MINNEAPOLIS -- It was the type of game the Twins can't afford to lose.
Despite rallying against left-hander Jon Lester after falling behind early, the Twins were done in by two late homers from Cody Ross in a 6-5 loss to the Red Sox on Monday at Target Field.
Danny Valencia appeared to have provided the big blast with a go-ahead shot in the fourth, only to see Ross hit a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh off Jason Marquis and a game-winning solo shot off closer Matt Capps in the ninth.
"We wanted this one pretty bad," second baseman Trevor Plouffe said. "We battled back from an early deficit, had some guys come up clutch -- like Danny with that home run. And we played some good defense out there, and Jason [Marquis] battled. So it was one we wanted for sure. But we've had a few of these games now under our belt where we've been close. Some we've won and some we haven't, and we're looking forward to winning more of them. We're right there."
It's a familiar story for the Twins, however, as they've struggled to hit with runners in scoring position and have just a 5-12 record to show for it.
Minnesota went just 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the night, and it is hitting just .170 (8-for-47) in those situations over its past five games.
The Twins had a big chance in the eighth, when Jamey Carroll singled and reached third on a two-base error from right fielder Ryan Sweeney with nobody out. But he was stranded there, as Joe Mauer grounded out to first, Josh Willingham lined out to third and Ryan Doumit popped out to short to end the frame.
"It seems like we're always one big hit away," Doumit said. "I know that I had an opportunity today with Carroll on third there in the eighth. We had a couple opportunities. We just didn't get it done."
After failing to capitalize in the eighth, Ross hit the go-ahead homer off right-hander Matt Capps with two outs in the ninth inning. The solo shot cleared the overhang in right field for an opposite-field homer.
"I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate, just trying to drive it the other way," Ross said. "I've faced Capps quite a bit. He comes right at you. He doesn't give in. He lives out there, so you just try to drive it and fortunately it ended up in the air."
The blast came after the Twins blew a two-run lead in the seventh, when Ross hit a two-run homer off Marquis on his 105th pitch of the night. Marquis ended up allowing five runs on 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings. He also threw 112 pitches, which was his highest total since also throwing 112 pitches on Sept. 13, 2009.
"I like to go as deep into the game as possible," Marquis said. "I felt good. It was just poor pitch selection. The ball was about an inch off the plate in. He just beat me to the spot. As for going deep into the game, that's my job. I wasn't able to get it done the way I wanted to tonight."
The Red Sox got out to an early lead against Marquis, scoring in the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Adrian Gonzalez and getting two more runs in the second on a two-run homer from Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Twins, though, came back with four runs off left-hander Jon Lester in the fourth, as Doumit provided a two-run double and Valencia crushed a two-run blast.
Minnesota added a run in the fifth, when Carroll grounded into a double play that scored Plouffe from third base.
Carroll and Plouffe also turned an impressive double play to end the sixth inning, as Carroll made a diving stop on a hard-hit grounder from David Ortiz and flipped to Plouffe, who made the throw on the run to get Ortiz out at first. It saved a run from scoring, as the Red Sox had runners at first and third with one out.
Plouffe nearly won the game in the ninth, as he just missed a walk-off, two-run homer off Alfredo Aceves, but the ball was caught by Ross on the warning track in left field.
"I thought he got it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When it made a sound off the bat, it sounded like he crushed it. This night, a little dampness out there, the ball just died. I thought he got it pretty good. I think everybody did."