Once he figured out what was working for him, Mike Pelfrey was nearly untouchable.
Pelfrey struck out five in three impressive innings to help the Minnesota Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 2-0 on Friday night.
"Thought it was good after the first inning," Pelfrey said. "I had a really good sinker tonight and I think I should have recognized it a little earlier."
It was Pelfrey's second scoreless outing in a row following a shaky spring debut with his new team. The big right-hander, dumped by the Mets in the offseason, is coming off Tommy John surgery last May and competing for a spot in Minnesota's rotation.
"Pelfrey was good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Got his work in. His first inning was a little entertaining. I think he tried to do a little bit too much. After that, his fastball, he started trusting it, moving it in and out."
Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster went 3 2-3 innings, allowing two runs and five hits with two strikeouts.
Pelfrey faced six batters in the first inning. Leadoff batter Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left and stole second. Ryan Sweeney walked with one out and Jonny Gomes' grounder loaded the bases when Minnesota was unable to get a force at second.
Pelfrey buckled down, though, striking out Daniel Nava and retiring Will Middlebrooks on a fly ball to end the threat.
After that, Pelfrey relied on his sinker.
"It was really good tonight. I think I'm going to have days like that," he said. "That's my strength. I'll throw it like 95 times. Obviously that first inning, I tried to be too cute, throwing sliders and curveballs and splits, and missing. But I talked to (pitching coach Rick Anderson) in the dugout in between. He said, 'Hey, what's working tonight?' I said, 'My sinker.' ... Well, let's use that."
Minnesota got to Dempster with two outs in the third. Aaron Hicks doubled and scored on Brian Dozier's single. Ryan Doumit's run-scoring single made it 2-0.
"Two goals completed here tonight," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "One was to get him close to 70 pitches, which we did. And he went out and made an effort to pitch predominantly with his fastball. Of the (66) pitches I think he threw, only about 12 or 13 were cutters or sliders. The rest were fastballs, which was the intention in tonight's outing."
Dempster focused on his fastball to improve his arm strength.
"We're out there practicing getting outs," he said. "The more of a groove you can get in, the more comfortable you feel, the more you feel you can make your pitches. For the most part, that generally translates over into the season. The last thing you want to do is be limping into the start of the season."
Brian Duensing, Josh Roenicke, Michael Tonkin and Tyler Robertson combined to pitch six scoreless innings for the Twins, giving up three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
NOTES: Red Sox SS Stephen Drew experienced mild concussion symptoms after being hit by a pitch Thursday and was out of the lineup Friday. He might be sidelined for a few days. ... Boston DH David Ortiz, still trying to come back from a strained right Achilles tendon that limited him to 90 games last year, did not run. He might take part in a baserunning drill Saturday, depending on how his leg feels. ... Deolis Guerra returned to the Twins from Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic with an injury, but the Twins aren't sure exactly what the injury is. Initial reports had it as a strained pectoral muscle, but general manager Terry Ryan said he was told Guerra was experiencing tightness closer to his shoulder. ... Oswaldo Arcia, who had a muscle strain on his left side, took batting practice. ... Darin Mastroianni, who has been sidelined by a hamstring strain, should be in the Twins' lineup on Saturday. Chris Parmelee (strained groin) hopes to return to action this weekend.