MINNEAPOLIS – Cody Ross homered twice, tying the game with a two-run shot in the seventh inning and giving Boston the lead with two outs in the ninth to snap a five-game losing streak for the Red Sox and beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5 on Monday night.
Starter-turned-temporary-reliever Daniel Bard (1-2) recorded two critical outs in the eighth after the Twins put the leadoff runner on third. Alfredo Aceves picked up the save, his third in five tries, and all was right with the reeling Red Sox for at least one night.
Aceves gave up a one-out single and a high drive to the warning track in left-center to Trevor Plouffe, but Denard Span bounced back to the mound to end it.
Ryan Sweeney misplayed Jamey Carroll's single into a two-base error that put him at third with none out in that pivotal eighth, after the ball bounded down the right-field line, ricocheted off the padded facade of the seats in foul territory and skidded away.
But Franklin Morales got Joe Mauer to ground out weakly to first base, and Bard retired two of the three batters he faced sandwiched around an intentional walk to Justin Morneau. Josh Willingham greeted Bard with a sharp line drive, but it zipped straight at third baseman Kevin Youkilis for the second out.
Then Ross put the Red Sox in front with his drive off Matt Capps (0-1), who threw a 92-mph, 0-1 fastball at the kneecaps, a tough one for anyone to hit, let alone far enough to reach seats to the opposite field.
After a rainout on Sunday gave the rotation an extra day of rest, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine put Bard in his struggling bullpen for a few days amid fan calls for the young right-hander to take over for Aceves as the closer. But Bard and Valentine insisted the move was merely temporary, and Bard is still on track to make his next start on Friday.
"I still view myself as a starter, and they said they do, too," Bard said before the game. He said he "asked a lot of questions" about what the team's goals were with the decision.
Bard gave the relievers some relief, but the starters still need some, too. Jon Lester allowed six hits, five runs and four walks over seven innings. He struck out four but wasted a 3-0 lead.
Danny Valencia's two-run homer, his first of the season, followed Ryan Doumit's two-run double in a four-run fourth for the Twins. Then Plouffe drew a leadoff walk in the fifth, Span singled and a run scored when Carroll grounded into a double play.
Carroll got the Red Sox back for that in the sixth. With one out and runners at the corners, he dived to stop a grounder by David Ortiz up the middle and flipped to the second baseman Plouffe from his stomach with one hand. Then Plouffe whirled around for a perfect relay throw to finish the double play.
The Twins have more modest expectations than do the Red Sox for this season after last year's 63-99 mess. Their starting pitching has emerged as a significant concern if it wasn't already this spring.
The rotation has a collective 2-9 record with a 6.46 ERA, last in the major leagues, with 114 hits allowed in 92 innings with only 53 strikeouts.
Adrian Gonzalez followed a pair of singles with a sacrifice fly in the first, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia smacked a 0-2 slider into the front part of the section of right-field seats that juts out and hangs above the warning track to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead in the second.
Then after the Twins surged ahead in the fourth, pulled away in the fifth and preserved the two-run edge thanks to Carroll's slick play at shortstop, Marquis gave the game back to the Red Sox on that two-run drive by Ross that soared high above left field and into the seats.
NOTES: Red Sox RH Daisuke Matsuzaka's rehab start for Class A Salem, his first real game since undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery last June, was rough. He gave up six hits, three runs and two homers in four innings. ... CF Marlon Byrd, who went 3 for 43 with the Cubs before being traded Saturday, had a single in his Red Sox debut. ... Red Sox IF Nick Punto, who spent seven seasons with the Twins through 2010, checked out the visitor's clubhouse at Target Field for the first time. But he was more impressed by what he saw on the other side. "It's cool to see both Mauer and Morneau healthy. Without those guys, it's tough to win," Punto said. ... Morneau played 1B for just the second game this year. He's been the DH 14 times. ... With sputtering LH Francisco Liriano taken out of the rotation for his next turn, the Twins want him to relax. "Let him take a step back," manager Ron Gardenhire said. Liriano will start again May 1 after a couple of bullpen sessions and talks with pitching coach Rick Anderson. ... Willingham will miss Wednesday's game to be with his wife, who is about to have a baby. He could be gone through Friday, too, but the Twins will put him on paternity leave and be able to call up a minor-league replacement while he's away.