BOSTON — Jacoby Ellsbury has been the spark at the top of the Boston lineup and now Adrian Gonzalez is starting to add some pop. It’s a formula that the Red Sox have been looking for during an inconsistent start this season.
Gonzalez homered and Ellsbury had three hits to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, leading the Red Sox to a 9-5 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
“We’re a different team because he can cause havoc for the other team on the bases, like teams do to us,” Francona said of Ellsbury, who also stole a base and scored on Gonzalez’s single.
Kevin Youkilis scored four runs and Daisuke Matsuzaka settled down to pitch six innings after a rough first as Boston beat Minnesota for the second straight day after a three-game losing streak.
Gonzalez, who added a solo home in the fifth inning and finished with two RBIs, hit just one homer in his first 28 games. Now, he’s had three in his last six.
“Once we get into the later part of May, we’re all going to start feeling better,” he said. “It’s got nothing to do with the park, it’s got something to do with my swing. You start feeling things.”
Gonzalez discovered a flaw in his swing during a recent game.
“I felt something out there. After that, I worked on it,” he said. “The next day I worked on it.”
But it was Ellsbury getting on base at the top of the order that helps start Boston’s offense.
“Obviously he’s a dynamic player that, when he gets on the basepaths, it takes the focus off the batter and allows a split second when the pitcher’s not focusing on the hitter,” Jed Lowrie said.
J.D. Drew and Lowrie also drove in two runs for the Red Sox.
Danny Valencia had a solo homer and two-run single for the Twins, who have lost nine of their last 10 games in Fenway Park. Minnesota committed three errors, one leading to a pair of unearned runs.
“When you give a team extra outs, you pay,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We paid today. These guys are very resilient over there.”
Matsuzaka (3-3), gave up three runs in the first and threw 34 pitches. After that, he held the Twins to two hits over the next five innings. He allowed four runs, struck out four and walked two.
The 30-year old right-hander was pushed back a day after making his first career relief appearance and taking the loss in a game against Los Angeles that ended early Thursday morning.
Matt Albers worked two innings of one-run relief and Daniel Bard got the final three outs.
Trailing 3-1 in the third, Boston scored four runs off Carl Pavano (2-4). Carl Crawford tripled off the left-field wall and scored on Jason Varitek’s bouncer to first. Gonzalez and Drew each had RBI singles and the other run came in on Youkilis’ fielder’s choice grounder.
Valencia’s homer off the left-field foul pole above the Green Monster sliced it to 5-4 in the fourth. The withstood a replay review.
But in the fifth, the Red Sox increased it to 7-4 when Gonzalez hit a drive off the light tower above the Monster seats and Youkilis raced home from third as second baseman Alexi Casilla threw the relay wild past first base on what could have been an inning-ending double-play grounder.
“He uses the whole field so well,” Francona said of Gonzalez. “He’s going to hit the ball off that wall, if not over it.”
Lowrie’s two-run double off reliever Jose Mijares made it 9-4 in the seventh.
The Twins, who entered the day scoring the fewest runs in the majors, took a 3-0 lead on the first on an RBI single by Jason Kubel and a two-out, two-run single by Valencia.
Pavano gave up seven runs on 10 hits in five innings. He’s 0-4 in five starts away from Target Field, giving up 27 runs in 19 innings in the losses.
“It’s tough on all of us. My stuff’s just not very good right now,” Pavano said. “I’m not getting the job done.”
Minnesota scored three runs or fewer in nine of its last 10 games and 21 times this season.
The Red Sox cut it to 3-1 in the second when Youkilis doubled, advanced on a grounder and scored on Drew’s ground out.
NOTES: It’s Ellsbury’s longest hitting streak since a career-best 22 in May 2009. … Minnesota SS Trevor Plouffe, spiked by Ellsbury making a tag in the fourth, said his left hamstring tightened up … The Red Sox placed SS Marco Scutaro on the 15-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle and recalled prospect Jose Iglesias from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game. They had to call up Iglesias, who played in the ninth, because Pawtucket’s Yamaico Navarro, who spent time as a reserve last season, was placed on the DL Saturday with a strained right oblique. “We all think he’s got a bright future here, but we don’t think he’ll be our starting shortstop right now,” Francona said. “It’s good to have him up here to get him used to it.” … Red Sox 1B Gonzalez made a diving stop to his right on a grounder, ending the fifth. … Minnesota LHP Francisco Liriano, pushed back a day after the flu and a sore throat, is scheduled to open the Twins’ five-game homestand Tuesday against Detroit, his first start since a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. … It was Boston’s 650th straight sellout.