BOSTON - There was something futile about the Twins' ninth-inning rally Sunday. And something symbolic, too.
The Red Sox had done enough damage against Nick Blackburn and company to put the game mostly out of reach, but Josh Willingham smashed his 28th homer, and Ryan Doumit added a two-run shot, forcing Bobby Valentine to make another pitching change.
Boos rang down on the beleaguered manager at Fenway Park, as he summoned closer Alfredo Aceves. After blowing leads the previous two nights against Minnesota, could the Red Sox possibly do it again?
No, Aceves got three quick outs to preserve a 6-4 victory, keeping the Twins from completing their first four-game sweep in Boston since 1991.
The Twins had to settle for what they did accomplish, winning three games in the same series at Fenway Park for the first time since 1994.
"And the fact we didn't just lay over and die," Blackburn said. "We kept fighting, and I thought we had a decent chance there in the ninth. It's exciting to see. Obviously it's very late in the season, but we're not just laying down and shutting it off, which is good to see."
The Twins are 7-3 in their past 10 games, and the three losses have been by a combined four runs. Their starting pitchers have gone 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA in that span, holding opponents to a .222 batting average.
Those numbers were even better before Sunday, when Blackburn gave up four earned runs on nine hits over five innings.
"Blackie actually threw the ball pretty well there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He threw a lot of pitches -- 90 in five innings -- and made one big mistake, the two-run homer [by Adrian Gonzalez in the fifth inning]. It looked like the ball was down and the guy just lifted it, which he can do on anybody."
Blackburn (4-7), who had better results in two of his previous three starts, wasn't discouraged.
"I wouldn't say today was a step back by any means," he said.
"I had location. I threw a lot of pitches I was very pleased with. There's going to be games where you go out and one pitch beats you, and today was one of those days."
Red Sox lefthander Franklin Morales (3-2) was making a spot start in place of injured Josh Beckett and held the Twins to one run on three hits over six innings.
The Twins trailed 6-1 entering the ninth before making Boston sweat. Willingham and Doumit connected against Vicente Padilla, and Aceves had to redeem himself after serving up Joe Mauer's three-run, lead-changing homer one night earlier.
"Coming in and taking three of four from a team like the Red Sox, we feel good about this series," Doumit said. "I'll take three of four every time."