Of late, the Red Sox have shown glimpses of emerging into the type of team they were last year, when they won the World Series.
But one of the missing ingredients is Clay Buchholz, who has been inconsistent thus far.
The wiry righty will take the ball in Thursday's matinee, hoping to give the Red Sox their fourth straight series win.
Buchholz (2-3, 6.44 ERA) gave up 10 hits and six runs over 4 1/3 innings in his last start, a loss to the Rangers.
"Against Oakland [two starts ago], the changeups he used were very good," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "It was a little bit elusive for him last time. He didn't have quite the feel in Texas. The linescore showed what took place. We can't deny that. We're still striving for the consistency that we've been accustomed with him."
Buchholz will be opposed by a pitcher the Red Sox are plenty familiar with in former Yankee Phil Hughes.
Hughes has been hot of late, going 4-0 in his last four starts with a 2.05 ERA.
The righty fired seven shutout innings against the Tigers to earn the win in his last start.
"When you're around the plate and pop a fastball up every now and then, they're going to be aggressive and swing at it," said Hughes. "That's kind of what I am. Sometimes it hurts me a little bit if I'm around the plate too much, but when I have good stuff, it's usually all right."
In 22 appearances against the Red Sox, Hughes is 5-7 with a 5.70 ERA. David Ortiz has done plenty of damage against him, hitting .409 with two homers and seven RBIs in 22 at-bats.
Thus far in this series, it hasn't mattered much who has been on the mound for the Twins. Ortiz has tormented them, going 7-for-10 with four homers.
"The guy is a great hitter and it's hard to know where to play him, but I know you can't play him in the seats," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "The key is to keep him out of those RBI opportunities. He can only do so much damage with nobody else out there."
Red Sox: Napoli an on-base machine
Though he hasn't hit with the thunder of Ortiz in recent days, Mike Napoli continues to be an on-base machine for the Red Sox in the cleanup spot.
The first baseman has reached base in 33 straight games, the longest active streak in the Majors.
"I feel up and down," said Napoli. "Sometimes I feel really good. Sometimes not so good. I'm just trying to see the ball deep and hit the ball to all fields."
Napoli has a .398 on-base percentage, just two points ahead of Ortiz for the team lead.
Twins: Willingham likely to begin rehab assignment Friday
Outfielder Josh Willingham is scheduled to take batting practice before Thursday's game against the Red Sox, and if all goes well, he'll start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Friday. But there's still no timetable for the return of Willingham, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a small fracture in his left wrist.
"We don't have a timetable, but he's going to have to prove he's healthy, and show that's he ready to help us," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said.
• The Red Sox are 10-4 all-time at Target Field.
• Ortiz is now a career .528 (28-for-53) hitter with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 13 games at Target Field.
• Brian Dozier has an eight-game hitting streak at Target Field, in which he's hitting .350 with a homer and five RBIs.