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BOS@MIN: Ross cranks out two clutch homers for Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- Much of Monday's 6-5, skid-snapping win for the Red Sox over the Twins made little sense, not unlike everything else that's happened to the Sox this month.

There was Daniel Bard, the team's No. 5 starter, getting his first win of 2012 in a relief role and escaping unscathed in the eighth inning in large part because a bullet happened to find his third baseman's glove. There was Cody Ross, hitting the go-ahead solo home run to right field in the ninth to the opposite field, a part of the park he homers to only on rare occasions. And that was after Ross tied the game at 5 in the seventh inning with Jason Marquis still in the game at more than 100 pitches.

Whatever works. With a five-game losing streak and the memory of a disastrous loss to the Yankees from Saturday to kill, the Red Sox started their seven-game road trip with a win they needed badly.

"It's been a tough go," said Ross, who hit the go-ahead homer on an 0-1 fastball from Matt Capps with two outs in the ninth. "Everyone knows how tough it's been on us, but nobody feels sorry for us. We're going to have to keep going out there and grinding it out and play well. After a tough series at home and coming here last night was tough travel, and to be down 5-3 and for [starter Jon] Lester to pitch great with the stuff that he had, he kept battling, he kept grinding, and that's what you want from your ace. It was a good win for us."

According to manager Bobby Valentine, Dustin Pedroia had told Ross to swing out of his shoes.

"I don't think I've ever seen Cody Ross hit a ball that way," Capps said. "He put it a good swing on it and obviously squared it up well. It won the ballgame for them. ... I went back and looked at it. It was right where we wanted it to go. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, so it wasn't the right pitch at that time, but I was actually pretty happy with it. That's where I wanted the pitch to go."

Still, the win wasn't guaranteed.

In the bottom of the ninth, Valentine walked to the mound after Trevor Plouffe -- the Twins' No. 9 hitter with no home runs and a .125 average -- had just cranked a pitch high and deep and nearly hit a game-winning two-run homer. Ross caught the ball on the warning track, but the Sox were a hair away from another bullpen meltdown.

Valentine wanted to talk to his closer, Alfredo Aceves, bluntly and cheerfully.

"When I went out to the mound? Not much," Valentine said of the conversation. "[I] asked if he was trying to kill me. What else would you say in a situation like that? I said, 'I thought we were tight, man.'"

With the game tied at 5, Valentine turned to Franklin Morales in the eighth.

Leadoff hitter Jamey Carroll singled to right field, but he ended up at third as Ryan Sweeney saw his error-free streak end at 221 games when misplayed the ball. Replays showed Carroll beat the throw to third, but he lifted his left hand off the bag. Despite being tagged by Kevin Youkilis, third-base umpire Lance Barksdale ruled Carroll safe.

One out later, Bard came in, four days before his next scheduled start, with Josh Willingham at the plate and the go-ahead run on third. Bard nearly struck Willingham out on a fastball ruled to be just inside before Willingham wailed on the next pitch, which went straight for Youkilis' glove at third. After an intentional walk, it took Bard one more pitch to get out of the inning.

"It was the same thing I've done for the last few years," Bard said. "I mean, it's a little weird just being out there just because I haven't done it this year yet. It's like riding a bike. I had a pretty well-established routine the last three years, four years. It was pretty easy to get back into it."

Valentine considered bringing Bard back out for the ninth, but he also indicated Aceves will continue to be his ninth-inning man.

"Little thought," Valentine said. "Had a guy down there who's going to have to save a lot of games for us, and I thought Daniel did his job and Alfredo did his."

Lester made it through seven innings on 112 pitches, but he easily could've been out of the game after five. The Red Sox led 3-0 after Jarrod Saltalamacchia's two-run homer off Marquis in the second inning, a lead Lester coughed up in a four-run fourth. Minnesota led, 5-3, heading into the sixth, when Lester regained his efficiency and effectiveness.

"I just got locked in," said Lester, who is 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA lifetime in Minnesota. "Nothing changed as far as physically or mechanically or anything. For whatever reason ... something got me locked in, and I started throwing the ball more aggressively downhill. Obviously the results were a lot better. I think it was six ground balls or five ground balls or something like that. Hopefully I can just carry those two innings over to my next one and get on a roll." Comments