Kubel homers in third straight game; Twins sweep BoSox

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- David Ortiz's drive soared toward the upper deck, a sure home run hit nearly as high and long as humanly


But the ball smacked against a speaker hanging from the Metrodome's ceiling, falling for a harmless single and summing up Boston's frustration while Minnesota finished a three-game sweep.

Jason Kubel homered for the third straight game, Carlos Silva pitched six-plus shutout innings and the Twins beat the Red Sox 5-3 on Thursday night to complete their first sweep of Boston since 1994.

After an awful start to the season that sent him to the bullpen for 2½ weeks, Silva (3-8) turned in by far his best outing and stuck the Red Sox with their first four-game losing streak in more than a year.

"It's not a lack of trying. It's trying too hard," manager Terry Francona said. "It's a quality you admire in your players, but at the same time you have to fight it."

Minnesota, which has won four in a row and six out of seven, exerted plenty of effort, too. Joe Nathan pitched two stressful innings for his eighth save in as many opportunities, striking out Manny Ramirez (for the second time) with a runner on to finish.

"A confidence-builder for sure," Nathan said. "Hopefully this continues a little trend and we can ride this wave right now and go on the road and play better than we have."

Boston, which last lost four straight from May 24-27, 2005, missed a chance to move back into a tie for first place in the AL East with New York.

"It just wasn't our night," said Tim Wakefield (4-8), who gave up eight hits, four runs and two walks in six innings while striking out four.

Ortiz and Francona were a bit more blunt, still stinging about the world's longest single.

"It's like playing putt-putt golf where you've got to go around the windmill. ... That's embarrassing. The outcome of the game should never, never hinge on a speaker. That's stupid," Francona said.

Added Ortiz, a former Twin who chucked his elbow pad toward the dugout in disgust after arriving at first base: "Thank God I only play three games here."

The Red Sox only had themselves to blame for the last two innings. With the bases loaded and none out in the eighth, Nathan came in and struck out Ramirez.

Trot Nixon hit a sacrifice fly, Mike Lowell followed with an RBI single to cut the lead to two and Coco Crisp hit a single to fill the bases again, but pinch-hitter Jason Varitek popped out to the foul side of third on the first pitch he saw.

Ortiz's RBI single with two outs in the ninth made it 5-3, but Nathan struck out Ramirez to end it.

"You want to win the ballgame," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, asked about his decision to bring his closer in so early. "People come here to try and see us finish it out."

Kubel, whose grand slam in the 12th inning won Tuesday's game, hit a solo shot in the second as the Twins chipped away against Wakefield.

Luis Castillo walked in the first, moved up on a passed ball and then a wild pitch before finally scoring on Joe Mauer's groundout. After doubling and coming home on Castillo's single in the third, Jason Bartlett walked in the fifth and later scored on Nick Punto's

sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.

That was plenty of support for Silva, who gave up seven hits without a walk and struck out two to win for the first time since May 9. He experienced cramping in his left hamstring in the seventh, when he allowed consecutive singles to start the inning. Juan Rincon relieved and got Crisp and Doug Mirabelli to pop out before striking out pinch-hitter Mark Loretta.

Silva had exceptional defense behind him, plus a little luck on Ortiz's long no-doubt drive. Ramirez followed that by grounding into an inning-ending double play.

"Thank God that hit a speaker, because that was a long ball," said Silva, who lowered his ERA from 7.73 to 7.07 and allowed less than four runs for only the second time in his 11 starts.

Wakefield was probably doomed from the start, since he hadn't pitched since last Friday. That gave the veteran knuckleballer five days of rest, a scenario in which he is 0-7 with a 5.37 ERA this season.Game notes
Alex Gonzalez, who was pinch hit for by Loretta, played his 47th straight game without an error. That's a record for a Boston shortstop, breaking Glenn Hoffman's mark from 1982. ... Nathan had not allowed a hit in any of his previous save chances this year. ... Javier Lopez, a sidearming lefty acquired earlier in the day in a trade with the White Sox, made his Red Sox debut in the eighth. He gave up an RBI single to Torii Hunter. ... Right-hander Matt Clement, who went back to Boston to see a doctor about a pain in his right shoulder and biceps, will have further tests on Friday, Francona said.