Rare home run leads Red Sox over Twins
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Darnell McDonald hit a two-run homer into the upper deck in left field to help the Boston Red Sox defeat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 on Tuesday night.
David Ortiz gave the Sox the lead for good on an infield single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 26th save.
Erik Bedard gave up two runs on three hits with six strikeouts in five innings in his second start since coming to Boston in a trade with Seattle.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka had a double and an RBI for the Twins, who lost their sixth straight game. Francisco Liriano walked a career-high seven and allowed three runs on four hits with four strikeouts in six innings.
Matt Albers (4-3) gave up one run in one inning of relief for the win, helping the Red Sox move to 2½ games up on the Yankees in the AL East after New York lost at home to the Angels.
Matt Capps (3-6) took the loss for the Twins after giving up one run on one hit and walking two in one inning. Minnesota's pitchers walked nine and its hitters whiffed 10 times in the game.
In an odd twist of events, the game featured two unexpected power surges from a pair of light hitters, and a nubber from the biggest man in the ballpark that proved to be the biggest hits in the game.
McDonald, who entered the game hitting .165 with three homers on the season, got a hanging slider from Liriano that he put into the upper deck in left field to tie the game 2-2 in the fifth inning.
Nishioka was hitting just .215 with just four extra-base hits and 14 RBIs this season when the day started. He struck out in his first two at-bats before sending a pitch from Matt Albers high off the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field for an RBI double that tied the game 3-3 in the sixth.
The Red Sox reclaimed the lead in the seventh when they loaded the bases for Ortiz. The big lefty hit a dribbler up the first baseline, but Twins lefty Phil Dumatrait fell flat on his face as he bent down to pick up the ball, and everyone was safe on a play that was ruled an infield single.
The free-swinging Twins had just one walk in their previous 182 plate appearances when they stepped to the plate in the first inning against Bedard. But they walked four times in their two-run first, including a bases loaded free pass to Delmon Young, who had walked 15 times in 314 plate appearances this season.
Bedard settled down after that 37-pitch first inning, keeping the Twins off the board with just two hits over his final four innings.
NOTES: Twins DH Jim Thome walked for the 1,708th time in his career in the first inning, tying him with Mel Ott for eighth on baseball's career list. ... Red Sox manager Terry Francona said reliever Bobby Jenks, who is on the disabled list with a back injury, was released from the hospital on Tuesday after spending a few days there because of an illness. ... Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia walked three times. ... The Twins placed RHP Scott Baker on the DL with a strained right elbow. ... Twins CF Denard Span got a rare day off after starting the home stand 0-for-12. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Span was still getting his timing down after being out with a concussion. ... LHP Jon Lester (11-5, 3.23) takes the mound for the Red Sox in the series finale on Wednesday night against RHP Nick Blackburn (7-9, 4.58). Lester's 6.61 ERA in three career starts in Minnesota is his second-highest in a visiting AL city next to Kansas City (7.20). ... Had Baker not been placed on the disabled list, Blackburn may have been pitching for his job. In his last eight starts, Blackburn is 3-5 with an 8.15 ERA and 65 hits allowed in 38 2-3 innings.