BOSTON — After blowing a nine-run lead during a game in April, Boston manager Bobby Valentine said his team hit rock bottom.
He maintains they haven’t plummeted to that low point again.
If the Red Sox aren’t there yet, though, they’re awfully close.
One night after squandering a four-run lead and losing in 10 innings, Boston was one strike away from snapping a three-game losing streak when Minnesota’s Joe Mauer sent a 3-2 pitch from closer Alfredo Aceves into the seats above the Green Monster, quieting the standing Fenway Park crowd and sending the Twins to a stunning 6-4 victory over the Red Sox on Saturday night.
“We’re going to put together a nice little run,” Valentine said. “This is a lousy game to lose, but we had to come back to get the lead. Maybe we’ll get the lead and keep the lead, who knows?”
After running off four straight wins over the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox have again stumbled below .500, one loss seemingly eclipsing the next against the team with the AL’s second-worst record.
Boston managed just two hits in a loss to the Twins on Thursday, blew a lead and lost 6-5 in the 10th on Friday and appeared to catch the break it needed Saturday when Pedro Ciriaco hit a tiebreaking, pinch-hit home run, leading off the eighth. An RBI single by Cody Ross then staked Boston to a 4-2 lead entering the ninth.
Then it all fell apart.
“They’re all devastating now,” Red Sox third baseman Nick Punto said. “You get this late in the season and you look at the standings and we’re not really sitting in a great position. Wild card, there’s a lot of teams. We can’t afford to lose games like that.”
Blowing leads is becoming all too common for the Red Sox this season.
They led the Yankees 9-0 on April 21 and eventually lost 15-9, prompting Valentine to say he thinks they hit bottom.
“If this isn’t bottom,” he said at the time, “then we’ll find some new ends to the Earth I guess.”
They may have found it.
Ben Revere had three singles and extended his hitting streak to a career-best 18 games for Minnesota, which has won the first three games of a four-game series.
Ciriaco hit the first homer of his career to give the Red Sox the lead before Mauer homered off Aceves (2-7).
Mike Aviles had a solo homer and Carl Crawford an RBI double for Boston, which has lost four straight.
Ciriaco, who had consecutive game-winning hits in New York against the Yankees on July 28 and 29, hit a 1-0 pitch from Glen Perkins into the seats above the Monster after the Twins tied the game in the top of the inning.
Aceves entered with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth, allowing Justin Morneau’s game-tying sacrifice fly before getting the next two batters.
In the ninth, Jamey Carroll, who went 4 for 4 with a game-winning single and reached base five times in Friday’s win, had an RBI single. Revere had a two-out single. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Mauer’s homer.
Alex Burnett (4-3) got one out in the eighth for the win. Jared Burton worked the ninth for his fifth save.
When Boston pinch hitter Will Middlebrooks popped out for the final out, loud boos rained down from the stands.
Ciriaco was serenaded with chants of “Pedro! Pedro!” after hitting his homer and came out for a curtain call. Cody Ross’ RBI single off Burnett made it 4-2.
Boston starter Clay Buchholz gave up one unearned run over seven innings despite three errors – two by himself, allowing seven hits and striking out three.
Minnesota starter Cole De Vries, making his 10th major league start, allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings.
Trailing by one in the eighth, the Twins loaded the bases against Andrew Miller on two walks and an infield hit before Aceves entered the game.
The Red Sox jumped ahead 1-0 in the first on Crawford’s RBI double off the left field wall.
Aviles homered into the last row of Monster seats for his career-best 11th, making it 2-0 in the second.
The Twins turned a pair of infield hits and two throwing errors into a run in the fifth. Carroll had an infield hit to third. He advanced on Buchholz’s errant pickoff attempt, the right-hander’s second of the game.
Revere then hit a dribbler in front of the plate and catcher Kelly Shoppach threw to the bag as Revere was reaching first, with the ball caroming away for an error. Carroll came racing home from third as the ball rolled into foul territory to cut the score to 2-1. Revere was credited with an infield hit, extending his hitting streak.
De Vries is up with the Twins for the third time this season from Triple-A Rochester.
Notes: Aviles’ previous career high was 10 with Kansas City in 2008. … Valentine said DH David Ortiz, on the 15-day DL with a strained right Achilles, is “progressing.” Ortiz spoke after the game and said “It’s a little difficult for me right now just to be able to watch the game on TV and not being able to be out there trying to help the ball club. But at the same time, I’m planning to keep on playing baseball. I don’t want to do anything stupid that can put my career in jeopardy.”