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Porcello dominates, bats erupt in 50th win

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MINNEAPOLIS -- The bats finally livened up for the Red Sox on Thursday afternoon, but starting pitcher Rick Porcello didn't really need them to.

The righty put on a pitching clinic (seven shutout innings, three baserunners) at Target Field while leading Boston to a 9-2 victory over the Twins to salvage the finale of a three-game series and finish a 10-game road trip through three different time zones with a 6-4 mark. It was yet another happy flight for the Red Sox, who improved to 15-3 on getaway days this season.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The bats finally livened up for the Red Sox on Thursday afternoon, but starting pitcher Rick Porcello didn't really need them to.

The righty put on a pitching clinic (seven shutout innings, three baserunners) at Target Field while leading Boston to a 9-2 victory over the Twins to salvage the finale of a three-game series and finish a 10-game road trip through three different time zones with a 6-4 mark. It was yet another happy flight for the Red Sox, who improved to 15-3 on getaway days this season.

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Boston improved to 50-26, just a few minutes after the Yankees became the second team in the Majors this season to hit the 50-win plateau. The Astros reached 50 on Wednesday.

Video: BOS@MIN: Betts launches his 19th homer of the season

"Today his tempo was outstanding," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Two-seamer in, mixing up with the breaking ball. He was under control. And it was a 2-0 game for a while there, so he had to make some quality pitches to a good left-handed-loaded lineup. We're very pleased with the way he threw the ball."

Porcello allowed just one hit -- and it was a single by Logan Morrison in the first. Porcello issued a walk with two outs in the second and didn't allow a baserunner the rest of the day. While improving to 9-3 and lowering his ERA to 3.44, Porcello had five strikeouts and was pleased to be able to come through when his team needed it most.

Video: BOS@MIN: Benintendi belts a 2-run HR to right-center

"Yeah, I want to be the guy on the mound," Porcello said. "I think, if you ask any one of our starters, we'd probably all say that, and that's part of being a competitor and trying to help the ballclub. Like you said, we don't want to be in these situations, but we needed a bounce-back game and I look forward to having the ball and trying to stop the bleeding."

After scoring two runs or fewer in four of their previous six games, the Sox's offense closed the road trip with some encouraging productivity.

Video: BOS@MIN: Bogaerts plates a pair with double off wall

Mookie Betts belted a solo homer to right in the fifth. It was the 19th of the season for the star right fielder, but just his second since returning from the disabled list on June 11.

Mookie homers, paces 16-hit attack vs. Twins

Xander Bogaerts added a two-run double in the seventh to give Porcello some more breathing room.

Video: BOS@MIN: Leon plates Moreland with a single to right

Andrew Benintendi put the game away with a two-run rocket to right in the eighth.

"We needed some guys to swing it," said Betts. "We got some guys rolling and we hit with some guys on base, so, yeah, we did a good job today."

"Yeah, we definitely needed a win today, especially to end this long road trip and dropping the first two games to these guys, so it was definitely nice for us to come out strong," Porcello said. "Offense swung the bats great late in the game and we were able to get the win."

Video: BOS@MIN: Moreland extends lead with an RBI double

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
For all the highlight-reel hits the Red Sox had during a 16-hit day, the at-bat that pleased Cora the most was a fielder's-choice RBI grounder by Rafael Devers that made it 5-0, Red Sox, in the seventh.

Video: BOS@MIN: Devers plates Bogaerts with an RBI groundout

"For everything that went on offensively, I was pointing out that there was an at-bat that people won't talk about," said Cora. "In the seventh, less than two outs, infield in and Raffy puts the ball in play. That's what we were talking about earlier in the game. If we put up quality at-bats like that, we're going to score a lot of runs."

LISTEN: Morning Lineup Podcast on 50-win teams

SOUND SMART
Porcello's one hit allowed represented his fewest in any start since May 22, 2011, against the Pirates. Porcello's mastery of the Twins also continued, as he beat them for the 11th time, which ties him with the ageless Bartolo Colon for third most among active pitchers.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
When Joe Mauer flew out to right-center to open the sixth, it looked like the most routine play imaginable. Betts didn't even seem to have to move. But the beauty of the play was that the Red Sox's analytics department had called an audible before the game to adjust the way the club was positioning Mauer, especially with Porcello pitching.

After Betts got the ball, he pulled an index card out of his pocket (Boston's fielders all use them for positioning purposes) and waved it at the dugout with a huge smile on his face.

Video: BOS@MIN: Betts makes grab while in perfect position

"Yeah, that was a big topic before the game," said Cora. "It was an extreme one from the analytical department. They see stuff like that and they panic. We made a few calls before [the game]. We looked at the charts and we're like, 'It's right on, go with it.' We double checked with Rick and I'm glad that it happened, because they're believing in what we're doing but sometimes they see something extreme and it's like, 'This is out of the ordinary.'

"I know they were happy, but I was the happiest guy, like, 'Thank God they hit it right there.' It reinforces what we're trying to accomplish. You saw it and it was very extreme. It was good for him to be in that spot and catch it. Hopefully his range factor goes up and defensive runs saved and all that."

HE SAID IT
"That means they know where we're at and understand how important it is to finish strong. For whatever [reason], there were a few games we felt that we could've stolen [on this trip] or gotten [another] win here or there, but 6-4 is 6-4. It's a good trip." -- Cora

UP NEXT
Knuckleballer Steven Wright, who has basically been untouchable in his first three starts since replacing the injured Drew Pomeranz in the starting rotation, will try to get the Red Sox off to a strong start when he opens a six-game homestand on Friday night against the Mariners. After losing a 1-0 heartbreaker to Wade LeBlanc last weekend in Seattle, Wright gets a rematch against the Seattle southpaw in the opener of this three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello