Twins starter Boof Bonser was dealing with the American League's highest-scoring lineup and with the scrunched-up strike zone of plate umpire Angel Hernandez.

What he didn't need on Friday night was shoddy play behind him, and yet that's what he received.

Catcher Joe Mauer couldn't find a pitch sitting at his feet in the second inning, and what should have been a strikeout of Kevin Youkilis started a tying two-run rally for the Boston Red Sox.

Bonser had made it to the fifth with a 5-2 lead. Dustin Pedroia opened with a comebacker that ricocheted off Bonser toward second base. Brendan Harris laid back as if the runner was a Molina brother and Pedroia was safe.

Later, left fielder Delmon Young retreated in an ungainly manner on Mike Lowell's long fly and it went for a two-run double.

That was the end of Bonser, eventually leaving him with a pitching line of four-plus innings, seven hits, six earned runs, three walks and three strikeouts.

With professional fielding from his mates, it could have been one run in five innings.

That ugly fifth gave Boston a 6-5 lead and the Red Sox failed to add on, even with chances against relievers Juan Rincon in the sixth, Dennys Reyes in the eighth and Jesse Crain in the ninth.

Would it matter?

The Twins' last shot appeared to come in the sixth, when third base coach Scott Ullger got Young thrown out at the plate by a hefty margin on Adam Everett's second double.

Yes, the Twins were prepared to achieve the improbable -- losing when Everett, the lightest of hitters, had his annual game with more than one extra-base hit.

They had given away a handful of runs in the field, and they had killed a rally with Ullger's faulty arm-waving, and now Jonathan Papelbon was entering to preserve the victory for the defending champions of North American hardball.

Manager Ron Gardenhire had been losing manpower in a wave.

First, infielder Nick Punto said a hamstring remained too sore for him to play. Then, the MRI was read on reliever Pat Neshek and the news couldn't have been worse -- torn ligament in the right elbow.

The first plan of action is to rehab the elbow rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. "I think the goal is to try to get back by Opening Day next year,'' Neshek said.

The attrition continued at midgame, when Harris left because of a sore hamstring. Gardenhire now had a two-man bench of Craig Monroe and Mike Redmond.

Papelbon blew a save in Detroit on Wednesday on a succession of chunk hits. He headed to the visitors dugout and beat up any inanimate object that he could find.

Delmon Young was first against Papelbon and bounced a hard single up the middle. Actually, it was hit to the left of second base, a place where the righthanded Young has hit few balls during his six weeks with the Twins.

Gardenhire ordered a sacrifice bunt from Matt Tolbert. The logic was marginal, since Everett was the next hitter. The manager couldn't pinch-hit for him with no other available infielders, and the odds of Everett getting around on a Papelbon heater seemed remote.

Everett hit a foul popup to first for the second out. Carlos Gomez was now the hope.

Would he bunt? Would he swing as if he was a righthanded David Ortiz trying for the upper deck? What would Go-Go do?

If you guessed walk, don't forget to buy a Powerball ticket today. Gomez walked for the fourth time in 131 plate appearances. It also was Papelbon's second walk of the season -- and first in the Western Hemisphere. Previously, he walked the first batter he faced this season ... in Tokyo.

This brought on Mike Lamb, who had replaced Harris in the batting order.

Lamb has lost his everyday status as the Twins' third baseman, with Tolbert now playing against lefties. Lamb's time could be further reduced if he doesn't start to produce.

Gomez stole second, putting two runners in scoring position with two outs.

And then Lamb produced a flare behind third -- a Hawk Harrelson "duck snort'' -- and Gomez was speeding around third, and the depleted, shaky Twins had a 7-6 victory.

Damndest game ever, this baseball.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •