Final, Twins 5-2: Look on the bright side. Tomorrow is a day off, and as good as the Red Sox have played, they will cherish it.
This had the look of a team that just couldn’t quite make it to the finish line of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Limited bullpen, makeshift lineup in order to get another regular a rest. Quiet bats.
Nick Blackburn deserves credit for what he did, limiting Boston to just one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings.
After the flight to Seattle, the Sox will get set for a meeting with the Mariners on Friday night. It will be John Lackey against Blake Beavan in a 10:10 p.m. affair. We’ll look for you then.
End 8th, Twins 5-2: Andrew Miller walks the first man he faces on four pitches but then strikes out Ben Revere to finally put an end to the eighth.
There could be some cause for concern if Matt Albers and Alfredo Aceves do not bounce back. Both have had two or three rocky outings these past few days, especially Albers.
Aceves has now given up runs in back-to-back outings.
Twins closer Joe Nathan is on to try and get the last three outs.
11:04 p.m.: That didn’t go all that well, although the Red Sox can thank Delmon Young for continuing to make outs on the bases.
Alfredo Aceves took over for Jon Lester and promptly gave up an RBI double to Danny Valencia. After an intentional walk, Matt Tolbert sent a deep fly to right that Mike Aviles seemed to have a beat on, but it sailed over his head. It was only a single because the runners had gone halfway assuming Aviles would catch it.
With the bases now loaded and the infield in, Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled up the middle to score Valencia. Young was out at the plate.
Aceves out. Andrew Miller in. Two outs. Two runners in scoring position.
10:52 p.m.: The sample size isn’t huge, but it’s getting up there.
Jim Thome continues to get the best of Jon Lester, lacing a go-ahead RBI double with one out in the eighth.
Lester will be upset about the hit, but probably not as much as the leadoff walk he issued to Joe Mauer. That was the fifth walk of the game for Lester and his ninth in two starts this month.
Alfredo Aceves comes on to try to keep this one close.
That was Lester’s 119th pitch. Aceves was ready. That was Lester’s last batter anyway, Terry Francona just sticking with the lefty-on-lefty matchup and hoping to save Aceves if he could…not many available arms out there.
Mid 8th, 2-2: The Red Sox overcame a 5-1 deficit in the opener, with David Ortiz’s two-run homer one of the big blows.
The erased a 2-0 deficit last night and eventually took the lead for good on an Ortiz infield hit (OK, it was weak, but still).
Now, they’ve done away with another 2-0 deficit, Ortiz’s solo shot in the eighth the equalizer.
It was a 98 mph fastball that Ortiz cleaned out of the zone, sending a shot over the wall in center.
Ortiz had a 4-for-38 (.105) stretch before his current 9-for-15 (.600) surge.
Jon Lester remains your guy. Dustin Pedroia is at second base after pinch hitting for Josh Reddick to end the top of the eighth. Mike Aviles moves to right.
End 7th, Twins 2-1: The Twins loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, but Jon Lester escapes with a grounder to first off the bat of Ben Revere.
Alfredo Aceves was warming during the jam. Remember, there is no Daniel Bard or Jonathan Papelbon tonight. I know the Sox are losing right now anyway, but this score can turn around in a heartbeat and it will probably be Aceves as a setup guy and a matchup game in a save situation.
That doesn’t mean Lester is done. His pitch count is 106 and if Boston took the lead, Lester would be your “setup” guy with perhaps Aceves your closer.
Mid 7th, Twins 2-1: The swing and contact looked for a second as if Adrian Gonzalez had gotten into one.
But he was under it a bit and Ben Revere settles under the third out of the seventh. A huge escape for the Twins.
10:09 p.m.: It almost seemed inevitable, didn’t it?
The Red Sox were probably going to score in the late innings — they’ve done it so often of late. And when the opponent gives them an extra out, that’s just asking for trouble with this team.
After a two-out walk, second baseman Trevor Plouffe boots what should’ve been the third out. With runners on first and second, Marco Scutaro lines an RBI single to left, chasing Nick Blackburn.
Glen Perkins is on to face Adrian Gonzalez with the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first.
End 6th, Twins 2-0: It wasn’t the same scenario as this gaffe, but it seems as if Joe Mauer’s opposite-field hits have a way of stirring controversy.
With a man on first and one out, Mauer sent one down the left-field line. It landed fair and eventually off the hands of a fan, after hitting the top of the side wall.
However, it was ruled that a fan before that tipped the ball while it was in play, which is fan interference. In that case, it’s a judgment call on the part of the umps as to whether the runner at first would’ve scored or not. They said he would have, and the Twins get a run.
Jon Lester, Terry Francona and others argued. Lester was able to shake it off and get the next two outs.
Mid 6th, Twins 1-0: This just might be one of those nights where you need to wait out the starter and get to that pen.
Nick Blackburn has been extremely good, just not a lot of solid contact. His first walk came with two outs in the sixth, but Carl Crawford followed with a fly out to end it.
Blackburn’s pitch count is up to 91. His high this year is 127, so he’ll be given every opportunity to get well into triple digits.
End 5th, Twins 1-0: Because of a pair of double plays, Jon Lester has faced the minimum over the last four innings.
Delmon Young has been the guy doubled off both times. The first, back in the second, was his fault. Nothing he could do about being caught in a 6-3 DP.
Mid 5th, Twins 1-0: Mike Aviles is now 5-for-10 against Nick Blackburn after his second hit of the night. Dustin Pedroia may be Wally Pipp-ed.
Jacoby Ellsbury follows by hammering one to the track in right, but it’s nothing more than a loud out. Marco Scutaro lined to left to end it.
End 4th, Twins 1-0: Say it with me, folks. Kevin Youkilis has just tied a major league record held by countless others by making all three assists in the bottom of the fourth.
The Twins sent three rather easy grounders Youk’s way, and he had no problem getting them over.
Jon Lester and Nick Blackburn have both thrown 62 pitches.
Mid 4th, Twins 1-0: Nick Blackburn was not supposed to do this. Not against this lineup.
Blackburn’s numbers over his last three starts were just ugly. In 12 1/3 innings he gave up 16 earned runs on 28 hits and 11 walks, striking out just three in the process.
Blackburn freezes Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the top of the fourth. It is his fourth K of the night and it strands a couple of runners.
The righty has posted a 3.84 ERA at home (entering this start), so he is capable of being OK from time to time.
End 3rd, Twins 1-0: Jon Lester has his first perfect inning. If he just keeps things settled for a few more innings, and if prior patterns hold true, he’ll have the lead in time.
The Red Sox have scored one run in innings 1-4 in this series, but 11 in innings 5-9.
What’s that you say? You saw that stat last night? OK, well you try coming up with something different to say 18 half-innings, plus pregame and postgame, for 162 games a year. Plus spring training.
Mid 3rd, Twins 1-0: There have already been three outs made on the bases in this one.
The first two were by the Twins, who made a mistake that led to an out in each of the first two innings. The latest came when Mike Aviles was caught too far off second on a comebacker by Jacoby Ellsbury to Nick Blackburn.
Can’t really get on Aviles all that much…that type of play happens rather often, and he stayed alive long enough to allow Jacoby Ellsbury to get to second. Yet, it didn’t help the cause in the third.
Aviles had doubled down the left-field line with one out.
End 2nd, Twins 1-0: Delmon Young baseball, folks.
The talented by sometimes maddening Twins left fielder drew a leadoff walk from Jon Lester, which is a feat in itself — Young has just 17 of those in 82 games.
One out later, Tsuyoshi Nishioka sent a flare to right that Mike Aviles had a beat on. Young strayed way too far and was easily doubled off when Aviles hauled it in.
Now, in Young’s defense, if that ball falls in and he’s too close to first, he could be one of those rare 9-6 putouts at second. Still, not great base running at all. Got a terrible read on the play.
Mid 2nd, Twins 1-0: Seems as if awkward strike zones have been a theme in this series. David Ortiz just went down looking in an at-bat that seemed to have multiple balls called strikes.
Ortiz gives Ted Barrett the “Come again?” and the “What’s that?”, but he withheld breaking out the “You [bleeping] [bleep].” Wise move.
The K was part of a quick 1-2-3 for Nick Blackburn.
End 1st, Twins 1-0: Jon Lester was adamant about what he needed to fix to take his game to the next level this year.
He had to cut down on walks, particularly those of the two-out variety. Lester admitted that he became too complacent sometimes after getting the first two outs of an inning, thinking he was basically out of the inning and could cruise.
The lefty has done a slightly better job this season, dropping his walk rate from 3.6 per nine innings to 3.2. However, the bottom of the first looked a bit like many of the bad innings he had in 2010 (there weren’t many…he was fantastic, but when he had problems it looked a lot like this).
After getting the first two outs, one on a pickoff, Lester walked Joe Mauer. Then came singles by Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome to score the first run of the game.
That walk not only gave the Twins new life in the inning, it caused Lester to throw 13 more pitches. He’s at 24 through one.
Mid 1st, 0-0: When things are going as bad as they have been for the Twins, plays like the one to start the game have to draw some groans from the Target Field crowd.
Nick Blackburn raced over to cover first on a Jacoby Ellsbury chopper, took the throw and then turned to try to tag Ellsbury rather than step on the bag. If he focused on just getting his feet down, Blackburn probably gets the out.
You could almost sense that bad things would follow for Minnesota. Yet, if you did, your senses were off. Blackburn battled back to get three straight outs, Ellsbury retired on a force play at second.
Then again, people at Target Field never groan over such matters. A Twin could spontaneously combust on the field and they’d talk about how beautiful it was. Great positivity in that part of the country.
8:11 p.m.: Nick Blackburn throws strike one to Jacoby Ellsbury. Settle in, folks. We’ll take you through all the action.
7:43 p.m.: Thought we would pass on a few of the better stats from the Red Sox game notes, just to fill this gap.
Boston has won or split each of its last 11 series, winning nine of those. That’s remarkable, isn’t it? Not once in the span of 11 series has a team parted ways with the Red Sox feeling good about itself.
And the last team wo win a series against Boston? Philadelphia, which owns the best record in all of baseball.
The Sox have a winning record in each of their last seven road trips, the last losing one being the 0-6 opening in Texas and Cleveland.
Boston has scored the deciding run in the seventh inning or later in five of its last six wins.
Darnell McDonald’s home run last night was the 11th by the No. 9 hitter, second in the majors to Toronto (12).
Adrian Gonzalez still leads the majors in batting and RBIs. This is the latest a Red Sox player has led all of baseball in those two categories since Ted Williams on 10/1/49. Williams lost the batting title on the final day of that season and ended up tied for the RBI lead.
Jonathan Papelbon has converted a 21 straight save chances, the longest single-season stretch of his career.
6:57 p.m.: It’s just a little over an hour to first pitch, a great time to catch up on our Red Sox reading.
Without further ado, here are a few links from NESN.com’s finest. Can you imagine that some of us are able to do this job without ever playing a sport in college (inside joke).
First, let’s start by taking a peak in my mailbag, where I find a nice variety of Red Sox-related questions.
Don Orsillo also had a chance to dip into the old mailbag today.
You will enjoy the NESN.com Red Sox MVP debate, I guarantee.
Ben Watanabe takes a look at the Angels, whose rotation and schedule loaded with teams they need to track down makes them a very interesting team to watch.
There’s plenty more on the Red Sox page, but that should get you started.
Back in a few.
6:04 p.m.: According to word out of Target Field, Jonathan Papelbon is unavailable tonight. No surprise. He has pitched in three straight games, just the second time he has done so since last June.
Daniel Bard, who has thrown in three of the last four games, may also be avoided. Puts a little more emphasis on Jon Lester.
Then again, the team finally gets a day off Thursday (its first since July 21!), so others can be stretched out or Terry Francona can go to Bard in an absolute pinch.
As for Lester, he has been on quite a run away from home. Over his last six road starts, Lester is 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA, giving up just 27 hits in 41 innings.
The Twins have been held to three runs or less in eight of their last 10 games, so the time is right for a Lester gem.
4:17 p.m.: Just crunched the numbers to see how amazing Pedroia was between days off.
In 53 straight starts since having his knee checked out June 9, Pedroia hit .394 (82-for-208) with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs and 45 runs scored (a pace of 138).
He drew 32 walks while striking out just 17 times, ripped 17 doubles and stole nine bases in those 53 games, during which Boston was 36-17.
Following are nine guys who would love to have a stretch like that. It’s the Minnesota lineup against Jon Lester:
Denard Span, CF
Ben Revere, RF
Joe Mauer, C
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Jim Thome, DH
Danny Valencia, 3B
Delmon Young, LF
Trevor Plouffe, 2B
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
Span is 4-for-9 (.444) with three walks and two stolen bases against Lester. Young is 4-for-23 (.174) with seven strikeout.
4:00 p.m.: As he had promised, Terry Francona has given Dustin Pedroia a night off.
Pedroia probably went kicking and screaming, but he had started every game since that knee scope in early June.
Here is the Pedroia-less lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Carl Crawford, LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Mike Aviles, 2B
If history means anything (there’s so much more to it than that, but bear with us), the Sox won’t miss Pedroia too much. He is a .308 (4-for-13) hitter against Twins starter Nick Blackburn. Aviles is a .375 (3-for-8) hitter with a double and a triple.
8 a.m.: The Red Sox will turn to Jon Lester as they go for a sweep of the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Boston has rallied from early deficits to take each of the first two games of the series. The club has won four games in a row overall, while the Twins have dropped six straight.
Lester is coming off a loss at home to the New York Yankees, but he?s been in his comfort zone on the road this year. He is 8-1 with a 2.75 mark away from Fenway Park.
Minnesota gives the ball to Nick Blackburn, who is 0-3 with an 11.68 ERA over his last three starts.
Blackburn?s first pitch is scheduled for 8:10 p.m.