- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Outcome: The Boston Red Sox took a pivotal game in their quest for the coveted Lee County Mayor’s Cup, defeating the Twins 9-3 on Saturday afternoon at City of Palms Park. Boston now leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
On a serious note, Tug Hulett crushed a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. It was his first round-tripper of the spring and it came on the first pitch.
“Really in that situation, you’ve got guys on base, and you’re just trying to put the ball up the middle,” he said.
His shot landed in the right-field bleachers. It didn’t take long for the fans to begin a “Tug. Tug. Tug.” chant.
“That’s a first for me. It was pretty neat,” he said. “I thank my mom for giving me a chantable name.”
An infielder by trade, Hulett has been used as a designated hitter this spring since he’s been bothered by shoulder stiffness, but said he should be able to play the field on Sunday.
The Sox’ Gil Velazquez went 2-for-5 with two RBI in the victory.
Notable: Pitcher John Lackey made his Red Sox debut on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander worked two perfect innings with one strikeout. He threw 20 pitches, 12 strikes. So far this spring, the starting rotation looks solid, and with Lackey in the mix this season, Boston could have one of the top rotations in the league. Lackey threw mostly fastballs and mixed in a couple of curveballs during his brief outing.
“He was good,” said Red Sox catching prospect Luis Exposito. “He commanded his fastball and that’s what he wanted to do. He got ahead of hitters and put them away.”
Prospect to watch: Exposito has been in the Red Sox organization for the last four years after he was selected in the 31st round of the 2005 draft. He’s participating in his first big-league camp this spring and he’s opening some eyes. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder was behind the dish on Saturday when Lackey made his spring debut. Offensively, Exposito lined a shot to deep center field for a double to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. He eventually scored on Gil Velazquez’s RBI-single. Exposito joins the prospect ranks along with Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown. Exposito is likely to begin the season at Double-A Portland. In four minor league seasons, he has a .280 average with 31 homers and 150 RBI.
“You get a chance to be here with these guys and they make you feel comfortable,” he said. “I’m working hard in the cage every day, and I’m trying to bring that into the game."
Play of the game: Red Sox center fielder Matt Sheely turned in a defensive gem in the top of the seventh inning. He had misplayed a ball earlier due to the sun, but made up for it when he turned a 8-2 double play. He made a catch in center and made a strong throw to the plate to cut the runner down, attempting to tag up on the play.
Up next: The Red Sox will face the Orioles on Sunday in Sarasota. Clay Buchholz will make his second start of the spring, but the big news will be Casey Kelly’s homecoming. The top pitching prospect for the Sox, Kelly is scheduled to throw. Boof Bonser, Daniel Bard, Scott Atchison and Robert Manuel will also pitch for Boston.
Etc.: J.D. Drew played right field for the first time this spring ... Mike Cameron played in his second Grapefruit League game ... Saturday’s game was the 90th consecutive sellout at City of Palms Park, dating back to March 16, 2003. The weather finally warmed up and 7,640 attended the afternoon game.