BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox’s stranglehold on first place is slipping thanks to the feisty Minnesota Twins.
On Monday night, the Twins dropped an 11-inning decision in the opener of a four-game series coming at the end of a three-city, 10-game road trip. The loss dropped Minnesota’s record to 13-15, and there was every reason to believe the young team could slip further at the end of its journey.
However, manager Ron Gardenhire’s team responded by winning three straight, capped by Thursday night’s 5-3 win over the slumping Red Sox, who have lost six of their last seven.
Boston (21-14), which has led or shared the lead in the American League East every day of the season, fell into a three-way tie for first with the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are on top by percentage points.
The Twins, meanwhile, crawled back above .500 at 16-15.
“I think it’s exciting. It kind of shows the kind of ballclub we are,” reliever Brian Duensing said after contributing 1 2/3 innings to the latest win. “That first game … it kind of took the wind out of our sails. For us to come back … and win the next three is real important, and I think it shows a lot to us as a team to know what we’re working with.”
The Twins scored 26 runs in the three wins.
Rookie Oswaldo Arcia, who had four hits Wednesday, had another big game Thursday on his 22nd birthday. He tripled and scored in the fifth inning, then hit his third homer of the season as the Twins scored four unearned runs off John Lackey in the sixth.
“He’s a fun kid to watch, fun kid to watch with the bat,” Gardenhire said of Arcia. “We missed that opportunity in spring training when he got hurt … but getting to see him now come up here and swing is pretty fun.”
The gates opened in the sixth after Lackey (1-3) threw the ball into center field on what looked like an inning-ending double play.
“I just have to make that play and (we) win the game,” Lackey said after working seven innings. “It was all on me.”
A later error by Will Middlebrooks gave the Red Sox, who made three errors in the first 16 games of the season, 11 during a 1-6 run that has followed a 20-8 start.
Kevin Correia (4-2) worked the first 5 1/3 innings and got the win with help from three relievers. Glen Perkins worked the ninth for his eighth save in as many chances.
Perkins walked Jacoby Ellsbury to start the ninth, then caught both Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia looking before former Twin David Ortiz hit a hard shot right at first baseman Justin Morneau.
“We’ve had that guy on our team, and I’ve always loved him when he walked to the plate,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t like watching him walk up there too many times now.
“It’s a good matchup. It’s good power on power, and tonight, I don’t know if we won or not. He hit a bullet, but we got him out.”
Lackey struck out eight, allowing six hits and all five runs (one earned).
“The errant throw opened the door for them,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “In a matter of a three-hitter span, that was the difference in this ballgame tonight, but other than that, I thought John was strong throughout the seven innings. … In that sixth inning, maybe he was his own worst enemy.”
Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon left with a tight right hamstring and is day-to-day. Replacement Eduardo Escobar booted Middlebrooks’ eighth-inning grounder for a rare Twins error. Minnesota was trying to reach 12 straight error-free games for the first time since 2002.
The misplay left runners on first and second with one out, but Jared Burton struck out Stephen Drew and pinch hitter Mike Carp to end the inning.
Lackey, making his third start since coming off the disabled list from a right biceps injury and only his fourth start since last year’s Tommy John surgery, retired the first eight hitters, striking out the side in the first.
NOTES: Middlebrooks and C David Ross returned after missing a game with injuries suffered in their Tuesday collision. … Red Sox RHP Joel Hanrahan was moved from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list and was headed to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his right forearm. Manager John Farrell said the best-case scenario would be 60 days of treatment, rest and rehab, but it sounds like Tommy John (or some) surgery is likely. … RHP Jose De La Torre was added to Boston’s 40-man roster and recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, with Wednesday night starter and loser Allen Webster returned to the minors. … The great Ryan Doumit hit controversy raged into its second day, and the Twins DH/catcher now gets credit for three hits, not four, after Wednesday’s baserunning adventure that ended in a double play. It was originally scored a fielder’s choice, then changed after the game, to a hit, then changed back Thursday. … LHP Pedro Hernandez, chased from Wednesday’s start after two innings, pitched despite the death of his cousin in Venezuela. He could have left the team but decided to stay. … The 5-5 road trip over, the Twins now host the Orioles on Friday night, with RHP Mike Pelfrey (3-3) going against RHP Jason Hammel (5-1). LHP Jon Lester takes his 4-0 record into Boston’s home series opener against Toronto, which counters with veteran RHP Ramon Ortiz. … Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe invited four Watertown, Mass., police officers (involved in the Boston Marathon bomber capture) to be his guests Thursday. … Heavy downpours hit less than two hours before game time, but the game started on time and there was some rain late.