The Minnesota Twins may sit near the bottom of the AL standings, but they have made an impact in the wild-card race over the last few weeks.
The Twins will try to win back-to-back games at Fenway Park for the first time in nearly six years when they continue their series against the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.Minnesota entered Thursday's series opener having dropped 12 of its last 14 games in Boston, but behind a stellar effort from starter Samuel Deduno, the Twins (45-60) held the Red Sox to two hits in a 5-0 win -- their first shutout at Fenway since Aug. 3, 1996.Deduno went six innings to outduel Jon Lester, as Denard Span's RBI double in a two-run third inning provided more offense than the Twins needed."Just another one of those hard luck outings," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said of Lester. "He pitched awfully well. 2-0 doesn't seem insurmountable but it was tonight."The win was Minnesota's fifth in seven games. The Twins are 9-8 over their last 17, a span which includes a four-game split with Baltimore and sweeping Cleveland last weekend -- two of the teams along with Boston that are contending for the two AL wild-card spots.Improved pitching has helped Minnesota surprise some teams. The rotation has a 3.86 ERA over the last 17 games compared to 5.80 mark during a 36-52 start to the season.Minnesota hasn't won consecutive games in Boston since September 2006, but will try to continue playing spoiler to the Red Sox (53-53), who have lost their last two following a four-game winning streak.Boston, which is at the .500 mark for the 16th time this season, trails five teams in the wild-card hunt.To bounce back, the Red Sox will need more help from the offense after Adrian Gonzalez had both of the team's hits Thursday. He's hitting .397 since the All-Star break and is 11 for his last 21 with a pair of doubles and a home run.Despite Gonzalez's contributions, Boston's lineup has scored three runs or fewer nine times in its last 14 games.Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront (10-5, 4.37 ERA), will get the ball for his first career appearance against the Twins.Doubront gave up one run, four hits and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings of Boston's 10-inning, 3-2 win at New York on Sunday. He had allowed six runs in his previous outing against Texas.The Twins will counter with Brian Duensing (2-6, 4.53), who has taken the rotation spot of the traded Francisco Liriano.Duensing, who spent most of the year in the bullpen, gave up one run in six innings of a 5-1 victory over Cleveland on Sunday -- one day after learning he'd get the chance to start."I think he kind of likes that: not preparing and just going out there and throwing the ball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think he enjoyed that part of it. He did a really nice job."Duensing has allowed two runs in five career innings against the Red Sox.