MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — If anyone needed a game-winning hit in extra innings, it was Aaron Hicks.
The once-prized Minnesota Twins prospect was hitting just .161 and was challenged by manager Ron Gardenhire and acting general manager Rob Antony the day before to take a more professional approach to the game.
Hicks responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th and Phil Hughes struck out eight in six innings to help the Twins beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in the series finale on Thursday.
Many think the only reason Hicks was not sent down already was because of the injuries that have decimated an already thin outfield group. Gardenhire and Antony both said they didn’t feel Hicks was doing the necessary homework behind the scenes to be ready every day.
“Maybe preparing is something I need to try to do more,” Hicks said. “Try things to be able to make my game better and have an edge on the game.”
All-Star closer Glen Perkins blew his second save of the season, giving up a two-run single to Will Middlebrooks with the bases loaded that tied the game in the ninth. But Kurt Suzuki doubled down the left-field line and Hicks lined a 3-2 pitch to left field off of Andrew Miller (1-2) to win it.
“It’s such a big hit in a big situation,” Hicks said. “It just comes down to how much heart you have in the game. That’s the kind of player I am. I like to play with passion and I don’t like the way I’ve been playing so far. But it’s something that sometimes you’ve got to go through in order to be able to make that next step into becoming a better player.”
Mike Carp had two hits and an RBI for the Red Sox, but David Ortiz was a quiet 1 for 4 with a single after going deep twice in each of the first two games of the series.
Hughes gave up five hits and no walks and Chris Parmelee hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who took two of three from the defending champions. Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar each had three hits and Brian Duensing (1-1) picked up the win.
Clay Buchholz gave up three runs on 10 hits and struck out six in six innings for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox hitters had been doing well recently, with Ortiz’s personal home run derby contributing to 28 runs over their previous four games. But Hughes put those hot bats on ice on a day when the temperature was 46 degrees at first pitch.
Hughes knows Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox lineup well from years of facing them while he was in the Yankees rotation.
“He pitches more comfortable here, it seems,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “They threw a lot of strikes, didn’t issue many bases on balls. Didn’t have a whole lot going for the first eight.”
Hughes retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced, won a 14-pitch battle with Xander Bogaerts to end the fifth inning and finished with more strikeouts against the Red Sox than he had in his previous 22 appearances against them.
“I’m going after them,” Hughes said. “That’s been my game plan and has continued to be. Just attack with my fastball and get some flyouts, some strikeouts, swings and misses. I just tried to stay aggressive the entire time.”
Gardenhire said he hopes Hicks’ big hit will be the jumpstart his young center fielder needs.
“He’s working at it. That’s all we’ve asked him to do, study and work and he’s doing that,” Gardenhire said. “That’s a big hit for him. Nice to see him smile in a big situation like that.”
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