Red Sox rebound behind strong Morales

Red Sox rebound behind strong Morales

Red Sox rebound behind strong Morales
BOSTON -- In the course of one satisfying Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, the Red Sox not only got up off the mat following perhaps their most agonizing loss of the season, but also got a pitcher back in the rotation who looks primed to stay there.

A lot of good things happened for Boston in a 6-4 win over the Twins. But lefty Franklin Morales stood out the most, allowing three hits and a run over six strong innings.

"I needed to throw my pitches," Morales said. "I felt great concentration. I know the team needed to win. I tried to do what I need to do, get the hitters out and do my thing."

Making his first start in 23 days, Morales filled in for the injured Josh Beckett. But it's not hard to imagine Morales is about to get his own slot, even with Beckett set to return Wednesday night.

"I like him as a starter," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "We know that. Right now, I don't think we have to do anything with Franklin and make any total determination. We have a tough Texas team coming in right now. Our bullpen is a little wobbly. We're a guy short out there, and all that good stuff. We'll play it by ear."

Morales has made six starts this season, going 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA.

"We didn't do much hitting; their guy shut us down pretty good," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He was tough. We tried to wait him out and get him hot, but that didn't work, either. He threw some pretty good pitches at us and shut our offense down. We had the little run there at the end."

The Boston rotation is currently Jon Lester, Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Aaron Cook and Felix Doubront. Cook, who is pitching Monday night, has struggled of late.

Things seem to be at the point where Valentine knows Morales will be in his rotation. It's just a matter of how.

"I think it's an easy decision," said Valentine. "We just have to figure out all the other parts. He wants to start. I want him to start. We just have to figure out [how]. We can't always count on a guy getting injured to miss a start and plugging him in. He's been lights out [when he's] out there."

The Red Sox also had a big day with the bats, belting out 14 hits.

The biggest contributions were from Adrian Gonzalez (two-run homer, RBI single) and Carl Crawford (three-hit day on his 31st birthday).

In particular, the re-emergence of Crawford is a story that continues to gain steam. He has 12 hits in his last 36 at-bats, including six extra-base hits and nine RBIs.

"I'd like his birthday to be every day," said Valentine. "He was hitting with two strikes. He was hitting the ball hard, stealing bases. You saw it. Advanced the runner. Had a [darn] near perfect game. When he's like that, it can make a big difference."

Cody Ross, Will Middlebrooks and Mike Aviles all chipped in with multi-hit games.

With a team effort, the Red Sox stopped their most recent slide -- a four-game losing streak. And they washed away at least some of the bitter taste of failing to close out Saturday's game when they were one strike away from victory, not to mention blowing a 5-1 lead en route to Friday's loss.

Heading into a big three-game home series against the two-time defending American League champion Rangers on Monday, the Red Sox avoided being swept in four straight by the 47-61 Twins.

The Red Sox are 10 games back in the AL East and 4 1/2 games behind in the Wild Card standings.

"It's a big win," said Gonzalez. "Like I said a couple of days ago, we need to start winning these games. Hopefully today is the start of a good run for us."

In this one, Boston jumped out first and maintained the lead throughout. Aviles led off the third with a single up the middle. Jacoby Ellsbury ripped a double to left-center. Crawford broke the scoreless tie with an RBI groundout. Dustin Pedroia kept the momentum going with a single to right, and Gonzalez smoked an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.

Making his first start since July 13, Morales reeled off four scoreless innings before the Twins got on the board on Ben Revere's sacrifice fly to center in the fifth, slimming Boston's lead to 2-1.

It was Gonzalez who provided Morales with some breathing room, rifling a two-run homer to left in the fifth to give Boston a three-run cushion.

Ross delivered an insurance run in the seventh, lacing an RBI single up the middle to score Crawford. Ellsbury added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

The Twins made things interesting in the ninth, as Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit homered against Vicente Padilla, but Alfredo Aceves -- who gave up the game-breaking three-run homer to Joe Mauer on Saturday -- closed this one out for the save, his 23rd.

"I was really concerned about Vinny," said Valentine. "I sent [pitching coach] Bob [McClure] out to the mound thinking maybe he was injured. He wasn't throwing with velocity or control. He usually has both. So he says he's just a little sore. He had three days off, pitched in the game, then warmed up once yesterday. We'll check with him tomorrow. Very impressed with Aceves coming in to a two-run game, facing the same guys he faced yesterday. And he got a 1-2-3 inning."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.