Daniel Bard went back to the bullpen to help out, and Cody Ross made him a winner.
For at least one night, all was right with the reeling Red Sox.
Ross homered twice, tying the game with a two-run shot in the seventh inning and giving Boston the lead with two outs in the ninth to snap a five-game losing streak for the Red Sox and beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5 on Monday.
”It’s been a tough go,” Ross said. ”Everybody knows how tough it’s been on us, but nobody feels sorry for us. We’re going to keep having to go out there and grind it out.”
Starter-turned-temporary-reliever Bard (1-2) recorded two critical outs in the eighth after the Twins put the leadoff runner on third. Alfredo Aceves picked up the save, his third in five tries, and all was right with the reeling Red Sox for at least one night.
Aceves gave up a one-out single and a high drive to the warning track in left-center to Trevor Plouffe, but Denard Span bounced back to the mound to end it.
”It gives them some confidence,” Ross said. ”We have some guys that are really good out there, and we believe in them as a team.”
Ryan Sweeney misplayed Jamey Carroll’s single into a two-base error that put him at third with none out in that pivotal eighth, after the ball bounded down the right-field line, ricocheted off the padded facade of the seats in foul territory and skidded away.
But Franklin Morales got Joe Mauer to ground out weakly to first base, and Bard retired two of the three batters he faced sandwiched around an intentional walk to Justin Morneau. Josh Willingham greeted Bard with a sharp line drive, but it zipped straight at third baseman Kevin Youkilis for the second out.
”He allowed everybody to be happy campers,” manager Bobby Valentine said.
Bard shrugged off his bullpen appearance.
”Same deal. You’re just trying to get out. You just have a little less time to warm up. That’s it,” he said.
Then Ross put the Red Sox in front with his drive off Matt Capps (0-1), who threw a 92-mph, 0-1 fastball at the kneecaps, a tough one for anyone to hit, let alone far enough to reach seats to the opposite field.
”That’s tough to do. He did it. He hit it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Said Capps: ”I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cody Ross hit a ball that way. He put it a good swing on it and obviously squared it up well.”
After a rainout on Sunday gave the rotation an extra day of rest, Valentine put Bard in his struggling bullpen for a few days amid calls for the young right-hander to take over for Aceves as the closer. But Bard and Valentine insisted the move was merely temporary, and Bard is still on track to make his next start on Friday.
”I still view myself as a starter, and they said they do, too,” Bard said before the game.
Jon Lester allowed six hits, five runs and four walks over seven innings. He struck out four but wasted a 3-0 lead, after Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s two-run homer in the second.
Danny Valencia’s two-run homer, his first of the season, followed Ryan Doumit’s two-run double in a four-run fourth for the Twins. Then Plouffe drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, Span singled and a run scored when Carroll grounded into a double play.
Still, Valentine fervently praised the way Lester bounced back with strong a sixth and seventh.
”Nothing changed physically or mentally, but something got me locked in,” Lester said.
Carroll got the Red Sox back for that in the sixth. With one out and runners at the corners, he dived to stop a grounder by David Ortiz up the middle and flipped to the second baseman Plouffe from his stomach with one hand. Then Plouffe whirled around for a perfect relay throw to finish the double play.
But Jason Marquis gave the game back to the Red Sox on that two-run drive by Ross that soared high above left field and into the upper-deck seats.
NOTES: Red Sox RH Daisuke Matsuzaka’s rehab start for Class A Salem, his first real game since undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery last June, was rough. He gave up six hits, three runs and two homers in four innings. … CF Marlon Byrd, 3 for 43 with the Cubs before being traded Saturday, had a single in his Red Sox debut. … Twins starters are 2-9 with a 6.46 ERA, last in the majors. … Willingham will miss Wednesday’s game to be with his wife, who is about to have a baby.