After a string of disheartening losses, the Boston Red Sox will try to salvage at least one win from the four-game weekend series with the Minnesota Twins in Sunday's matchup at Fenway Park.
In a season that has had it's shares of ups and downs, the Boston Red Sox find themselves trending down yet again after another loss on Saturday night.
Boston lost 6-4 on Joe Mauer's three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to drop it's third straight game to the Twins and fourth overall.
That loss came after Boston blew an early 5-1 lead on Friday night and ended up losing 6-5 in extra innings. The Red Sox also lost the first game of the series, 5-0.
The Red Sox wasted another stellar outing from Clay Buchholz, who lasted seven innings and allowed one unearned run. Closer Alfredo Aceves came in with the score tied in the eighth and was given a lead in the ninth when the Sox took a 4-2 edge on Pedro Ciriaco's home run and Cody Ross' RBI single.
Aceves imploded from there, allowing four runs in the inning, including the three-run home run to Mauer as he blew his sixth lead of the season and watched his record fall to 2-7 and ERA balloon to 4.37.
"He did a good job of limiting the damage in the eighth inning, didn't do too good of a job in the ninth inning," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said of Aceves.
The Red Sox are now just 27-32 at Fenway Park, where they have been so difficult to beat in years past.
Cole De Vries had a strong outing on the other side for Minnesota, allowing just two runs over seven innings, but the right-hander did not factor in the decision. Alex Burnett came in to end the eighth to earn the win and Jared Burton pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth to post his fifth save and second in as many days.
With the three wins against the Red Sox, the Twins are now 7-3 in their last 10 games.
With originally scheduled starter Josh Beckett scratched with back stiffness, the Red Sox will once again turn to Franklin Morales to make a spot start on Sunday.
The left-hander has made five starts this season and has been relatively effective with a 2-1 record and 3.42 ERA while a part of the rotation. He is 0-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 28 relief appearances for a season total of 2-2 and 3.32 ERA.
Morales' last start came on July 13 when he threw five shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays to earn his second win of the season. He has made five relief appearances since that start and has allowed three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over that span.
In his career Morales does not have much experience against the Twins. He has compiled 3 2/3 innings over four appearances during his career against Minnesota which makes his 7.36 career ERA against the team somewhat misleading. Morales made two appearances against the Twins last season, holding them scoreless through 1 1/3 innings of work.
Morales is 1-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 29 career appearances, three of which are starts, in the month of August.
Coming off his best start of the season, Nick Blackburn gets the call for Minnesota on Sunday.
Blackburn allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings of work last Tuesday and although he did not factor in the decision it was certainly a step in the right direction for the right-hander.
The 30-year-old has struggled all season and is currently 4-6 with a 7.43 ERA in 16 starts. Although never a standout pitcher, his ERA this season is much higher than his career mark of 4.80.
In the start before his last, Blackburn was tagged for eight runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. It was the eighth time this season he has allowed five runs or more in a start. One of those other eight starts came against the Red Sox. In that outing back on April 24, Blackburn allowed five runs on eight hits in just three innings.
Overall in his career, Blackburn is 2-2 with a 4.17 ERA in seven career appearances, six of which were starts, against Boston.
The Red Sox swept a three-game series against the Twins at Target Field in April. Boston has won the season series in each season since 2006 but will need a win on Sunday to continue that streak.