Final, Red Sox 6-2: Jon Lester continued to pump it in at 95 mph in the ninth, finishing off his fifth career complete game. The gem gives Boston three straight wins since its disaster in New York on Monday and pulls the club within 3 1/2 games of the struggling Yankees.
Lester struck out nine and did not walk a batter. He finished having thrown just 103 pitches.
With that, interleague play is upon us. The Sox head to Philadelphia for three straight beginning Friday night. It'll be John Lackey against Cole Hamels. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.
End 8th, Red Sox 6-1: This is a nearly identical situation to the one we saw last night. Clay Buchholz was sent to the mound in search of a complete game Wednesday but was lifted after allowing the first man to reach.
Lester may have a little more margin for error. He has thrown just 84 pitches and has a five-run lead. Buchholz was near 100 and was up 3-1.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 6-1: There is a crack in Jon Lester's armor, but it's just a tiny one. He allows a run to come in on a double, groundout and sacrifice fly. Perhaps peeved, he blows Nick Punto away with a 95 mph fastball to end the eighth.
Twins closer Jon Rauch is on in relief.
End 7th, Red Sox 6-0: Victor Martinez has doubled in each of his last three at bats. That ties a career high for doubles, last accomplished by the catcher in 2007.
Both Martinez and Darnell McDonald — who led off with a single — are stranded when Kevin Youkilis grounds out and Mike Lowell floats a soft liner into the glove of second baseman Orlando Hudson.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 6-0: It's Jon Lester's night. The Minnesota Twins are just annoying guests that will be shown the door soon enough. Lester strikes out Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the seventh.
The lefty has struck out seven, set down nine in a row overall and has thrown only 72 pitches.
Jesse Crain is on to pitch for the Twins.
End 6th, Red Sox 6-0: The Sox have been hammering the ball all over the park (two homers, four doubles) but it's a little old passed ball that allows their sixth run to come across.
Adrian Beltre, who had the fourth two-bagger of the night, moved to third on a groundout and then came in when the ball got past Joe Mauer and rolled to the backstop.
Jon Lester has thrown a paltry 58 pitches thus far.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 5-0: Jon Lester threw just eight pitches in the sixth, two of the outs going through Dustin Pedroia at second base and the other coming via Lester's fourth strikeout of the night. In what has been an impressive run for Lester, this might be his best start.
End 5th, Red Sox 5-0: Kevin Youkilis has recorded six RBIs in a game twice in his career. He has four through the first five innings of this one, the latest on a two-out double that hugged the left-field line to drive in Victor Martinez.
The way Jon Lester is looking it would be easy to say he has plenty to work with. But remember that in his last start the Sox held a five-run lead and eventually lost.
8:34 p.m.: Francisco Liriano's night is done after back-to-back doubles by Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis in the fifth. All five of the hits surrendered by Liriano went for extra bases. Jeff Manship is on in relief.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 4-0: Justin Morneau hits his 200th career double and may have scored on a soft liner by Delmon Young with two outs if not for the best defensive second baseman in the American League. Dustin Pedroia, who has yet to make a mistake in any way, shape or form at second this year, leaps high into the air to come down with the ball and get Jon Lester out of trouble.
No errors in 184 chances now for Pedroia this year.
End 4th, Red Sox 4-0: The Sox have made Francisco Liriano throw 81 pitches in just four innings. Jon Lester has chucked fewer than half that total in the same span.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 4-0: For the second straight inning, Angel Sanchez begins a 6-4-3 double play to help Jon Lester get back in the dugout unharmed. Lester has faced the minimum through four.
End 3rd, Red Sox 4-0: It was a 96 mph fastball out over the heart of the plate, and Kevin Youkilis positively crushed it. The three-run bomb is the eighth of the season for Youkilis. It traveled well into the bleachers in center, landing beyond the camera stand out there.
Francisco Liriano had retired the first two of the inning just fine, but a Dustin Pedroia walk started a two-out rally. Victor Martinez followed with a double into the corner in left, setting up Youkilis's homer on the first pitch.
Safe to say Youk was sitting on a fastball there.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Angel Sanchez sees the Twins' first hit of the game go off his glove and into left field, but moments later makes a splash by starting a double play with a nice pick to his backhand side.
I may have neglected to mention this earlier, but this is Sanchez's first major league game since Oct. 1, 2006, when he was with Kansas City.
He leads off the third for the Red Sox.
End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: When a right-handed batter takes a pitch into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center field at Fenway, there's some power involved. Adrian Beltre has been living on opposite-field hits since joining the Red Sox, and he crushes his third home run of the season in that direction to start the scoring.
It appeared to be a fastball on the outer half of the plate that Beltre jumped all over.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: It's early, but Jon Lester has everything working so far. He fans Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer before getting Jason Kubel on a tapper that didn't even reach the mound. Lester has thrown 17-of-21 pitches for strikes.
It's a bit different from his first meeting with the Twins, who reached the big lefty for three runs in the first two innings. Then again, Lester is a different pitcher now then he was then.
End 1st, 0-0: For those of you wondering what prompted the decision to bat Darnell McDonald in the leadoff spot, there are two key reasons. One, McDonald has speed. Two, he has owned left-handers since being brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket.
McDonald entered the night hitting .344 (11-for-32) with three homers off lefties. He doesn't get a hit off Francisco Liriano in the first but does grind out a well-earned walk and then nabs his second stolen base of the season with two outs.
Kevin Youkilis strikes out on a 3-2 pitch, and McDonald is stranded.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Jon Lester hasn't needed much help of late, but a generous strike zone doesn't hurt. He gets a called third strike on a pitch to Denard Span that appeared to be several inches off the plate. It's part of a 1-2-3 first inning, a frame Lester has owned this year.
In pitches 1-30, the lefty has amassed a total of 14 innings without allowing a run. He has yielded just nine hits and has fanned 16 in that span.
7:03 p.m.: After the cold and wet conditions which followed the Red Sox around the past two nights, the blue sky above is a welcome sight. Jon Lester is about to take the hill for the Sox, who quietly are within 4 1/2 games of the AL Wild Card. Just sayin'.
6:15 p.m.: Mike Cameron went 1-for-4 and Jacoby Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with a double, a stolen base and a run scored for Double-A Portland on Thursday afternoon.
Terry Francona said that Cameron will play center field again Friday for the Sea Dogs. He did not offer up an immediate plan going forward for Ellsbury, but the left fielder got in a few slides, dove back to first and did all the things necessary.
The club is going to see how Ellsbury's body responds to the active day. Do not be surprised to see him back soon. The Philadelphia series would be a great time to get him back. With shortstop Marco Scutaro sidelined and the club carrying two designated hitters into a National League park, the number of usable parts is rather slim.
Scutaro, however, expects to be back in the lineup Friday, according to Francona. The shortstop responded well to a cortisone shot in his left elbow. The skipper said he does not expect Scutaro to need another day.
Francona was also asked earlier about the decision to put Mike Lowell in at DH instead of the red-hot David Ortiz. Remember, Lowell was sat the last time the Sox faced a lefty and was not pleased, questioning his role with the team.
But Francisco Liriano presents too much of a challenge for lefties, Francona said, to not go with Lowell, who is 3-for-5 in his career against Liriano.
"I think David is swinging the bat about as well as he can," Francona said. "But [Liriano] is one of those guys for Ortiz to take your blow, get ready to pinch hit against a righty. This guy is really tough on lefties. This is a perfect night to send up some righties and see if we can do some damage."
Lefties are hitting .154 against Liriano this year.
Francona then talked a bit about what Angel Sanchez can bring to the team while he is here.
"He's a guy that can move around the infield, one of those guys that accumulates a ton of at bats in spring training because of his versatility."
Finally, for the first time in nearly two weeks, we get word on infielder Jed Lowrie, who has been out since March with mononucleosis. Lowrie may join the team when it travels to Tampa Bay next week and get checked out my the team doctors, and then maybe join the club in Boston for its next homestand at the end of the month.
Lowrie has continued to take grounders and hit but has yet to get in any real game action.
4:40 p.m.: Terry Francona just briefed the media on a variety of topics, including Marco Scutaro's condition, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury's afternoons and getting Mike Lowell back in there at DH. We also talked with Josh Beckett for a few minutes. He expressed frustration with his back injury, and the fact that he had to pitch in the conditions Tuesday night in New York. More to come on each of these subjects in a bit.
3:29 p.m.: Marco Scutaro, who reportedly received a cortisone shot in his left elbow Wednesday, is out of the lineup for the second straight night. Newly recalled Angel Sanchez will take his place at shortstop. Here is the complete starting lineup:
Darnell McDonald CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Victor Martinez C
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Mike Lowell DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
J.D. Drew RF
Bill Hall LF
Angel Sanchez SS
9:13 a.m.:Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano square off in a matchup of dominant left-handers when the Red Sox and Minnesota Twins wrap up their two-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday.
While Lester has moved past a rocky start to his 2010 season, Liriano exploded out of the gate but has been a bit more vulnerable of late. Still, both rank among the league leaders in a handful of categories.
Lester is fourth in the American League in strikeouts with 54 and eighth in opponents' batting average with a .214 mark, while Liriano is 11th with a 2.63 ERA.
The Sox took the opener of the series 3-2 behind Clay Buchholz, who threw eight-plus innings.
First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.