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Red Sox 2, Twins 1

Crawford double in the 11th gives Red Sox a win

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 10, 2011

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The worst April of his career is history. Now May has become a series of celebrations for new Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford.

For the second time in nine days, Crawford delivered a game-winning hit, slamming a double off the wall in the bottom of the 11th inning last night to lift the Sox to a 2-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins.

Crawford beat the Mariners earlier in the homestand with a walkoff single. Day by day, he’s becoming the player the Sox believe will be a star.

“It just lets you know that you can still do those things. Sometimes you need a little boost like that to get you going and in my case it got me going a little bit,’’ Crawford said. “So hopefully I can continue to swing the bat really well.’’

Jed Lowrie drew a one-out walk off Jim Hoey (0-1) in the 11th. Rookie Jose Iglesias, who was called up from the minors Sunday, pinch ran.

Crawford, an aggressive hitter, worked the count full before taking a swing at a low fastball. He drove the ball through a stiff wind that was blowing in. As the ball banged high off the wall in left-center, Iglesias paused for a second and then took off.

“I think as Iggy is here more, it’ll probably be a little easier to read that ball off the wall. He probably didn’t get out as far as he could have,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “But he was probably running as fast as he’ll ever run.’’

The Twins quickly got the ball, shortstop Matt Tolbert taking the relay throw and getting it to the plate. But Iglesias slid in before catcher Rene Rivera could apply the tag.

“We won, I was excited about that,’’ said Iglesias, who was swarmed by half of his new teammates, the other half having chased down Crawford. “I tried as hard as I can to win the game. That’s the first time that’s happened to me.’’

Scoring the winning run didn’t free Iglesias of his duties as the new kid in town. Once he dressed and spoke to reporters, he carried three large bags of cold beer for the players to take on the bus ride to the airport.

Crawford hit .155 in April, laboring under the expectations that come with a seven-year, $142 million contract with a new team. But he has been one of the more valuable players on the roster this month, hitting safely in all nine games at 13 of 36 (.361).

“Where I came from I didn’t have a clue, now I have one. It’s like night and day a little bit,’’ Crawford said. “It’s still a process and hopefully I can continue to get better over time.’’

Hideki Okajima (1-0) got the victory with two innings of relief. He left two runners stranded in the top of the 10th and two more in the 11th. He threw 43 pitches, his career high.

With Matt Albers and Daniel Bard unavailable, Okajima was called on to carry a heavy load.

“I felt good,’’ Okajima said through an interpreter. “I was just making sure that I hit the corners and made sure they didn’t hit a home run off of me. I think I did a good job.’’

The Sox finished a 6-5 homestand with three consecutive wins and at 17-18 again have crawled back to within a game of .500. They open a five-game road trip tonight in Toronto.

Sox starter Josh Beckett was taken out after seven shutout innings and 103 pitches. Francona called on Alfredo Aceves to protect a 1-0 lead.

He got one out before Denard Span reached on an infield single, tapping the ball toward third base and beating the throw from Kevin Youkilis.

Aceves than balked Span to second base, first-base umpire Angel Hernandez making the call.

It was the second balk called on Aceves in as many appearances and it proved to be a crucial mistake.

Aceves got Tolbert to foul to third. Francona went to Jonathan Papelbon. It was his first save opportunity since April 22.

The closer got ahead of Jason Kubel, 0 and 2, but could not put him away. Kubel took two balls, fouled off three pitches, and then looped a splitter into center field for an RBI single.

“Broken-bat single on a good pitch,’’ Papelbon said. “Not much I can do about that.’’

It was Papelbon’s first blown save in six chances. He came back in the ninth and retired the Twins in order.

Beckett deserved a better fate. He scattered six hits, walked one, and struck out five.

As the Sox try to straighten out their season, having a healthy and productive Beckett will make that job much easier. He gave up three runs over five innings in his first start of the season but just seven in the 40 1/3 innings since. He has a 1.99 earned run average and last night marked the third time in seven starts he did not surrender a run.

The Sox, who were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position, scored their first run in the fifth inning.

Jason Varitek doubled to left field. Jacoby Ellsbury, who extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a single in the third inning, had a productive at-bat by grounding to second and pushing Varitek to third base.

With the infield in, slumping Dustin Pedroia grounded to shortstop. Pitching coach Rick Anderson went to the mound to discuss how Blackburn should pitch to Adrian Gonzalez.

Blackburn threw a tough pitch, a cut fastball high and inside. But Gonzalez kept his hands back and flicked the ball into left field to score Varitek.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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