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TEX@BOS: Beckett strikes out seven over seven frames

The Twins and manager Ron Gardenhire are not allowing themselves to be fooled.

Gardenhire recognizes that the Red Sox have scuffled to start the season, but he certainly won't let his club take Boston lightly this week in Minneapolis.

"There's a lot of talent," Gardenhire said of the Twins' opponent, looking beyond Monday's starter, Jon Lester. "[Tuesday is Josh Beckett], and the next day [Clay Buchholz]. That's three pretty good pitchers. We've seen a lot of good pitchers, and that's three more coming at you the next three days, along with a lineup that can absolutely kill you. They can put up runs with the best of them, and we've seen it all spring. A very talented team over there. Even though they're struggling, they can do some things."

The Red Sox are indeed struggling, but showed signs of breaking out of that funk with a 6-5 victory in Monday's series opener at Target Field.

The Red Sox are hoping that as their difficult opening schedule fades into the rearview mirror, so will their early-season troubles. Boston's first 14 games of the year were against teams that finished 2011 with a .500 record or better. Through that stretch, the Sox went 4-10 and remain under .500 15 games into the season for the third consecutive year.

"We just need to go out and keep playing," Boston shortstop Mike Aviles said. "It's still early April. You guys have heard it quite a bit, but it's still early April. We'll be all right. We'll go out there and keep playing, keep plugging away. Everyone is working hard. Nobody is slacking. Everybody is in here doing the thing they need to do. Guys are working on their mechanics, pitching-wise. Guys are in the cage. You've got guys in the weight room. Everybody is still working. When you have that, we're still good."

With hopes of evening the series, the Twins will send Nick Blackburn to the hill on Tuesday. The right-hander skipped his last start because of shoulder stiffness, but he threw successful bullpen sessions on Friday and Sunday.

"I couldn't feel anything at all, so everything seems to be pretty loosened up," Blackburn said. "It's good."

Blackburn, making his third start of the year, is 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA against Boston.

"Obviously no guarantees," he said of Tuesday's outing. "We won't know anything until I've been out there a couple times. Just going off the bullpen [sessions] I've thrown, I felt great. Every day's been such an improvement. I feel like I have to have a positive reaction from the way it's responded to all the treatments."

Blackburn will go toe-to-toe with Beckett, who was shelled in his first start of the year but has since bounced back nicely. He's making his first career start at Target Field, and is throwing on five days' rest instead of four.

Red Sox: Shoppach likely to start
• Kelly Shoppach will probably start at catcher on Tuesday, providing the Red Sox with a few matchups that have worked out nicely in the past.

"I haven't made that lineup out yet, but call it a hunch," manager Bobby Valentine said.

Shoppach has three home runs lifetime off Blackburn, one of two active pitchers Shoppach has homered off three times. He's 8-for-16 with five RBIs, three strikeouts and a double.

Shoppach has also caught Beckett's past two starts, in which Beckett allowed four runs over 15 innings. Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught Beckett's first start, and the righty allowed seven runs over 4 2/3 innings.

• Outfielder Ryan Sweeney has hit safely in 12 of 13 games with the Red Sox this year, batting .418 (18-for-43) in that span.

Entering Monday's game, he was tied for second in the Majors with seven doubles and was fourth among American League qualifiers in average and led the Majors with a .457 average against right-handers. Sweeney was 2-for-4 in the series opener against the Twins.

• Reliever Franklin Morales has not allowed a run in his last 20 road games, dating back to June 28, 2011, at Philadelphia (18 innings). It is the most consecutive scoreless outings on the road by a Red Sox lefty.

Twins: Hot against the Sox
• Minnesota outfielder Denard Span is a career .343 (23-for-67) hitter against Boston with 16 walks and eight multihit games.

• Justin Morneau owns a career .329 average (55-for-167) against the Red Sox, with six home runs and 22 RBIs. In his last 22 games, he is 31-for-84 (.369) with 11 runs, three homers, five doubles and 11 RBIs.

• After racking up a 15-game hitting streak to start the season, Josh Willingham has gone hitless in back-to-back contests.

Worth noting
• Monday was the first of seven consecutive road games for the Red Sox (three in Minnesota, four in Chicago), who are 2-5 away from Fenway Park this season.

• The Twins were just 2-5 against the Red Sox last year, and have lost five straight season sets against Boston since 2007. The Red Sox have won 21 of 33 overall since the start of the '07 campaign.

• Boston's David Ortiz, who entered Monday night leading the American League with a .436 batting average, went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .441.

"David Ortiz is as hot as anybody in baseball," Gardenhire said. "We'll see if we can stop him." Comments