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BOS@MIN: Aviles' four hits lead Red Sox to victory

MINNEAPOLIS -- For all that has not gone to plan for the Red Sox in April and in the last week, Tuesday night's 11-2 win over the Twins was an accurate reading of the script.

Jacoby Ellsbury remains on the disabled list, but his fill-in in the leadoff spot, Mike Aviles, banged out four hits, including a home run. David Ortiz, who has more hits (28) through the Sox's first 16 games than anyone since Joe Cronin's 30 in 1937, rocketed a 429-foot homer. Boston as a whole had a season-high-tying 18 hits and is in position to take its first sweep of the season Wednesday.

"No," Ortiz said when asked if this was the most locked in he's been this time of year, before cracking a smile. "Maybe."

Throw in Josh Beckett's six-inning, two-run performance and the big lead Boston had built by the middle innings, and it was the kind of game you'd expect from a contender against a Minnesota team with considerably lower expectations. If compared to Monday's win -- the first of the Sox's two-game win streak -- Tuesday was a breather.

"I think the guys deserve games like this," manager Bobby Valentine said. "They're a good team. We had the one at home [on Saturday against the Yankees], and we let it get away. I don't think that's going to be allowed again."

Twins starter Nick Blackburn lasted just three innings, but the Sox's offense kept at it through the middle innings, plating two in the third, two more in the fourth and three in the fifth.

Boston went ahead 3-0 in the first, an inning keyed by an Aviles double and a Mike Sweeney single. Aviles, 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, is hitting .395 (15-for-38) with four doubles and has hit all three of his home runs since moving to the leadoff spot. Tuesday's four hits matched a career high, and his success atop the order is the result of positively no change in his approach, he said.

"If I'm hitting ninth, first, it really doesn't matter," Aviles said. "I just try to have good at-bats and get on base, because I know if we keep the chain moving, with the guys we have on this team, the offense can explode like it has the last couple of nights."

Said Valentine: "Michael's been a godsend."

Aviles' homer to left came, coincidentally, from the leadoff spot in the fourth against lefty reliever Matt Maloney.

An inning earlier, Ortiz also hit his third of the year, off Blackburn. Papi has gotten on-base in all but one of 16 games this season, and he's batting .525 (21-for-40) in his last 10.

"He's had outstanding at-bats," Valentine said. "He's taking what the pitchers give him, he's taking his walks, he's driving the ball to left field, he's taking singles to left field. Gets ahead in the count and hit a blast tonight. He's seeing the ball really well, feeling really good about himself -- and we're feeling really good about him, too."

Beckett gave up five hits, three walks and struck out five. He threw 100 pitches and 62 for strikes, although he felt strongly that strike-count should've been higher, even though he did not care to discuss home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson after the game.

"Nope, we won," Beckett said. "I don't want to talk about that.''

With Boston ahead, 3-0, in the first, Minnesota's only run until the fifth inning came on a 10-pitch walk to Justin Morneau. That was directly after Beckett first walked Joe Mauer, whom he was ahead on 1-2, and Josh Wllingham, whom he was ahead on 0-2.

Beckett escaped the bases-loaded one-out jam with a punchout and groundout, but he felt squeezed and had words for Johnson as he walked to the Sox's dugout. Johnson barked back, and Valentine talked to Johnson as Blackburn warmed up for the second.

"Well, I was on the top step," Valentine said. "I was trying to add to the noise so just in case any magic words came out it wouldn't necessarily be attributed to Josh. He was into it. I haven't seen Josh like that. It really seemed like this was a game he really wanted."

Beckett settled in after the 37-pitch inning. The three walks in the first matched his season total to start the night.

"Probably threw a few more strikes, that's about it," he said about his approach after the rough opening frame. "They were pretty aggressive after that, hit some ground balls, made some great plays behind me. It was really about the offense today. They were on their game.'' Comments