Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Alfredo Aceves of the Red Sox isn’t happy about loading the bases in the eighth inning. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Lester, Sox lose control
MINNEAPOLIS - One of Jon Lester’s goals in spring training was to cut down on walks, something he has accomplished over the course of the season.
But a lack of control cost him dearly last night. Lester walked five Twins and three of them came around to score. The result was a 5-2 loss for the Red Sox before a sellout crowd of 40,491 at Target Field.
The five walks matched a career high for Lester and he struck out just four, that coming against a team that had lost six straight and has the fourth-worst record in the American League.
“I felt like I had pretty good stuff. I just wasn’t able to locate,’’ said Lester, now 11-6. “Gave them too many opportunities and when you do that, that’s what happens.
“It doesn’t matter what team it is in the big leagues. If you give them plenty of opportunities, they’re going to take care of them.’’
Lester and the Sox trailed, 2-1, after seven innings before David Ortiz tied the game with a home run to left center off Glen Perkins.
Lester had thrown 106 pitches but went back out for the eighth. For manager Terry Francona, it made sense given that Lester will get an extra day off (or two) before his next start, and the bullpen had been leaned on heavily in recent games.
“I thought he still had very good stuff,’’ Francona said. “That really wasn’t an issue.’’
The gamble didn’t pay off as Lester walked Joe Mauer to start the inning.
With one out and Mauer on second, Jim Thome doubled to give Minnesota the lead. Francona ended Lester’s night after 119 pitches.
Alfredo Aceves let the game get away. Danny Valencia had an RBI double down the line in left. The Sox intentionally walked Delmon Young to get to Matt Tolbert and he hit a fly ball to right.
Mike Aviles, playing the outfield for the second time in his career, misplayed the ball into a single that loaded the bases. Tsuyoshi Nishioka followed with an RBI single to center.
Jacoby Ellsbury threw Young out at the plate, or the Twins would have tacked on another run.
Joe Nathan closed the game for the Twins. The save was the 255th of his career, breaking the franchise record held by Rick Aguilera.
Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn faced the Sox at Fenway Park on May 9 and allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings. He was even better last night, giving up one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings.
Blackburn allowed six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 69 of his 108 pitches for strikes and did not give up a run until the seventh inning.
Aviles drew a walk with two out. The inning should have ended there when Ellsbury grounded to second, but Trevor Plouffe overran the ball. The Sox capitalized on the mistake when Marco Scutaro lined an RBI single to left.
The Twins went to Perkins to face Adrian Gonzalez. He got ahead 0-and-2 then eventually got the leading RBI man in the majors on a fly ball to right field.
Gonzalez was looking for a ball inside. He fouled off the first pitch and thought the second pitch would be where he wanted it as Mauer set up inside. But Perkins missed the spot and Gonzalez swung through the pitch.
“You don’t know what would have happened,’’ said Gonzalez, who fouled off two more pitches before the fly ball. “He didn’t really execute his pitches but he made enough pitches to get the out. That’s the game.’’
Lester had a shaky first inning, giving up three singles and a walk. But the Twins scored only one run.
Ben Revere singled with one out then was picked off by Lester. The inning kept going when Mauer walked and came around on singles by Michael Cuddyer and Thome.
“Just really didn’t get a very good rhythm. Battling myself a little bit,’’ Lester said. “Second inning on, felt like I threw the ball pretty well. At times didn’t know where it was going.’’
The Twins made it 2-0 in the sixth inning thanks, perhaps, to a fan.
Revere drew a walk before Mauer sliced a ball to left field that landed inside the line and bounced into foul territory.
As Carl Crawford gave chase, a fan made contact with the ball. Home plate umpire Ted Barrett called interference and awarded Revere the plate, ruling that he would have scored regardless. The umpires have that discretion in such cases and Revere was close to third base when the ball was touched.
Francona was quickly out of the dugout to plead his case with Barrett as Lester, Kevin Youkilis, and Gonzalez appealed to third base umpire Tim McClelland.
Francona also spoke to McClelland, the crew chief. But the call stood.
Francona admitted later that he thought the run would have scored.
The Sox, who had won four straight, are off today after playing 20 games in 20 days. They won 13 of those games and came away with the same lead in the division they had when they started, 1 1/2 games.
“We won the series,’’ Gonzalez said. “I look forward to the rest.’’