June 20, 2018
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Lackey helps Red Sox sweep Twins

By Joe Oberle, The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS — After waiting out a three-hour rain delay in the seventh inning, the Boston Red Sox expanded the lead they built before the storm and beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 at Target Field on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

“This is where we are supposed to win ball games,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Boston is playing well. We played them well at their ballpark. We know they’re a very good baseball team, they can swing the bats and they came in here and beat the ball around pretty good. But we’ve had our opportunities at home here to drive in runs and we didn’t get it done. You can’t come home here and lose like we did.”

The Red Sox were in command from the start, pounding out 11 hits, and Boston starting pitcher John Lackey silenced the Minnesota bats.

“I thought John was very crisp,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He was powerful. I thought he threw some good cutters, particularly to their left-handed hitters to get down underneath their swings.

“(He was) consistent with the stuff he had two starts ago when he faced Minnesota, and, really, the stuff he had in Tampa. He cruised through the first three, four innings with no men on base. Overall, just a solid performance for him.”

Lackey (2-4) pitched six strong innings, giving up one hit and one unearned run. He struck out five and hit one batter but didn’t issue a walk.

The storms prevented him from completing the game, but he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning.

“Oh, for sure. If there’s no rain, he’s in line for a minimum seven, maybe eight innings,” Farrell said. “His pitch count was very much under control. He was efficient, and he had a very good outing today.”

Andrew Miller came in for Lackey when the game resumed and set down the Twins in order in the seventh. He gave way to Koji Uehara in the eighth, and Uehara gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases, but pitched his way out of the jam with three strikeouts.

Junichi Tazawa pitched around two hits in a scoreless ninth.

“We didn’t do much (offensively), Gardenhire said of the team’s five hits. “We had that one big chance at the end of the ballgame and couldn’t get one in. We’ve got to start picking up these runs.”

Dustin Pedroia’s two-run, ninth-inning homer expanded Boston’s lead to 5-1. Pedroia, David Ortiz and Daniel Nava each had two hits for the Red Sox.

Trevor Plouffe collected two of Minnesota’s five hits.

Twins rookie Pedro Hernandez, who has been up and down in his six starts this season, struggled from the start against the Red Sox lineup. Hernandez (2-1) gave up three runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.

“We need innings (from Hernandez) and we didn’t get it — 105 pitches in four-and-a-third,” Gardenhire said. “He managed to keep the score at a place where we had a chance. But it wasn’t a great performance by any means. We have to start pitching better. Our bullpen’s getting more innings than our starters and that’s not good.”

Reliever Josh Roenicke kept the Twins in the game. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing no hits and walks while striking out two.

The Red Sox jumped in front when Will Middlebrooks connected on a 2-1 pitch to deep right center for a solo shot in the second inning, his eighth of the season.

In the third, Shane Victorino walked and went to third on a Jonny Gomes single. Victorino scored when Pedroia hit a grounder to third baseman Plouffe, who, while trying for a double play, threw the ball into right field.

The Sox scored again in the fifth on three straight singles by Pedroia, Ortiz and Mike Napoli to take a 3-0 lead.

Plouffe broke up Lackey’s no-hitter with a leadoff double in the fifth. He scored on a throwing error by Boston shortstop Pedro Ciriaco. It looked like a sure double-play ball that could have ended the inning, but instead it ended the shutout.

NOTES: Frst innings have been brutal for the Twins. They have allowed 43 runs in first innings this season (1.10 per game), which is tops in the majors. … Red Sox pitchers entered play Sunday ranked second in the major leagues with 404 strikeouts, trailing only the Tigers’ 409 K’s. Boston fanned 11 Minnesota hitters in the series finale. … The Twins pitching staff has allowed 10-plus hits in eight straight games.

On Saturday night, Red Sox DH David Ortiz went 3 for 4 and hit two home runs to help Boston outslug Minnesota 12-5.

“It might have been our best offensive night of the year,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We worked deep counts. A big night by David again. Daniel Nava continues to drive the ball with authority. But we had good at-bats up and down the lineup tonight.”

Ortiz, who was 2 for 18 against the Twins last week, is 6 for 8 in the first two games of the series in Minnesota and is no longer having trouble with Twins pitching.

“Certainly, his performance is as good as you are going to find around the league right now,” Farrell said of Ortiz. “But this is a guy that has a long history of a lot of production; hits both lefties and rights as we have seen again tonight, and it’s the consistency with which he goes about his work.

“It’s not coincidence that he has the performance that he does. He’s a very good hitter and has the ability combine both average and power at the same time.”

Both starters threw plenty of pitches, but neither figured in the decision.

Boston’s Ryan Dempster put in a long night’s work, throwing 127 pitches in 4 2/3 innings and giving up five runs, eight hits and six walks with two strikeouts.

Twins starter Scott Diamond, who gave up three home runs in his previous outing, put the Twins in an early hole, giving up the first Ortiz round-tripper. Diamond’s night ended after 93 pitches and 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs, eight hits and one walk with no strikeouts.

“A night where we couldn’t keep ‘em in the ballpark,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Diamond basically was pretty much behind and up in the zone, and wasn’t able to make adjustments like he normally has. Just couldn’t get the ball where he wanted to. A tough night.”

The Twins’ usually reliable bullpen did not help Diamond. Minnesota relievers gave up five runs, including two-run homers to Ortiz and Nava.

The Red Sox had 13 hits to the Twins’ 12, but Minnesota’s biggest problem was Ortiz, whose six RBI were the difference.

Craig Breslow, who came on in the sixth and shut down a Twins bases-loaded threat, pitched 1 2/3 innings to pick up his first win.

Ortiz continued his hot-hitting series against the Twins with a three-run homer in the first. Jacob Ellsbury (single) and Dustin Pedroia (walk) scored ahead of Ortiz, who now has six homers on the season.

“One guy we say don’t let him beat us is David Ortiz,” Gardenhire said. “They’ve got a lot of really good hitters over there, so we say ‘stay away from this guy,’ but he keeps sending souvenirs, so we’ve got to make some adjustments.”

Dempster had control troubles in the second inning, walking the first two batters he faced. He got a couple of groundouts, but Pedro Florimon hit a two-out single up the middle to score Oswaldo Arcia and put the Twins on the board.

Ortiz got to Diamond again in the third with an RBI single after Diamond walked Jonny Gomes and Pedroia reached on an infield hit.

The Twins returned fire in the fourth with a two-out double by Joe Mauer and an RBI single by Justin Morneau. The Sox had put a severe shift on Morneau his first two times up, but not this time, and he laced a liner to right.

The Sox responded with two doubles to open the fifth — Gomes scoring on Pedroia’s second hit of the game. Pedroia scored on Nava’s sacrifice fly and Ryan Lavarnway’s single to left scored Napoli’s to break the game open at 7-2.

Ryan Doumit opened the fifth with a double off the wall and scored after two groundouts. Aaron Hicks walked, stole second and scored on Florimon’s single. Florimon then scored on Jamey Carroll’s single to right and the Twins scratched their way back in the game at 7-5.

“Just throwing strikes — that was a big problem,” Dempster said of his performance. “Just didn’t have it tonight. But at the end of the day, we won the game and that’s all that matters.”

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