Just when it appeared the Boston Red Sox were poised to go on a run, they've struggled against one of the AL's worst teams.
Sending Clay Buchholz to the mound usually brings them success.
Trying to snap a three-game losing streak, the Red Sox turn to Buchholz as they continue their series Saturday night against the Minnesota Twins .
After taking two of three from AL East-leading New York last weekend and doing the same against Detroit, Boston (53-54) has lost its first two against Minnesota, which has the second-worst record in the AL.
The Twins (46-60) shut out the Red Sox on Thursday, then rallied from four down to record a 6-5 victory in 10 innings Friday.
With the Yankees opening a 7 1/2-game lead atop the AL East over the Red Sox, Boston's best chance for reaching the playoffs likely will come by winning one of the two wild-card spots. However, it must still overtake four teams just to claim the second spot."Talent can only go so far. You have to figure out ways to win," Red Sox right fielder Cody Ross said. "There's a difference between being a really talented group and being a winning group.
"On paper, it looks like that, but right now it just feels like we're treading water and it's not a good feeling. We got to snap out of it."
Buchholz (9-3, 4.75 ERA) will trying to help the Red Sox avoid losing three straight at home to the Twins in a series for the first time since 1994.
The right-hander has a 1.57 ERA over his last three starts and is 6-1 at Fenway Park this year. He gave up three runs in eight innings of a 7-3 victory over Detroit on Monday.
"Everything feels in synch right now," he said of his recent success.
Boston has won seven of Buchholz's last eight starts and is 12-6 when he takes the mound this year.
Buchholz has won his last three starts against the Twins, although he struggled against April 25, allowing five runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-6 victory.
Minnesota, which has won six of eight, is averaging 6.4 runs over that stretch. Jamey Carroll and Justin Morneau each went 4 for 4 on Friday, with Carroll providing the go-ahead RBI single in the 10th.
"A lot of times, we haven't been able to get over the hump. It seems like lately we've found a way to get the big hit," Carroll said.
Cole De Vries (2-2, 3.98), who is winless in his last five starts, takes the mound as the Twins try to continue playing spoiler.
De Vries gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings of a 7-6 win over Chicago on Monday, settling down after a four-run first. The right-hander doesn't have a decision in his last three outings, during which he has a 3.18 ERA.
|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||Josh Beckett||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|July 31, 2012||Ryan Sweeney||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|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) -- Joe Mauer showed the patience of a good hitter and followed that with the skill of one of the game's best.
Mauer hit a three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, lifting the Minnesota Twins to a 6-4 comeback win over the struggling Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.
With the Twins trailing 4-3 and runners on second and third, Mauer took a pitch just off the plate from closer Alfredo Aceves (2-7) before belting a 3-2 pitch into the Green Monster seats.
"I think I started laughing in the dugout," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "There's not too many guys that can take that pitch, but he's won a lot of batting titles."
Mauer, a three-time AL batting champ and 2009 AL MVP, was just prepared for something fast and saw what he expected.
"I was just trying to be on time for a fastball," he said. "He threw me a lot of nasty pitches that at-bat. He's got a good change and a good curveball. I just wanted to make sure I was on time for a fastball in case I got it, and I got it."
Mauer is hitting .320 with seven homers and 53 RBIs.
Ben Revere had three singles and extended his hitting streak to a career-best 18 games for Minnesota, which has won the first three games of a four-game series. The Twins have the AL's second-worst record.
Pedro Ciriaco hit a pinch-hit homer for the first of his career, breaking an eighth-inning tie and giving the Red Sox the lead before Mauer's homer.
Mike Aviles had a solo homer and Carl Crawford an RBI double for Boston, which has lost four straight.
Ciriaco, who had consecutive game-winning hits in New York against the Yankees on July 28 and 29, hit a 1-0 pitch from Glen Perkins into the seats above the Green Monster after the Twins tied the game in the top of the inning.
Aceves entered with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth, allowing Justin Morneau 's game-tying sacrifice fly before getting the next two batters.
In the ninth, Jamey Carroll , who went 4 for 4 with a game-winning single and reached base five times in Friday's win, had an RBI single. Revere had a two-out single. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Mauer's homer.
Aceves didn't think the pitch was off the plate.
"Why don't you ask the umpire how big he missed the pitch before? Ask him," he said.
Alex Burnett (4-3) got one out in the eighth for the win. Jared Burton worked the ninth for his fifth save.
When Boston pinch hitter Will Middlebrooks popped out for the final out, loud boos rained down from the stands.
"They're all devastating now," Boston's Nick Punto said. "You get this late in the season and you look at the standings and we're not really sitting in a great position. Wild card, there's a lot of teams. We can't afford to lose games like that."
Ciriaco was serenaded with chants of "Pedro! Pedro!" after hitting his homer and came out for a curtain call. Cody Ross ' RBI single off Burnett made it 4-2.
Boston starter Clay Buchholz gave up one unearned run over seven innings despite three errors - two by himself, allowing seven hits and striking out three.
Minnesota starter Cole De Vries, making his 10th major league start, allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Trailing by one in the eighth, the Twins loaded the bases against Andrew Miller on two walks and an infield hit before Aceves entered the game.
"We had one great job by Aceves in the eighth and then leakage in the ninth," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. " Andrew Miller has just been terrific against left-handers. Just flying open a little too much tonight."
The Red Sox jumped ahead 1-0 in the first when Ryan Kalish drew a leadoff walk and scored on Crawford's double off the left-field wall.
Aviles homered into the last row of Green Monster seats for his career-best 11th, making it 2-0 in the second.
After Aviles' one-out homer, De Vries held Boston without a hit until Adrian Gonzalez 's two-out single in the sixth.
The Twins turned a pair of infield hits and two throwing errors into a run in the fifth. Carroll had an infield hit to third. He advanced on Buchholz's errant pickoff attempt, the right-hander's second of the game.
Revere then hit a dribbler in front of the plate and catcher Kelly Shoppach threw to the bag as Revere was reaching first, with the ball caroming away for an error. Carroll came racing home from third as the ball rolled into foul territory to cut the score to 2-1. Revere was credited with an infield hit, extending his hitting streak.
De Vries is up with the Twins for the third time this season from Triple-A Rochester.
Notes: Aviles' previous career-high was 10 with Kansas City in 2008. ... Valentine said DH David Ortiz , on the 15-day DL with a strained right Achilles, is "progressing." ... Gardenhire rested OF Josh Willingham with a right-hander pitching until he pinch hit in the eighth. ... Buchholz got a mock cheer when he threw a successful pickoff attempt to first after two errors. ... Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from the lineup because of what Valentine called a minor leg injury and 3B Will Middlebrooks was given the night off. Ellsbury was a defensive replacement in the ninth and Middlebrooks pinch hit. ... Boston C Jarrod Saltalamacchia was back with the team and the DH after not being at the park Friday because of an ear infection. ... Red Sox RHP Josh Beckett , who left his previous start Tuesday because of a back spasm, threw Saturday and felt great. Valentine said the plan was to insert him into the rotation on Wednesday against Texas.