MINNEAPOLIS — An upper-deck homer from spray hitter Darnell McDonald to get things started and an infield single from big bopper David Ortiz to finish things off.
Just the way the Boston Red Sox drew it up, right?
“Go tell him that,” McDonald said, nodding at Ortiz’s locker. “See, I should be in the home run derby next year.”
McDonald’s soaring two-run homer landed in the upper deck in left field and Ortiz’s squibber down the first baseline proved too difficult for lefty Phil Dumatrait to handle, propelling the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
It was a big role reversal for McDonald, who was hitting .165 with three homers when the day began, and Ortiz, the hulking captain of the AL home run derby team this year.
One night after joking that catcher Joe Mauer heard “the big elephant” coming down the third baseline when Ortiz scored in the eighth inning, Big Papi said he was “light stepping” on his infield single in the seventh on Tuesday night.
“So they don’t know I was coming,” Ortiz said.
Jonathan Papelbon picked up his 26th save and 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.
“There were a lot of pitches that were close, borderline. Just missing,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano. “We liked where the ball was. It was down in the zone or around the knees and that’s a pretty good start for him.”
The one real mistake Liriano made was a hanging slider that McDonald ripped into the seats 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 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 Dumatrait fell flat on his face as he dived to pick up the ball, and everyone was safe on a play that was ruled an infield single.
“I told you guys we knew that squeeze would work at some point,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona deadpanned. “Take it when you can get them.”
It was a frustrating end to the play for Dumatrait, who got one of the most dangerous hitters in the game to rollover weakly to first base. But for a lefty coming off the mound with Dustin Pedroia speeding toward home, it was a difficult play to make.
“It was one of those do-or-die things where I hopefully get a grip on the ball and flip it toward the plate,” he said. “But I didn’t get a grip on the ball.”
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.
Adrian Gonzalez had two hits and Jason Varitek added an RBI-single for the Red Sox, who have now won nine of their last 11 series and split the other two.
“This game is about momentum,” McDonald said. “We were able to get that momentum and the bullpen did a great job. Pap did a great job and we got timely hits when we needed them.”
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. … 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.