The Boston Red Sox appeared to have found their groove before coming up short their last time out.
A visit from the Minnesota Twins could be just what they need to regroup.
The Red Sox open a four-game set Thursday night against a Twins club hoping to avoid an 11th loss in 12 games at Fenway Park.
Boston (53-52) had won four straight by a combined 22-12 score before falling 7-5 to Detroit in Wednesday's series finale. Carl Crawford hit his second homer but another shaky outing from Aaron Cook proved too much to overcome.
"We keep winning series and we're going to be just fine," manager Bobby Valentine said.
The Red Sox have only lost one of their last eight series against the Twins (44-60), winning 18 of 24 while batting .300. Boston has outscored Minnesota 68-33 in taking 10 of 11 meetings at Fenway over that stretch.
Keeping things going, though, could prove difficult with struggling Jon Lester (5-8, 5.49 ERA) on the mound. The left-hander has been especially bad over his last four starts, going 0-3 with a 12.27 ERA and a .377 opponent batting average.
After getting tagged for a career-high 11 runs over four innings during a 15-7 loss to Toronto on July 22, Lester gave up four runs and four hits over six innings Saturday but didn't factor in the decision of an 8-6 victory at Yankee Stadium.
With Josh Beckett's overall performance also leaving much to be desired, the Red Sox need Lester to pick up the pace all the more.
"Well, we need to pitch well, and they know that," general manager Ben Cherington told the Red Sox's official website. "... They know what they need to do. They've heard it a lot, but they don't need to hear it. They know that we need those guys pitching effectively and helping us win games."
Lester is 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA over seven career starts against the Twins, allowing at least four runs in all but one of those outings. He surrendered five runs, six hits and four walks over seven innings during a 6-5 win at Minnesota on April 23 but didn't receive a decision.
Batting .463 with nine runs scored during a 10-game hitting streak, Denard Span is 5 for 15 lifetime against Lester. Joe Mauer is 7 for 20.
The Twins counter with rookie Samuel Deduno (2-0, 3.13), who's won his last two starts while yielding one run in each. He allowed five walks Saturday but managed to limit the damage, scattering two hits over a career-high seven innings in a 12-5 victory over Cleveland.
The right-hander has walked 16 in 23 innings due in large part to poor control of his fastball.
"Some will cut, some will sink," Mauer told the Twins' official website. "But if it's not easy to catch, it's probably tougher to hit, too."
The Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 7-6 on Monday for their fourth consecutive win but went on to lose the next two games in that series, falling 3-2 on Wednesday. Danny Valencia homered for Minnesota, which went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
"We've been playing well," said Mauer, mired in a 2-for-19 slump. " ... I think we were in every game. Obviously, we got that first one, but we easily could have won these last two, also."
Boston's David Ortiz (strained right Achilles) was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Wednesday but appears to still be a few days away from returning. Ortiz, who began his career with Minnesota, is batting .335 against his former team - his highest mark against any AL club.
- Boston Red Sox
- the Minnesota Twins
- Jon Lester