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Sunday’s Red Sox-Twins matchups: Franklin Morales vs. Nick Blackburn

08.05.12 at 9:20 am ET
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Franklin Morales

In an attempt by the Red Sox to salvage one win against the Twins, Franklin Morales will take the hill against Nick Blackburn on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Morales will start in place of Josh Beckett, whose next start has been pushed to Wednesday after he left his last start with a back spasm. Morales made five starts earlier this season before being pushed to the bullpen, but whether pitching in relief or in a starter’s role, the left-hander has been one of the more reliable arms on the Red Sox pitching staff this season. In 57 innings, Morales is 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA and 60 strikeouts, which already is a career high for him.

Morales’ last start came on July 13, when he picked up the win in a 3-1 victory over the Rays, pitching five shutout innings, scattering two hits and punching out five despite allowing three walks. After that start, however, manager Bobby Valentine opted to abandon the six-man rotation the Red Sox had been utilizing and pushed Morales back to the bullpen. Morales has since made five appearances, which included, most recently, his 11th career save in a rain-shortened, six-inning affair against the Tigers on Tuesday, when he allowed a hit and a walk in one-third of an inning.

Beckett’s latest injury offers an opportunity for Morales to return to the rotation, where he succeeded in spot starting duties after Beckett went down with shoulder inflammation in June. In those five starts he made, Morales posted a 2-1 record, a 3.42 ERA and 31 strikeouts. The Red Sox were 3-2 overall in his starts.

Morales has logged only 3 2/3 innings against the Twins in his career, including 1 1/3 innings in two appearances in April when the Red Sox and Twins met in Minnesota. He’ll go up against Blackburn, who has struggled for the most part this season, but is recently coming off one of his best start of the year.

After a miserable outing on July 25 against the White Sox, allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings, Blackburn came back with a stronger performance in his second chance against the White Sox on Tuesday. In eight innings, he allowed just five hits and two earned runs with two strikeouts.

That start, however, is not indicative of how Blackburn’s season has gone. The 30-year-old right-hander is 4-6 with a 7.43 ERA this season, which includes 11 starts in which he has given up at least four earned runs. With the exception of his last start, Blackburn has gone longer than six innings just once, and he has given up at least one run in each of his starts this season.

In six career starts against the Red Sox, Blackburn is 2-2 with a 4.17 ERA. He last played them on April 24, when he lasted just three innings as he gave up five runs on three hits in an 11-2 loss.

Twins vs. Morales (LHP)

Joe Mauer (4 plate appearances): .250 BA/.250 OBP/.250 SLG

Jamey Carroll (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Ryan Doumit (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Justin Morneau (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Denard Span (1): 1.000/1.000/1.000, 1 RBI

Josh Willingham (1): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Danny Valencia has one walk in one plate appearance against Morales.

Red Sox vs. Blackburn (RHP)

Jacoby Ellsbury (19 plate appearances): .278 BA/.316 OBP/.278 SLG

Kelly Shoppach (18): .500/.474/1.111, 2 doubles, 3 home runs, 5 RBIs, 4 strikeouts

Carl Crawford (17): .071/.235/.071, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (17): .267/.353/.333, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Mike Aviles (13): .545/.583/1.000, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Adrian Gonzalez (8): .429/.500/.429, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Cody Ross (5): .250/.400/.250, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

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