MINNEAPOLIS — The last 24 hours had not been great for Minnesota Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks, who was publicly called out by his manager and acting general manager on Wednesday.
They suggested the light-hitting outfielder needs to start producing more at the plate. On Thursday afternoon against the Boston Red Sox, Hicks answered the challenge.
Hicks’ soft single to left field with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning scored catcher Kurt Suzuki from second and lifted the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Red Sox in the series finale.
For Hicks, who entered Thursday batting .167, it was his first career walk-off hit.
“In those situations, you have to try and be aggressive,” Hicks said. “I guess with the way things are going, I guess you could say I got away with one.”
For the second time in three days, the Twins walked off with a win against Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller, who has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season.
When Miller entered the game Tuesday against the Twins, he sported a 1.69 ERA in 18 appearances and 16 innings pitched. Miller allowed a two-run homer to Chris Parmelee on Tuesday and then the Hicks single on Thursday, dropping to 1-2 and seeing his ERA rise to 2.95.
“I haven’t seen the location, but I was happy with the contact,” Miller said. “Fastball in, tried to jam a guy, jammed him, it just fell down.
“It stinks. I blew two games. We lost two games in the series, both of them my name’s attached to.”
Minnesota appeared poised to wrap up the series win in nine innings, but Boston scratched out four singles and two runs off Twins closer Glen Perkins in the top of the ninth to send the game to extra innings. It was Perkins’ second blown save of the season.
The bad inning by Perkins spoiled another good outing by Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who was in line to win his fifth consecutive start.
Hughes went six innings, allowing only one run, which came on an infield single in the top of the fourth. The run snapped a streak of 11 innings of scoreless work.
Hughes did not walk a batter for the fourth consecutive start and struck out eight, lowering his ERA to 3.61. It was his fifth straight quality start after beginning the year with two clunkers.
Hughes retired the first six batters of the game and nine of the first 10 before allowing three singles and a run in the fourth.
A 14-pitch at-bat against Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts ended when Hughes got Bogaerts to fly out to center to end the fifth and retired the Sox 1-2-3 in the sixth but was lifted after 97 pitches — 74 of them for strikes. He retired all 18 batters he faced without the benefit of a groundout.
A two-run homer by Parmelee and a sacrifice fly to right by second baseman Brian Dozier three batters later provided Minnesota with their only runs of the game off Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz settled down after that, allowing only three singles and a walk into the sixth inning, before a one-out double by Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar put a runner in scoring position. He sandwiched an intentional walk around a groundout and a strikeout to work out of the jam.
Buchholz tossed six innings and allowed 10 hits and three walks but only three runs. He struck out three but dropped to 2-4 this season.
“Not 100 percent as far as pitches working. That one inning, gave up the homer and sac fly, but was able to settle down a bit,” Buchholz said. “Phil was throwing a good game on the other side, so it was a waiting game hoping to go out there and not (allow) any more damage.”
Minnesota’s middle relief shut down Boston in the late innings, as right-handers Jared Burton and Casey Fein retired the Sox in order in the seventh and eighth, setting up Perkins’ ninth-inning fiasco.
Left-hander Brian Duensing pitched a scoreless 10th inning to win his first game of the season.
Boston continues its American League Central swing this weekend with a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park in Boston.
On Wednesday night, David Ortiz hit two solo home runs for the second straight night and Felix Doubront turned in 6 1/3 strong innings as Boston won 9-4.
Ortiz’s first blast gave him 383 as a member of the Red Sox, pushing him past Jim Rice on the team’s all-time list.
Ortiz continued his dominance of his former team with three hits and three runs scored while Grady Sizemore recorded two RBIs to help lift the Red Sox back above .500 at 20-19. Mike Napoli drove in a run and scored while A.J. Pierzynski plated two in support of Doubront (2-3), who scattered one run and seven hits while striking out five.
Joe Mauer lifted a sacrifice fly and Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run homer in the ninth for the Twins, who had a letdown after a walk-off victory in Tuesday’s series opener. Kevin Correia (1-5) was knocked around for five runs and nine hits in four innings to suffer the loss.
Boston pushed across two runs in the first inning on Napoli’s RBI groundout and Sizemore’s double into the gap in right-center that scored Ortiz from third. Ortiz, who made use of the lower deck in right field for both his home runs on Tuesday, muscled up and ripped a shot into the second deck in the third inning to make it a 3-0 cushion.