MINNEAPOLIS — Jim Thome hit a tiebreaking RBI double during Minnesota’s three-run eighth inning and the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Thome also had a run-scoring single and the Twins got an outstanding effort from Nick Blackburn to snap a six-game losing streak and avoid a sweep.
Thome hit the 119th pitch from Jon Lester (11-6) over Carl Crawford’s head in left field for a 3-2 lead. Blackburn gave up an unearned run and six hits in 6 2-3 innings and Joe Nathan picked up his ninth save.
David Ortiz went 2 for 4 with a homer and Lester gave up four runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings for the Red Sox. The left-hander also issued five walks, tying a season high.
Danny Valencia added an RBI double and Tsuyoshi Nishioka came through with a run-scoring single off Alfredo Aceves to give Nathan a little breathing room heading into the ninth.
The Red Sox were losing 2-1 when Ortiz stepped into the box in the eighth against lefty Glen Perkins, who has been dominant this season but has struggled a bit in the last week.
It was power against power, and Perkins gave him straight gas the entire showdown. He hit 96 mph on six pitches before cranking up and reaching 98 on his final offering to Ortiz, who sent the pitch 419 feet into the bullpen behind center field. It was the first homer Perkins allowed this season in 178 plate appearances.
Success against his former team is nothing new for Ortiz, who was allowed to leave the organization after the 2002 season. He is hitting .333 (54 for 162) with 12 homers against the Twins, and is 9 for 19 (.474) at Target Field. His fingerprints have been all over this series, with go-ahead singles late in the first two games.
Thome never would have been in a position to put the Twins ahead in the eighth if not for Blackburn’s sharp effort.
Few could say they saw this outing coming from him. In his previous eight starts, he was 3-5 with an 8.15 ERA and 65 hits allowed in 38 2-3 innings. He had allowed 16 earned runs in his last three starts.
If Scott Baker wasn’t placed on the disabled list on Tuesday with an elbow injury, Blackburn may very well have been pitching for his job Wednesday night.
All he did was handcuff one of the deepest, most formidable lineups in the game for almost seven innings. With a biting sinker and a befuddling changeup, Blackburn held the highest-scoring offense in the majors scoreless through six as the Twins took a 2-0 lead.
The Red Sox finally got on the board in the seventh, but only after Twins second baseman Trevor Plouffe muffed a grounder from Jacoby Ellsbury that would have ended the inning. Marco Scutaro followed with an RBI single to chase Blackburn, and Perkins got Adrian Gonzalez to pop out to end the inning.
Perkins (4-2) gave up one run and two hits in 1 1-3 innings for the win and Nathan’s save was No. 255 for his career, moving him past Rick Aguilera for the most in Twins history.
Mike Aviles had two hits for the Red Sox, and Delmon Young went 2 for 2 with two walks for the Twins.
NOTES: The Twins got some good news earlier in the day when manager Ron Gardenhire announced Justin Morneau will be activated from the disabled list on Friday in Cleveland. Morneau has been out since June 9 after having neck surgery. … Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia was given the day off. “He was fighting me on it the last two days,” manager Terry Francona said. “Last night after the game, he’s like, ‘I’m tired.’ This will be really good for him.” … Francona disputed a call in the sixth when umpire Ted Barrett gave the speedy Ben Revere home on a double by Joe Mauer that was caught by a fan. … Perkins has given up five runs — four earned — in his last three appearances. He had an 11 appearance scoreless streak before that. … The Twins are off Thursday and will begin a three-game series against the Indians in Cleveland on Friday. Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.71) will take the mound for the Twins against Justin Masterson (9-7, 2.71). Thome will continue his pursuit of career homer No. 600 in the place where his career began. He is two away from becoming the eighth player to reach the mark. … The Red Sox are off Thursday as well and will head to Seattle for a three-game set against the Mariners starting on Friday. John Lackey (10-8, 6.14 ERA) will start Game 1 for Boston against Blake Beavan (3-2, 2.83 ERA). Lackey has been improving lately after a dreadful start. He allowed three runs in six innings in his previous start against the New York Yankees.