FORT MYERS, Fla. – The last time Josh Beckett and Nick Blackburn pitched, their teams lost the second game of a pair of three-game sweeps in AL division series.

The stakes were much lower Thursday night when the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Mark Wagner’s tie-breaking single in the eighth inning of the spring-training opener for both teams.

Still, both right-handers, who led their teams in innings pitched last season, were happy with their two-inning outings.

Beckett has been working on keeping the ball low.

“I felt like I kept the ball down well,” he said. “I got five ground balls and then (allowed) two hits, one of them a line drive and the other one a ground ball. So things that we’ve been working on the last two weeks, I’m getting there.”

Beckett, who went 17-6 in the regular season before his 4-1 loss in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Angels, gave up two hits and a run before getting his second out.

Denard Span led off the game with a single, took second on a groundout and scored on Jason Kubel’s single.

Then Beckett got Michael Cuddyer to hit to shortstop Marco Scutaro, who started a double play. In the second, Beckett retired the side in order on two grounders and a strikeout.

“That was a great double play, a 3-1 pitch,” Beckett said. “That’s the pitch I’ve been talking about since day one of spring training. You don’t have to make the perfect pitch. You make a decent pitch and the guys behind you pick you up.

“I didn’t make a great pitch on Cuddyer, but Cuddyer hit it where (Scutaro) could go get the ball and turn a really nice double play.”

Blackburn went 11-11 for the second straight year last season, then started in the division series when the New York Yankees won 4-3 in 11 innings.

On Thursday, he gave up a single to Dustin Pedroia and allowed only one of the seven batters he faced to hit the ball out of the infield.

“I got to throw some change-ups in there, got some bad swings on it,” Blackburn said. “That’s a plus for me. That’s been kind of a challenge the last couple of years to get a slow enough change-up to where we can get some guys out in front of it and a lot of ground balls.”

The Red Sox managed just two hits through five innings before Pedroia’s single scored Darnell McDonald with the tying run. McDonald had pinch run for Dusty Brown, who doubled. 

METS: New York and right-hander Kiko Calero agreed to a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training.

Shortstop Jose Reyes was scratched from New York’s lineup for follow-up lab work related to his team physical, but a team spokesperson said he’s been cleared to play.

Ace Johan Santana completed his last big test before pitching in a game, throwing two simulated innings. 

OREL HERSHISER, the former NL Cy Young Award winner, is joining Joe Morgan and Jon Miller in ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” announcing booth this season. 

REDS: Aroldis Chapman, a Cuban left-hander, will make his exhibition debut Monday for Cincinnati when he pitches in relief against Kansas City. 

MARINERS: Closer David Aardsma tweaked his groin during his one-inning outing against San Diego, but the team doesn’t believe he will miss much time. 

ATHLETICS: Right-hander Jason Jennings, who signed Sunday with Oakland, is scheduled to pitch in a game within a week.

DIAMONDBACKS: Ace Brandon Webb said he felt ‘stagnant’ in his latest bullpen session and is impatient with himself for not having mustered much intensity in his rehabilitation.

PHILLIES: Roy Halladay pitched two hitless innings against the New York Yankees in his spring-training debut at Clearwater, Fla.

Halladay struck out Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher and Randy Winn. The Phillies won, 3-2.

YANKEES: Designated hitter Nick Johnson was scratched from the starting lineup for the game against Philadelphia because of a stiff lower back.

BLUE JAYS: Toronto claimed right-handed pitcher Casey Fien off waivers from Boston and put right-hander Scott Richmond on the 60-day disabled list.

RANGERS: Outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Elvis Andrus signed one-year contracts before the team’s first spring-training game.

ROYALS: Billy Butler and Alberto Callaspo, the top two hitters for Kansas City last season, agreed to terms on one-year contracts.


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