Boston at Minnesota

W: N. Blackburn (4-2) L: J. Lester (3-5)
S: J. Nathan (7)
HR: BOS - None   MIN - J. Morneau (14)

Twins 5, Red Sox 2 wire reports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins have been celebrating their final season in the Metrodome the easy way.

Jogging around the bases has become routine for these suddenly powerful Twins, whose home run streak reached nine straight games -- their longest in seven years.

Justin Morneau's three-run shot capped a five-run fifth inning against Boston starter Jon Lester, and the Twins beat the Red Sox 5-2 on Tuesday night.

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"That dude's got a lot of power. It makes it a lot more fun when stuff like that happens," said Nick Blackburn (4-2), who struck out a career-high seven in seven innings.

Minnesota began the game with the fifth-most home runs in the majors after finishing next-to-last in each of the last two years, but Morneau's was set up by the small ball the Twins have been more familiar with.

In contrast, struggling slugger David Ortiz was dropped to sixth from the No. 3 spot in the Boston lineup. The last time Oritz, who has just one homer this season, batted lower than fourth was May 18, 2004.

Good speed plus seeing-eye singles and high chops were actually the recipe for this Twins victory. The bottom four in Minnesota's batting order -- Brendan Harris, Delmon Young, Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto -- were a combined 1-for-30 over the previous three games. But they had four hits and scored three runs between them, frustrating Lester (3-5) in the fifth.

"If the bottom of the order can start producing," Punto said, "this can be one of the best offenses in team history."

Lester's breakout 2008 season hasn't led to any sustained success yet this year: He has given up at least five runs in six of 10 starts.

After stranding a runner on third with one out in the second, striking out Joe Mauer with a runner on second to end the third, and breezing through a three-up-three-down fourth, Lester faltered in the fifth.

Jacoby Ellsbury made a fully extended horizontal catch in deep center field to take an extra-base hit from Young, but Tolbert beat out a chop to shortstop and Punto followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 1. Denard Span bounced into an out, but it cleared Lester's head and allowed Tolbert to score.

"That's how you put the pressure on the defense, and we need more of that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Then Mauer walked, before Morneau's line drive that quickly cleared the right-field wall. Lester hung his head and wiped his face with his jersey, while Morneau jogged around the bases for the 14th time this season to make it 5-1.

"I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. Made one mistake. He hit it out. That's what makes him a good hitter," Lester said. "I don't think it's a mental lapse or anything like that. It's just not executing pitches."

Lester finished six innings, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out four.

"That's tough to beat those guys when that stuff happens," Pedroia said. "Because their two, three, four, five, six guys, they swing the bats better than anybody in baseball."

Blackburn found himself in similar situations as Lester, but he avoided the game-changing hit.

After collecting 16 hits in each of the last two games, Boston took a 1-0 lead on Dustin Pedroia's double in the fifth but left four runners in scoring position during Blackburn's outing.

"His ball is really sinking now. A lot of confidence. He's mastering the strike zone," Gardenhire said.

Blackburn has lasted seven innings or more in six of his last seven starts, and Matt Guerrier pitched a perfect eighth before Joe Nathan notched his seventh save with a scoreless ninth.


X-rays were negative on Twins 3B Joe Crede's right hand, where he was hit by a pitch Sunday. He has a deep bone bruise. ... Clay Buchholz took a perfect game into the ninth inning for Boston's Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket Monday. Francona acknowledged the concern of prospects like Buchholz growing frustrated by spending too much time in the minors, but said: "If the callups were on their schedule, we'd have a 55-man roster." ... Mauer failed to get a hit for just the fourth time in 24 games. ... Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 21 games.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Players of the Game

J. Morneau
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1

J. Ellsbury
AB 5
R 2
H 2
HR 0

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Kevin Youkilis, 3B4010033 .379
Jason Bay, LF4000023 .282
David Ortiz, DH3010110 .197
Jason Varitek, C4010013 .238
Jeff Bailey, 1B4000014 .185
Julio Lugo, SS4020001 .271
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Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester (L,3-5) 6655341 6.07
Daniel Bard 1100110 1.50
Takashi Saito 1000030 3.18
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HBP - Span (by Jon Lester), Harris (by Takashi Saito)
Pitches-Strikes - Jon Lester 100-62, Daniel Bard 22-13, Takashi Saito 20-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jon Lester 7-5, Daniel Bard 1-1
Batters Faced - Jon Lester 26, Daniel Bard 5, Takashi Saito 4
Minnesota Twins
Denard Span, CF-LF1001100 .301
Joe Mauer, C3100122 .429
Justin Morneau, 1B3123100 .347
Michael Cuddyer, RF4010002 .285
Jason Kubel, DH3000111 .333
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Delmon Young, LF4000024 .242
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2B - Michael Cuddyer (10, Lester), Nick Punto (3, Bard)
HR - Justin Morneau (14, Lester)
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RBI - Denard Span (22), Justin Morneau 3 (44), Nick Punto (12)
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SB - Denard Span (10, 2nd base off Lester/Varitek)
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Minnesota Twins
Nick Blackburn (W,4-2) 7821270 3.55
Matt Guerrier (H,6) 1000020 3.86
Joe Nathan (S,7) 1100000 2.60
Pitches-Strikes - Nick Blackburn 111-75, Matt Guerrier 11-8, Joe Nathan 10-7
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Batters Faced - Nick Blackburn 30, Matt Guerrier 3, Joe Nathan 4
Game Information
Attendance - 20019
Game Time - 2:52
Temperature - 70
Umpires - Home - Tony Randazzo, First Base - Chris Guccione, Second Base - Todd Tichenor, Third Base - Jerry Layne