Twins win 3-2 to send Red Sox into playoffs with loss

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BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Red Sox finally took a breather, and a curtain call.

A day after earning the best record in baseball and two days after clinching the AL East, Boston trotted out its substitutes on Sunday against the Twins. Torii Hunter’s RBI double started a three-run first inning and Minnesota held on for a 3-2 victory.

Despite the loss, the Red Sox are heading for a first-round playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Terry Francona gave no indication of his pitching rotation, though 20-game winner Josh Beckett is a good bet to start Game 1 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

“I’m excited,” said closer Jonathan Papelbon, who pitched a scoreless ninth less than 48 hours after his raucous celebration of the AL East clincher left him aching and nauseated. “I’m strapping a saddle on.”

The Twins (79-83) are heading home after missing the postseason for just the second time in six years. They finished with a losing record for the first time since they went 69-93 in 2000.

“We’d all like to be going to the playoffs, but only a few get to go,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Not our year this year. I’d like to be over on the other side with those guys. These are fun times, getting ready for the playoffs, and I wish them nothing but the best.”

That left Sunday’s game with little more importance than the last game of spring training, and both managers used their benches that way. Francona subbed in Royce Clayton during the sixth inning to allow the crowd to give third baseman Mike Lowell a standing ovation as he left the field.

“Just to give the fans a chance to show the players their appreciation,” said Francona, who used 22 players while Gardenhire used 16. “It was nice to let the fans show Mike Lowell what he meant to them.”

Matt Garza (5-7) allowed one unearned run and four hits in five innings for Minnesota. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 37th save.

Nathan walked Brandon Moss to lead off, then Jacoby Ellsbury sent him to third with his third hit of the game. Ellsbury rounded first too far and was thrown out, then Julio Lugo walked and stole second.

Alex Cora was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Nathan struck out Bobby Kielty and Doug Mirabelli to preserve the win.

Julian Tavarez (7-11) went three innings for Boston, allowing three runs and three hits with two walks.

Hunter is a free agent who will command top dollar and might not be back in small-market Minnesota next year. He came out in the sixth inning and would leave the Twins in the top 10 in seven offensive categories.

Hunter doubled after Nick Punto walked and Brian Buscher singled. After Tavarez got Justin Morneau to pop it up, he walked Michael Cuddyer and Garrett Jones hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

Rondell White singled in the third run.

Manny Ramirez had an RBI single, and Jason Varitek homered for Boston to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Notes

The Red Sox posted a message on their scoreboard wishing Twins general manager Terry Ryan good luck on his retirement. … Kevin Youkilis finished the season with 1079 errorless chances, an AL record for a first baseman. Stuffy McInnis had a .999 fielding percentage in 1921. … Boston DH David Ortiz received a cortisone shot in his ailing right knee on Saturday. He said the injury is something he will have to monitor through the playoffs. … The wives of Boston pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima sent Japanese sandwiches and desserts to the press box for the media. … With Sunday’s crowd of 36,364, the Red Sox drew 2,971,025 this season—the eighth consecutive year the team has set a single-season home attendance record. … Three of Minnesota’s four hits were in the first inning.

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