MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The mighty Boston Red Sox lineup rarely gets held in check.
That one of those days came against struggling Minnesota Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn was an even bigger surprise.
Blackburn allowed just one unearned run in 6 2-3 innings and Jim Thome hit a tiebreaking RBI double during Minnesota's three-run eighth inning, leading the Twins to a 5-2 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday night.
Blackburn struck out four and scattered six hits, only one of them for extra-bases, against the highest-scoring team in the league. The right-hander allowed 16 earned runs in his previous three starts.
David Ortiz hit a tying homer off Glen Perkins (4-2) in the eighth inning, but that was all the Red Sox could muster.
``We just didn't do much offensively,' manager Terry Francona said. ``David with a big swing to get us tied, to give us a chance. But Blackburn's off-speed was down all night. We rolled over a lot of them. Some of them were in and out of the zone. He did a good job of just pitching.'
Thome hit the 119th pitch from Jon Lester (11-6) over Carl Crawford's head in left field for a 3-2 lead.
Danny Valencia added an RBI double and Tsuyoshi Nishioka came through with a run-scoring single off Alfredo Aceves to give Nathan a little breathing room heading into the ninth. He picked up his ninth save of the season and 255th with the Twins, setting the franchise record.
Ortiz went 2 for 4 with a homer and Lester gave up four runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings for the Red Sox. The left-hander also issued five walks, tying a season high.
``I felt like I had pretty good stuff, but I just wasn't able to locate,' Lester said. ``I gave them too many opportunities. When you do that, that's what happens.'
The Red Sox were losing 2-1 when Ortiz stepped into the box in the eighth against lefty Perkins, who has been dominant this season but has struggled a bit in the last week.
It was power against power, and Perkins gave him straight gas the entire showdown. He hit 96 mph on six pitches before cranking up and reaching 98 on his final offering to Ortiz, who sent the pitch 419 feet into the bullpen behind center field. It was the first homer against Perkins this season in 178 plate appearances.
Success against his former team is nothing new for Ortiz, who was allowed to leave the organization after the 2002 season. He is hitting .333 (54 for 162) with 12 homers against the Twins, and is 9 for 19 (.474) at Target Field. His fingerprints have been all over this series, with go-ahead singles late in the first two games.
But Nathan came on in the ninth and got Mike Aviles, Jacoby Ellsbury and Marco Scutaro to end it and help the Twins avoid a three-game sweep.
``I knew even with a three-run lead these guys can put up runs in a heartbeat,' Nathan said. ``I tried not to give them any breathing room.'
Few could say they saw this outing coming from Blackburn. In his previous eight starts, he was 3-5 with an 8.15 ERA and 65 hits allowed in 38 2-3 innings.
All he did was handcuff one of the deepest, most formidable lineups in the game for almost seven innings. With a biting sinker and a befuddling changeup, Blackburn held Boston scoreless through six as the Twins took a 2-0 lead.
``He was controlling both sides of the plate, so you couldn't really give him one side or the other,' catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. ``He was able to just throw strikes. His ball was moving. He was able to get some early swings when he needed them.'
The Red Sox finally got on the board in the seventh, but only after Twins second baseman Trevor Plouffe muffed a grounder from Ellsbury that would have ended the inning. Scutaro followed with an RBI single to chase Blackburn, and Perkins got Adrian Gonzalez to pop out to end the inning.
Perkins (4-2) gave up one run and two hits in 1 1-3 innings for the win.
Mike Aviles had two hits for the Red Sox, and Delmon Young went 2 for 2 with two walks for the Twins.
``You just focus on this series,' said Gonzalez, who went 0 for 4. ``We won this series and now we focus on winning a series in Seattle now.'
NOTES: Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia was given the day off. ``He was fighting me on it the last two days,' Francona said. ``Last night after the game, he's like, `I'm tired.' This will be really good for him.' ... Francona disputed a call in the sixth when umpire Ted Barrett gave the speedy Ben Revere home on a double by Joe Mauer that was caught by a fan. ``The explanation was good,' Francona said. ``I don't know. The guys come out of the clubhouse with a different version, but I can't see it.' ... The Twins are off Thursday and will begin a three-game series against the Indians in Cleveland on Friday. Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.71) will take the mound for the Twins against Justin Masterson (9-7, 2.71). Thome will continue his pursuit of career homer No. 600 in the place where his career began. He is two away from becoming the eighth player to reach the mark. ... The Red Sox are off Thursday as well and will head to Seattle for a three-game set against the Mariners starting on Friday. John Lackey (10-8, 6.14 ERA) will start Game 1 for Boston against Blake Beavan (3-2, 2.83 ERA). Lackey has been improving lately after a dreadful start. He allowed three runs in six innings in his previous start against the New York Yankees.
The Associated Press News Service
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