MINNEAPOLIS -- When facing the Red Sox, no lead is ever really safe. The Twins got a reminder of that Monday, as they suffered a hard-fought, 8-6 loss at Target Field.
After the Twins controlled the game for five innings, the Red Sox and their powerful lineup finally proved too much in the sixth, when a four-run lead quickly disappeared. From that point, the Twins kept fighting, but came up short in the ninth.
"It's a battle with that lineup over there, trying to pitch your way through it," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "You know you're going to have those battles with a lineup like that and, unfortunately for us, we couldn't finish them off."
David Ortiz delivered the go-ahead single in the ninth off Twins closer Joe Nathan, scoring pinch-runner Darnell McDonald from second. But it was the two-run blast Ortiz hit in the sixth that seemed to be the turning point of the game.
After allowing just one run through five, Scott Baker gave up a leadoff triple to Carl Crawford, who then scored on an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single, and Ortiz put a 1-0 pitch from Baker into the second deck in right field to cut the lead to one run.
"He's driving the ball again, keeping his legs under him on the ball to left-center," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Ortiz. "He drives the ball out of the ballpark, way out of the ballpark. Gets us right back in the game."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia then added a solo shot, his 11th of the season, giving the Red Sox back-to-back home runs for the sixth time this year, and tying the game. The Twins would not lead again in the game, as a four-run sixth ruined what had otherwise been a solid start for Baker.
Baker finished with five runs allowed on nine hits over six innings with five strikeouts. He had only allowed five earned runs in his last five outings combined, and he had not allowed five runs since May 11 against Detroit.
"Obviously, they're one of the best, if not the best offense in baseball right now," Baker said. "I was making some pitches early, got away with a few pitches early, but eventually they started putting some good swings on them and putting some balls in play."
After Baker left with the game tied, the bullpen nearly let things get out of hand in the seventh before escaping with the game still tied.
Following a pair of leadoff singles and a sacrifice bunt, lefty Phil Dumatrait intentionally walked Gonzalez to load the bases. Matt Capps then got the Twins out of the jam as Pedroia grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Gardenhire admitted afterward that it was even hard to intentionally walk Gonzalez with first base open because Pedroia is so tough in big situations, and Ortiz was behind him.
"They've got a heck of a lineup over there," said Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer. "No room to breathe. One through nine, it's a battle."
Boston did take the lead in the eighth, on a double, two groundouts and a Joe Mauer error. With Ortiz on third base, pinch-hitter Mike Aviles grounded to shortstop Matt Tolbert, who fired home in time to get the runner, but the ball got away from Mauer.
"Tough play, the ball was coming into the runner and the whole package," Gardenhire said. "We had the guy, but a tough play for Joe coming in there. They just find ways."
The Twins answered to tie the game in the eighth, but Nathan and lefty Glen Perkins could not get the final out in the ninth.
After Perkins struck out Crawford and picked off Jacoby Ellsbury at first, one out was all he needed to send it to the bottom of the ninth still tied. But the Red Sox showed the strength of their lineup again, delivering three straight singles and a double for a pair of runs.
It was the Twins' fifth straight loss, and their eighth in nine games. With the loss, Minnesota dropped to 10 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit and just two games ahead of the last-place Royals.
But one positive that could be taken away from it was the effort, which was much improved from the club's loss Sunday to the White Sox.
"It was a better game than what we did yesterday, it was a better effort," Cuddyer said. "And that's the start of it. You've got to put a good effort out there and play to win, and I thought we did that tonight. We just came up a little short."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.