MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Seeing all the zeroes on the scoreboard the Boston bullpen put up on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins belied the tension and angst that hung on practically every pitch.
In the end, the results were all that manager Bobby Valentine cared to focus on, and understandably so.
Mike Aviles homered and the Red Sox bullpen just barely avoided another big collapse in a 7-6 victory over the Twins.
Alfredo Aceves struck out Denard Span with the bases loaded in the ninth inning for his fourth save in six chances as the Red Sox completed the sweep.
"Well, we got a win," Valentine said. "That's what it's all about at the end. Three of those innings were clean, zeros. We like zeros."
Clean may have been putting it a little generously, especially in the ninth inning.
Aceves walked Trevor Plouffe, gave up a hit to Ryan Doumit and hit Alexi Casilla in a tense ninth inning. But he got Span to chase a pitch up and out of the zone to escape the jam.
Buchholz needed all the cushion he could get, and so did the Boston bullpen, which entered the night with the worst ERA in the American League. Buchholz carried a 9.00 ERA into the game, with his confidence in his changeup shaken and still smarting from giving up five home runs in a 6-2 loss to the Yankees last week.
Aviles hit a three-run homer in the second inning and the Red Sox were cruising with a 7-1 lead heading into the sixth. But after squandering a 9-0 lead to the Yankees on Saturday night, it was no time to relax.
Buchholz danced in and out of trouble for the first five innings, stranding eight runners on base before getting knocked out in the sixth. The right-hander gave up an RBI double to Span and left after walking Jamey Carroll to load the bases with one out.
"It's been like that all year," said the right-hander, who gave up five runs on 10 hits with three walks and two strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings. "I've had two clean innings. It's a struggle when you're out there throwing pitches and guys are putting it in play. That's the way it goes. It has to change. It can't stay like that all year. I just have to be positive about it."
Valentine went with righty Scott Atchison to face the lefty Mauer, who ripped a single back up the middle to score Casilla.
Rookie lefty Justin Thomas came in to face the lefty Justin Morneau, who hit the first pitch off the wall in right-center field for a double to make it 7-5.