MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Nathan wiped the sweat from his forehead and spoke breathlessly about his latest, and most harrowing, save of the season.
Minnesota's normally unhittable closer usually makes things look so easy when he steps to the mound to blow away another overmatched opponent. But the heavy-hitting Boston Red Sox never go quietly, and Sunday night was a prime example.
Craig Monroe went 2-for-4 with two of light-hitting Minnesota's three home runs and four RBI, and Nathan made a stellar defensive play in the ninth that might have saved the game.
He took the mound with a 9-6 lead, but gave up an RBI double to J.D. Drew to make the score 9-7 with runners on second and third and one out.
Coco Crisp then lined a pitch off Nathan's glove, and the former shortstop had to chase it down as it rolled toward third base. He picked it up and threw to Mike Lamb to get Drew at third for the second out.
"Joe (Mauer) came out and said, 'Nice play, but this thing ain't done yet. We still got one more to go,"' Nathan said. "Then I stared into the on-deck circle to find out who was coming up."
After spending the first eight innings on the bench resting a sore hamstring, Ramirez and his 497 career home runs stepped out of the dugout to wild cheers from a hearty contingent of Red Sox fans.
Boston manager Terry Francona really had no choice. His team had come back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-1, after an atypically brutal start from Tim Wakefield (3-2) at the Metrodome.
"I had qualms," Francona said. "But to come that far back, (he's) a pretty good hitter to not have hit."
Crisp stole second base early in the count to put the tying run in scoring position.
"I just told myself, 'Try and make some pitches,"' Nathan said. "I definitely wanted to make sure I was still careful. I really wanted to be aggressive, but make good pitches."
He ran a two-seam fastball in on Ramirez's hands, and he grounded out to shortstop Adam Everett to end the game and fall to 0-for-7 with five strikeouts lifetime against Nathan.
"It goes to show that even three-run leads aren't a lock," Nathan said. "You have to go out there, you have to work and get your three outs. This thing's not over until you do, especially against a club like this."
It sure seemed like it was over long after a power surge by the small-ball Twins, who entered with a major league-low 17 homers and had yet to hit more than one in a game before Sunday's binge.
Wakefield's knuckleball always seems to bite a little bit harder in the Dome, with the 41-year-old entering 7-3 with a 3.95 ERA in his career under the puffy white roof.
But he gave up seven runs -- six earned -- on seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings Sunday, the earliest he's been knocked out of a start since June 20, 1997, at Detroit, when he lasted just 2 1/3 innings.
Wakefield twice lasted only two innings since, but one was a tuneup before the playoffs started on Sept. 28, 2003. The other was at Milwaukee on June 6, 2003, when he was hit by a pitch on the ankle in the third inning and taken out of the game.
"I felt great. I thought I had good stuff," Wakefield said. "It's one of those nights you'd like to forget."
Monroe had a three-run homer and Everett a two-run shot in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
Crisp hit his second homer in as many days to go with a triple and three RBI, and Alex Cora had three hits in his first game back from the disabled list.
But Nick Blackburn (3-2) struck out five in six shaky innings and Monroe improved to .333 (7-for-21) with three homers in his career against Wakefield.
"I think about being in the backyard playing whiffle ball," Monroe said. "I just say, 'Forget mechanics. Don't worry about that. Just try to catch this thing out front.'
"I've had some success, so I'm just going to continue to try to think the same thing."
- Timlin's appearance was his 1,023rd, moving him past Lee Smith and Jose Mesa for eighth on the career list.
- As part of Mother's Day, the Twins hosted 12 mothers or grandmothers of players Sunday. Jan Guerrier, mother of Matt Guerrier, threw out the first pitch. Jan Guerrier was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, but it has been in remission since 2006.
- Ellsbury was hit on the inside of his left knee while squaring around to bunt in the third, but remained in the game.