Sure enough, the Sox have bigger celebrations in mind and they will try to take some positives from this one going forward.
Clay Buchholz had an extremely uneven start but it ended well. The middle of the order hammered hit after hit. And Jonathan Papelbon had his first outing in which he was able to work parts of two innings.
Boston is 13-13 heading into Monday night's game against Tampa Bay at City of Palms Park. First pitch is 7:05 p.m. and NESN will have that one for you live.
Final, Red Sox 11-5: Nothing has come easy for Jonathan Papelbon the past few outings and he scuffles a bit here before getting the last three outs.
Papelbon plunked the first hitter and for reasons I will never understand, attempted to pick him off with a seven-run lead and nobody covering first.
The ball rolled down the line, allowing the runner to reach second. He came in on a single by Jacque Jones. That gives Papelbon six earned runs in 9 2/3 innings.
Still, he'll be part of the celebration in the Red Sox clubhouse as the Mayor's Cup stays in camp for a fourth straight year. Boston has won four of six meetings between the teams with one more to come Thursday at City of Palms Park.
End 8th, Red Sox 11-4: Jonathan Papelbon is on to try to nail down the Mayor's Cup for the fourth straight year.
In the bottom of the eighth, Victor Martinez's bid for a five-hit afternoon ended when he grounded to second.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 11-4: Ramon Ramirez gets the first two outs and Jonathan Papelbon the third as the Sox move a step closer to evening their Grapefruit League mark at 13-13.
End 7th, Red Sox 11-4: Kevin Frandsen's first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform is a grounder to second, part of a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 11-4: As we were leaving the press box to go interview Clay Buchholz, Tug Hulett crushed a three-run homer for Boston.
Hulett is an interesting guy. His glove seems a tad shaky at times but he is not letting the Sox overlook his bat as he fights for a roster spot. Hulett leads the team with 13 RBI and six of his 11 hits have been for extra bases.
Hideki Okajima worked through the seventh without an issue for the Sox. A fourth straight Mayor's Cup victory is in sight.
3:19 p.m.: We are going to hear from Clay Buchholz but before we go we wanted to note that Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis are now both 4-for-4.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 8-4: It remains to be seen how the Red Sox' bullpen will look going north, but Scott Atchison has done everything he can to make his case.
Since coming on for Clay Buchholz in the fifth, Atchison worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just a two-out single in the sixth to Jim Thome.
With the effort Atchison has now allowed just two earned runs in 11 innings.
End 5th, Red Sox 8-4: It's always a treat to watch Pat Neshek on the mound. He stalks the area very stiffly, talks to himself constantly and then has that side-armed delivery unlike any other guy in the game.
The former Twins setup man, who missed all of the 2009 season, retired the first three he faced before a single by Marco Scutaro with two outs in the fifth.
Kevin Frandsen came on to pinch run for Scutaro. It is Frandsen's first action in a Red Sox uniform.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 8-4: Before Scott Atchison is able to get the last out in relief of Clay Buchholz, he surrenders a double off the bat of Orlando Hudson.
Hudson, a left-handed hitter, lined one to left that had a lot of tailing action toward the line. Most left fielders would have had no chance but Jacoby Ellsbury actually caught up to it. He couldn't keep it in his glove when he hit the ground but it was remarkable to see him cover the ground.
2:49 p.m.: Of the first nine men Clay Buchholz faced, five had hits. He then retired 10 straight before Terry Francona sends him to the showers with two out in the fifth.
Scott Atchison is on for the Sox.
End 4th, Red Sox 8-4: The heart of the Red Sox order just made mincemeat of Carl Pavano.
For the third time in three innings, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis each had hits. They are a collective 9-for-9 with four RBI and seven runs scored.
Just to hammer home the point that Pavano didn't have it, David Ortiz then launched a three-run shot into the bleachers in right.
Pavano was reached for eight runs and 12 hits before being relieved with two outs in the fourth.
Mid 4th, 4-4: Suddenly Clay Buchholz has set down eight men in a row and he has six strikeouts through four innings.
The second time through the lineup it is Buchholz seemingly making the adjustments and not the hitters. He is keeping things down much better than he was early on.
End 3rd, 4-4: This one has the makings of a marathon. I guess it gets us prepped for next week against the Yankees.
The Sox get two runs on five hits in the third, but the last out is made when Kevin Youkilis is out at home on a nice toss by left fielder Jason Kubel.
Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez each singled to start off the inning. They are each 2-for-2.
Mid 3rd, Twins 4-2: Now that's more like it.
Clay Buchholz gets Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer in order in the third. He has struck out Cuddyer both times.
End 2nd, Twins 4-2: The first two get on in the second, but a strikeout and double play doom the Sox.
The K went to Marco Scutaro, who fell to 6-for-43 (.140) this spring. He has also committed an error each of the last two games.
Mid 2nd, Twins 4-2: More troubles for the suddenly very troubling Clay Buchholz in the second inning.
A double and two singles — one of which trickled through the spot vacated by Dustin Pedroia on a perfect hit-and-run — leads to one run for the Twins.
Denard Span drives in another with a sacrifice fly to right that was hit very hard.
In 3 2/3 innings over his last two starts, Buchholz has given up 10 runs — nine earned — on nine hits, three walks and three wild pitches.
And even the outs were hit hard in the second.
End 1st, 2-2: Mayor's Cup Fever…Catch it!!!
The Sox answer Joe Mauer's blast with a pair of runs of their own. One comes in on a Victor Martinez double to the gap and another on a Kevin Youkilis bloop single.
Mid 1st, Twins 2-0: With a man on second and one out, Joe Mauer rocketed a 2-1 offering from Clay Buchholz over the wall in left.
It was the first home run of the spring for Mauer, who is now 14-for-30 (.467) and has yet to strike out this spring.
Someone should pay that man.
Buchholz battled back to strike out Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, both swinging.
12:55 p.m.: In the last two minutes, I've seen a vintage Nomar Garciaparra home Red Sox jersey and one from his short time with Oakland. Perhaps people know that Nomar is coming back.
No, not to the Red Sox (again). He will be here Thursday as part of an ESPN crew to broadcast a game at City of Palms Park. There will be no news conference.
12:40 p.m.: The Twins have traveled north a few miles with the following lineup card in hand:
Denard Span, CF
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Jim Thome, DH
Jason Kubel, LF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Brendan Harris, 3B
12:14 p.m.: There has been plenty of joking around today about the Mayor's Cup and its importance in the grand scheme of things, but there's no mistaking that this is a big start for Clay Buchholz.
In Tuesday's outing at Hammond Stadium, Buchholz became way too occupied with runners on base and completely lost feel for his pitches. He looked a lot like he did during the erratic 2008 season and saw his spring ERA jump to 10.80.
The club is working on getting him to focus on attacking the zone with his fastball. Sounds easy enough, but other stuff such as base runners and game situations sometimes get in the way.
"It was a tough night all the way around," Terry Francona said of Buchholz's last start, in which he gave up six runs — five earned — in 1 2/3 innings. "[We're] getting back to attacking the strike zone with his fastball, having pace of game. [John] Lackey's the best example. Whatever happens, he's back on the mound and throws it. That just seems to work all the way around. I know it's easier said than done, but some pitchers, every pitch turns into an event and it's harder to make it work. The pitch before doesn't have as much lasting impression."
The last time Buchholz has shown anything promising against major league hitters was way back on March 13. He threw three scoreless innings against Pittsburgh that day and then four more against Minnesota minor leaguers in a start at the Player Development Complex five days later.
Buchholz was given the fifth spot in the Sox' rotation and will make his debut April 11 at Kansas City. One wonders if that would be the case if Daisuke Matsuzaka was healthy.
10:30 a.m.: A few notes from our morning session with Terry Francona, who appears intent on locking up the Mayor's Cup today.
"You guys are worried about the season; I'm trying to wrap up this Mayor's Cup," he joked with reporters.
Francona gave the rundown of the next few days, particularly with the pitchers.
Top pitching prospect Casey Kelly will start Tuesday in Port Charlotte against Tampa Bay, rather than Tim Wakefield, who will instead throw three innings at the minor league complex.
Kelly, who got the win after throwing two scoreless innings in a start against Baltimore earlier this month, will get about 60 pitches in.
"It'll be fun for us to watch him," Francona said. "It'll be a good experience for him."
The move is made to scale back Wakefield in advance of his outing Saturday in Washington.
Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw three innings and Manny Delcarmen two in a minor league game Monday. Boof Bonser is also expected to get some work in that one so it'll be a big day at the player development complex.
Delcarmen will get two more innings Thursday against Minnesota.
Scott Schoeneweis will throw Monday against Tampa Bay at City of Palms Park.
Mike Lowell is taking grounders at third base as I type this and has no limp. Francona said he will get action soon, perhaps Monday.
Jeremy Hermida, who left Saturday's game with a tight right hammy, is still at least a day before getting back into things.
Newly acquired infielder Kevin Frandsen will probably play Tuesday in Tampa. He and Tug Hulett will switch between second base and shortstop.
9:07 a.m.: It's sunny, breezy and a bit on the humid side today in Fort Myers, nice conditions for Clay Buchholz to get some good work in against Minnesota.
Here is the lineup in support of Buchholz:
Jacoby Ellsbury, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Victor Martinez, C
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Mike Cameron, CF
Bill Hall, RF
Marco Scutaro, SS
8 a.m.: The Mayor's Cup has sat on a table in the Red Sox clubhouse all spring, just waiting to be filled with champagne and hoisted high. The Sox can celebrate with it on Sunday, if they can defeat the Minnesota Twins at City of Palms Park.
Boston owns a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. However, the pitching matchup is the same as it was last Tuesday, when the Sox lost their first chance to clinch the cup.
Clay Buchholz was reached for six runs in 1 2/3 innings in that one, walking three and throwing three wild pitches. Meanwhile, Twins starter Carl Pavano tossed five scoreless frames in a 7-2 victory.
Boston has won the Mayor's Cup three straight years.
First pitch is at 1:05 p.m.