But as for today, is there any joy in a Gonzalez home run into the Monster seats?
(P.S. Cody Ross just got caught off first and run down for an out. If that's not a metaphor for the season….)
Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Mike Aviles covered more ground on that play than he does when legging out a single to first base. That was a masterful scoop, with Aviles coming all of the way from short to moving in front of Dustin Pedroia, then firing a laser to Adrian Gonzalez just in time to catch the runner.
Of all the problems the Red Sox have had this season, defense has not been one. Even on days without highlight-reel plays, the Sox defense does its job. That consistency should be remembered on a team that has struggled to have continuity in any area this year.
The defense couldn't preserve the shutout in this inning, though. Alexi Casilla took a leadoff walk off Franklin Morales, and this time Morales had to pay for it. Casilla stole second with a well-timed read on Morales' release, advanced to third on Aviles' defensive play, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Ben Revere.
Morales got his fourth strikeout to end the inning, but he's also up to 91 pitches, and his somewhat comfortable lead is now chopped in half.
End 4th, Red Sox 2-0: Nick Blackburn really cleaned out the bottom of the order in that inning. Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Kalish and Mike Aviles went down in order.
Blackburn has given up six hits and two runs, but he's quietly stayed in the game, striking out four batters as well.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 2-0: Remember when Adrian Gonzalez used to be the right fielder?
Gonzalez doesn't just get it done at the plate. He's been anchoring the infield, too, and it's plays like the one he just made on the low scoop that remind fans why he was just a big catch last offseason.
Franklin Morales is pitching well. He gave up another hit that inning and has his pitch count up to 71, but he's keeping the Twins off the board.
End 3rd, Red Sox 2-0: Carl Crawford keeps getting it done. He's responsible for the Red Sox' first run of the game, scoring Mike Aviles on an infield grounder.
That merely opened the floodgates.
At the end of the carnage, Boston has found its way against Nick Blackburn again. Jacoby Ellsbury had a double, Dustin Pedroia added a single to right, and Adrian Gonzalez punched a run-scoring single through.
It's just a 2-0 lead, but Franklin Morales has been pitching well today. This could be what the Red Sox need to build a win.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: Franklin Morales does a decent job with his pickoff move, and he cashed in that inning.
Morales almost nabbed Jamey Carroll after giving up a leadoff walk, and he finished the job with Darin Mastroianni. Morales is finding all kinds of ways to get the Twins out.
End 2nd, 0-0: Jarrod Saltalamacchia has had serious problems striking out this year. He's also racking up home runs, though, which means he could be becoming one of those hitters who either gets all of the ball or misses it all. But he has 94 strikeouts this season — well on pace to beat last year's career high of 119.
A reminder: Kelly Shoppach is 9-for-18 against Nick Blackburn. We'll see if that factors in later.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: What do you say we get some knee-high red stockings for all of the Red Sox? They appear to be doing the trick for Carl Crawford today.
Crawford made a nice leaping catch at the wall. He may not have had to leap if not for being ill-positioned, but he got the job done.
Franklin Morales also had some nice glove work in that inning, catching a comebacker and flipping the ball to first for an out. After a 29-pitch first inning, he was as efficient as needed to close out the second. He also got another strikeout swinging.
End 1st, 0-0: Well, there you go, birthday boy. Or is the red socks that Carl Crawford is wearing pulled up to his knees? Something's happening, because Crawford has his eighth hit in nine games, and he's got his third stolen base of the season (and his first since his first couple of days back from the disabled list).
A running, hitting Crawford could do wonders for this team. Everyone knows it — it's just getting the birthdays, red socks and whatever else lined up to get Crawford back to his potential.
Unfortunately, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez couldn't get Crawford home. But the Sox are getting things moving early.
Mid 1st, 0-0: OK, that one's on me. When you call for a no-hitter, you know you're asking for it to be broken up, but probably not that quickly.
Mike Aviles made a good stabbing dive on the Ben Revere grounder, but it was hard-hit enough to squeak through.
Franklin Morales looked like his usual sharp self in the first, though. Revere stole second, but Darin Mastroianni and Joe Mauer both whiffed, which will help Morales' impeccable strikeouts-per-inning rate.
The 10-pitch walk to Josh Willingham is a bit of a concern, though. Morales won't have a ton of pitches to work with this game, as he's moving from a bullpen load to a starter's count again. He'll need to conserve if he wants to go deep in this game.
1:35 p.m.: First pitch time! What do you think? Franklin Morales no-hitter?
1 p.m.: Bobby Valentine acknowledged that Carl Crawford gets the go today thanks to the birthday-playing well combo.
"It's his birthday. The least he should do is play today," Valentine said, adding, "He's playing great."
12:45 p.m.: Looks like it's nice and warm at Fenway Park, with showers maybe coming.
11:10 a.m.: Something I'll be keeping an eye on today is how Carl Crawford is coming around. He looked amazing in his first two games back but has returned to 2011 form since, hitting .254 with just two walks and two stolen bases.
While he's had a good moment or two, his comeback this season will more likely be remembered for his comments about former manager Terry Francona and how he's still struggled this year despite working with new manager Bobby Valentine. Crawford is certainly battling health concerns, but Sox fans would love to see a few more breakout games from the fielder who has shown he certainly has the talent to do it.
Why do we bring this up? Well, today is Mr. Crawford's 31st birthday. The occasion may be enough for some brilliance.
Crawford is a nasty 10-for-30 with three homers on his birthday over the last seven years, according to the Red Sox. Crawford also has a hit in seven of his last eight games and finally took a few balls over the fence (three home runs in last eight games).
10:30 a.m.: This is who the Red Sox will be sending out to start today.
A few notes on matchups: Ellsbury is 5-for-18 (.278) against Nick Blackburn, but Carl Crawford is just 1-for-14. Kelly Shoppach, who is 9-for-18, is not starting. Mike Aviles (6-for-11) has also been strong against the righty.
Red Sox (53-55)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Cody Ross DH
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Ryan Kalish RF
Mike Aviles SS
Franklin Morales P
Ben Revere CF
Darin Mastroianni RF
Joe Mauer C
Josh Willingham LF
Justin Morneau 1B
Ryan Doumit DH
Brian Dozier SS
Alexi Casilla 2B
Jamey Carroll 3B
Nick Blackburn P
8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox are getting desperate.
Boston (53-55) has regressed again, losing four games in a row — coming off a four-game winning streak, no less. Now the Sox have fallen to a new low point as they try to salvage just one win from a four-game set against the lowly Minnesota Twins (47-60).
Franklin Morales (2-2, 3.32 ERA) will be the Red Sox' best hope Sunday as he appears in a spot start. He has been great in his other appearances this season, going 2-1 with a 3.25 ERA in six games (five starts) between June 17 and July 13. This time, filling in for the injured Josh Beckett, he'll be opposed by Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn (4-6, 7.43), a contact pitcher who has struggled in 2012. He's yielded 17 home runs in 82 1/3 innings.
Blackburn faced Boston on April 24 and lasted just three innings, giving up five earned runs. He comes into today's game having allowed 23 earned runs over his last five starts.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET, but join us at 12:30 for Red Sox First Pitch and GameDay Live. We'll also keep you up to date here with other news and analysis throughout the game.