BOSTON -- They brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh. They brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the eighth. They had a leadoff walk in the ninth, the outcome still very much in doubt.
And they lost, which has become something of a recurring theme these days for the Red Sox, who have now lost six of seven after losing 5-3 to the Minnesota Twins before 31,571 in the Fens.
John Lackey's throwing error on a comebacker that should have been an easy double play led to four unearned runs in the sixth for the Twins, who trailed 2-1 entering the inning.
The Sox had runners on base in every inning, including the ninth, when Jacoby Ellsbury coaxed a full-count walk from Twins closer Glen Perkins. But Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia (after a nine-pitch at-bat) were both called out on strikes on pitches they disputed, and David Ortiz grounded out sharply to first to end the game.
The Sox stranded 10 runners. Ortiz ended innings in all five of his at-bats.
74 strikes, 1 airmailed throw: The Sox could hardly have asked more from Lackey. He struck out the side on 11 pitches in the first inning. He set down the first eight Twins in order before Pedro Florimon singled with two out in the third. He did not allow a base-runner to second base until the fifth, when Oswaldo Arcia tripled over a leaping Jacoby Ellsbury in center and scored on Aaron Hicks' double into the corner in right.
Even then, Lackey stanched the bleeding, striking out Florimon and Brian Dozier to end the inning.
But then came the sixth, and the throw that could have got Lackey out of the inning unscathed instead turned into the catalyst for four unearned runs. No inning-ending double play, instead a throwing error that allowed a run to score and sent another runner to third.
The next batter, Ryan Doumit lined a ball to right that Victorino caught on his shoetops, Victorino then making a strong throw to the plate that just missed catching Morneau. Arcia hit Lackey's next pitch into the Sox bullpen, and the Twins led 5-2.
All four runs were unearned.
Listing defense: In addition to Lackey's error, third baseman Will Middlebrooks made a throwing error in the ninth. That made it 11 errors in the last seven games for the Sox, including four each by Middlebrooks and Pedro Ciriaco, who made three in the previous two games filling in at third. The Sox had made just nine errors in their first 28 games.
The Twins, meanwhile, had gone 11 straight games without an error until shortstop Eduardo Escobar booted a double-play grounder in the eighth. Escobar had entered the game at the start of the inning for starter Pedro Florimon, who left with a tight hamstring.
Another oh-fer for Ortiz: He hit three balls squarely, but Ortiz went 0-for-5, ending innings on all five at-bats, and is now hitless in his last 13 at-bats. He is 1-for-14 since being quizzed Tuesday by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy about steroids. After his 0-for-5 Wednesday, Ortiz tweeted, "End of my hitting streak tonight the season stil going and l hope Dan shaugnessy is a happy man now... Not more 426 enjoy it."
The "426" was a reference to the .426 he was batting entering play on Tuesday. The average is down to .353 after Thursday's game.
Middlebrooks, Ross back: Both third baseman Will Middlebrooks and catcher David Ross were back in the lineup after their collision Tuesday night. Middlebrooks doubled in four trips. Ross went 0-for-3, fouling out to the catcher and striking out twice before being lifted in the eighth for pinch-hitter Mike Carp, who struck out on three pitches to end the inning.
"It's still pretty sore, pretty tender. I got a nice little bruise on my ribs," Middlebrooks said before the game. "I thought I got hit by a truck. I've got to pick the biggest guy on the team to pick on?
"But it was actually the wall that got me the best. But I'm fine, good enough to play. I actually wanted to play yesterday."