Sox expecting Twins

Red Sox aiming to gain ground on Twins

For the first time in four years, the Red Sox played the Yankees in a September series that was not overloaded with hype. With little chance that the weekend's games between the two rivals held any playoff implications, it may have been easy for an outsider to look at Boston's place in the standings and not notice that they took three of four games from the Yankees on the road.

After playing four games in two days in New York, the Red Sox will take the day off on Monday before opening a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. However, Boston's return to home will only be a short pit stop since the Sox head to Toronto for a four-game series on Friday.

"We could use it. We're probably not going to get home until 4 [a.m. on Monday]. It'd be nice to have an off day," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We can get everybody a blow and come back and have a good series against the Twins, because you know they're gonna be ready to play. This is gonna be a huge series for them."

By winning the series in the Bronx, the Red Sox are playing their best baseball in a month, but still trail the Yankees by 9 1/2 games with only 12 games left in the regular season. Boston currently sits behind the Twins and White Sox for the Wild Card spot, 7 1/2 games removed from a ticket to October baseball.

"We didn't envision ourselves as spoilers, but you take momentum where you can get it," second baseman Mark Loretta said.

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will take the mound for the Red Sox against rookie Matt Garza and the Twins in the opener at Fenway Park. It will be Wakefield's second start since a stint on the disabled list that lasted nearly two months.

One of the major reasons for Boston's tailspin from the top of the American League East was due to inconsistent starting pitching and countless injuries.

Just as hitters can almost be sure what pitch Wakefield is going to throw, Red Sox Nation missed knowing the consistency Wakefield would bring when he steps on the mound after his injury.

In his last outing, Wakefield allowed four runs and 10 hits over five innings in a losing effort against Baltimore. This will be Wakefield's first start in Boston since July 17. He is 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA at Fenway this season.

In one start against Minnesota this season, Wakefield pitched six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits in a loss.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (7-9, 4.19 ERA)
Despite taking a loss in his first action in nearly two months, Wakefield suffered no ill effects from the stress fracture in his right ribcage that kept him off the mound for seven weeks.

MIN: RHP Matt Garza (1-5, 5.50 ERA)
Talk about big shoes to fill. Garza will step in for Francisco Liriano, who will miss the rest of the season with a sore elbow. The Twins don't expect Garza to give them the same results, of course, but they will need him to keep the team in games. The Twins are 2-4 in his six starts and only two of his outings have been considered quality starts.

Player to watch
Rookie David Murphy hit his first career home run on Sunday.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 14-7, 4.13) vs. Twins (RHP Boof Bonser, 5-5, 4.52), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 15-10, 5.02) vs. Twins (LHP Johan Santana, 18-5, 2.77), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 3-4, 4.89) at Blue Jays (LHP Ted Lilly, 14-12, 4.44), 7:07 p.m. ET

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.