The Boston Red Sox appeared to have found their groove before coming up short their last time out.
A visit from the Minnesota Twins could be just what they need to regroup.
The Red Sox open a four-game set Thursday night against a Twins club hoping to avoid an 11th loss in 12 games at Fenway Park.
Boston (53-52) had won four straight by a combined 22-12 score before falling 7-5 to Detroit in Wednesday's series finale. Carl Crawford hit his second homer but another shaky outing from Aaron Cook proved too much to overcome.
"We keep winning series and we're going to be just fine," manager Bobby Valentine said.
The Red Sox have only lost one of their last eight series against the Twins (44-60), winning 18 of 24 while batting .300. Boston has outscored Minnesota 68-33 in taking 10 of 11 meetings at Fenway over that stretch.
Keeping things going, though, could prove difficult with struggling Jon Lester (5-8, 5.49 ERA) on the mound. The left-hander has been especially bad over his last four starts, going 0-3 with a 12.27 ERA and a .377 opponent batting average.
After getting tagged for a career-high 11 runs over four innings during a 15-7 loss to Toronto on July 22, Lester gave up four runs and four hits over six innings Saturday but didn't factor in the decision of an 8-6 victory at Yankee Stadium.
With Josh Beckett 's overall performance also leaving much to be desired, the Red Sox need Lester to pick up the pace all the more.
"Well, we need to pitch well, and they know that," general manager Ben Cherington told the Red Sox's official website. "... They know what they need to do. They've heard it a lot, but they don't need to hear it. They know that we need those guys pitching effectively and helping us win games."
Lester is 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA over seven career starts against the Twins, allowing at least four runs in all but one of those outings. He surrendered five runs, six hits and four walks over seven innings during a 6-5 win at Minnesota on April 23 but didn't receive a decision.
The Twins counter with rookie Samuel Deduno (2-0, 3.13), who's won his last two starts while yielding one run in each. He allowed five walks Saturday but managed to limit the damage, scattering two hits over a career-high seven innings in a 12-5 victory over Cleveland.
The right-hander has walked 16 in 23 innings due in large part to poor control of his fastball.
"Some will cut, some will sink," Mauer told the Twins' official website. "But if it's not easy to catch, it's probably tougher to hit, too."
The Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 7-6 on Monday for their fourth consecutive win but went on to lose the next two games in that series, falling 3-2 on Wednesday. Danny Valencia homered for Minnesota, which went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
"We've been playing well," said Mauer, mired in a 2-for-19 slump. " ... I think we were in every game. Obviously, we got that first one, but we easily could have won these last two, also."
Boston's David Ortiz (strained right Achilles) was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Wednesday but appears to still be a few days away from returning. Ortiz, who began his career with Minnesota, is batting .335 against his former team - his highest mark against any AL club.
|July 25, 2012||Anthony Swarzak||15-Day DL||Mild right rotator cuff strain|
|July 21, 2012||Trevor Plouffe||15-Day DL||Bruised right thumb|
|July 17, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right rotator cuff irritation|
|June 24, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 24, 2012||Matt Capps||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 17, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right quadricep|
|Boston Red Sox|
|July 31, 2012||Ryan Sweeney||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|July 31, 2012||Josh Beckett||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|July 29, 2012||Daniel Nava||15-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|July 21, 2012||Mike Aviles||Day-to-Day||Turf toe|
|July 17, 2012||David Ortiz||15-Day DL||Right Achilles strain|
|July 14, 2012||Scott Atchison||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
BOSTON (AP) -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire can put up with Samuel Deduno 's wildness as long as the starter keeps limiting opponents to just two hits.
The right-hander who spent five years in the minors before reaching the majors allowed two hits for his second straight strong outing and the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 5-0 on Thursday night.
Deduno (3-0) walked four and struck out one in six innings before two relievers combined for three perfect innings. In his previous start, he allowed one run on two hits and five walks in a 12-5 win over Cleveland.
"I know his ball-strike ratio wasn't the greatest, but sometimes that works," Gardenhire said. "He was able to make pitches when he had to and that's all you really care about."
Deduno had an outstanding curveball and slider. He also has a fastball that moves so much that his catchers sometimes wonder where it will end up. And it led to him throwing only 50 of his 101 pitches for strikes.
"He's got a very live fastball," said shortstop Brian Dozier , who played with Deduno at Triple-A Rochester this season. "It cuts. It sinks. It rides. I don't know how he grips it, but he just kind of shoots for the middle of the plate."
Deduno, making his sixth major league start, has given up just two earned runs and 10 hits in 19 1-3 innings
"My curveball and my slider are pretty good, but my fastball is still moving like crazy," said Deduno, who reached the majors in 2010 and pitched six games in relief for Colorado and San Diego. ""This is the most fun. This is the dream to play in the big leagues and to stay not just for one month or two months."
Adrian Gonzalez got both Boston hits, a single and double. Casey Fien retired the side in order in the seventh and Glen Perkins pitched two perfect innings for his sixth save in nine opportunities.
Deduno overshadowed one of the best performances of Jon Lester 's rough season. Boston's lefty gave up three runs and seven hits in eight innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
"I don't feel like I have thrown the ball that well all year," he said.
Lester (5-9) had allowed 25 runs in his previous four starts but improved in his last one, allowing four runs in six innings. And he was much better on Thursday despite dropping to 0-4 in his last six starts and 2-7 at Fenway Park this season.
"Just another one of those hard luck outings," manager Bobby Valentine said. "He pitched awfully well. 2-0 doesn't seem insurmountable but it was tonight."
The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a single by Dozier, an RBI double by Denard Span and a run-scoring single by Ben Revere that extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 games. They made it 3-0 in the sixth on consecutive doubles by Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit . Dozier added his third hit of the game and fifth homer of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth off Alfredo Aceves .
"That was pretty cool, man. It was one of the best feelings so far since I've been up here," said Dozier, who was called up from Rochester on May 7. "I got it pretty good. It was a 2-0 fastball up in the zone and I knew he didn't want to walk me and so he's coming with the fastball. So I closed my eyes and hit it."
The Twins won for the fifth time in seven games, while the Red Sox dropped their second straight after winning four in a row.
Deduno got 11 of his 18 outs on groundballs and stranded runners at second base in three innings.
With two outs in the first, he walked Dustin Pedroia and Gonzalez then retired Cody Ross on a popup to shortstop. In the third, Gonzalez doubled with one out, Ryan Lavarnway walked with two outs but Will Middlebrooks flied out to center. And with two outs in the sixth, Boston threatened with consecutive singles by Gonzalez and Ross before Lavarnway lined out to left.
Deduno raised both arms as he walked off the mound.
Notes: Span stretched his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with a walk, his 18th muiltihit game in his last 34. ... Minnesota C Joe Mauer was given the night off to rest. He is hitting .352 in his last 57 games. ... The Red Sox stranded runners in scoring position in three of the first six innings. ... Minnesota's Brian Duensing (2-6) is scheduled to pitch Friday night's second game of the four-game series against Felix Doubront (10-5). ... Boston is 10-10 since the All-Star break. And 289-291 all-time against Minnesota.