Twins Quietly Lose Series Finale To Mariners

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Twins Quietly Lose Series Finale To Mariners

First, the good news: Brian Duensing came out and pitched very well for the Twins today. He threw seven strong innings, allowing three runs off of four hits. He walked three batters, but he also struck out six. After allowing a solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez to lead off the fourth inning, Duensing mowed down the next eleven batters before eventually scrambling out of some two-out trouble in the seventh.

A quality start when the bullpen was banged up and struggling--can't ask for more than that, right? But wait, the good news gets better--the aforementioned bullpen actually came through to pitch two shutout innings. Alex Burnett and Dusty Hughes allowed only a single base runner between them, stopping the woes of Minnesota relievers for at least a day.

Now, the bad news: the Twins couldn't muster a single run to help out their pitching. And it's really, really difficult to win games without scoring runs.

The Twins actually outhit the Mariners 7 to 5 on Wednesday, but all seven hits were singles. Seattle starter Erik Bedard defined the pitching term "scattering" by allowing six of those hits in six innings of work. In fact, Bedard's only 1-2-3 inning came in his final frame. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 15 innings of work.

Minnesota's best chance at scoring came in the fifth, when Drew Butera and Alexi Casilla started the inning with singles. (Side note: I doubt I'll type that sentence again this year.) After Denard Span moved both runners over with a groundout, Matt Tolbert and Jason Kubel tallied lazy flyouts that thwarted any chances of a rally.

The Twins dropped two out of three to Seattle, which seems only fitting: their MLB-worst 16-32 record means that they have lost two out of every three games this season. To paraphrase Meatloaf, two out of three is pretty darn bad. At least the latest chapter of this painful season was quick: the game lasted roughly two and a half hours. But then again, baseball games tend to move pretty fast when a grand total of three runs are scored.

The Twins have a day off to think about how comically inept they are before hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at 7:10 PM CT on Friday night. While things may seem bleak for the hometown nine, this writer is guaranteeing that the Twins will not score less than they did on Wednesday during any game of the Angels series.


Twins Try For Rare Series Win In Matinee With Mariners

If the Twins want to salvage the 2011 season, they're going to have to win at their home ballpark more than once a month. Before their 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night that featured Nick Blackburn going the distance for the win, it had been exactly one month since Minnesota's last home victory. Wednesday afternoon's game offers a chance for the Twins to win a series and gain some momentum heading into their weekend series with the Angels at Target Field.

Brian Duensing will take the mound for the Twins while Seattle will counter with lefty Erik Bedard. Both pitchers hold 2-4 records this season, although Bedard's ERA is just over a full run lower than Duensing's. Bedard is coming off his best start of the year, pitching eight shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the San Diego Padres.

The Twins' offense has started to show some life lately, but the pitching staff (especially the bullpen) has struggled mightily during that time. Duensing had an impressive April, but he's 0-3 with an ERA of 10.38 in his last four appearances, one of which was a two-inning relief appearance.

Due to a few "mild" or "minor" injuries depending on which member of the Twins' staff you ask, there have been a few lineup changes today. Kevin Slowey is headed to the DL with an acute abdominal strain, and it sounds like the Twins will call up--gulp--Jim Hoey to replace him. Matt Capps is unavailable for today's game, sighting forearm soreness. (Funny, I could have sworn it was pride soreness.) Finally, Michael Cuddyer is out of the starting lineup today thanks to a sore right hip, but he is available off the bench if needed.

First pitch at Target Field is scheduled for 12:10 PM CST.


Blackburn Goes The Distance In 4-2 Victory Over Seattle

It might not end up being the most memorable start of the Minnesota Twins' 2011 season. . .but at this point in the season, it was certainly the most needed.

Nick Blackburn pitched a complete game on Tuesday night at Target Field, scattering seven hits and allowing only two runs as the Twins snapped their four-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The Minnesota victory also snapped Seattle's six-game winning streak.

The Twins drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning, when Denard Span continued his hot hitting by leading off with a triple to right field, and Jason Kubel brought him in with a one-out single. They added another run in the bottom of the third when Alexi Casilla led off with a double, and moved to third on Span's ground out to the shortstop. Matt Tolbert then laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to bring Casilla home and give the Twins a 2-0 lead.

The lead disappeared in the top of the fourth, however, when with two outs and a runner on first, Blackburn made his one mistake of the game, leading to a Miguel Olivo two-run homer to tie things up at two.

That's the way things would stay until the bottom of the seventh, when Rene Rivera and Alexi Casilla got consecutive one-out singles to put runners on the corners. Mariners' starter Doug Fister was then called for a balk, allowing Rivera to score and Casilla to move up to second, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead. Denard Span then laced a double to left field, scoring Casilla to give the Twins a 4-2 lead. Span advanced to third on Olivo's error, but neither Matt Tolbert nor Jason Kubel could get Span home.

Blackburn just seemed to get stronger as the game went on, as he retired the Mariners in order in both the eighth and ninth innings to finish the complete game. The complete game was the fifth of Blackburn's career, and he threw 127 pitches in a victory that not only snapped Minnesota's four-game losing streak, but snapped an unprecedented nine-game losing streak at Target Field.

Blackburn's victory evened his record for the season at 4-4, and his ERA dropped to 3.20 on the season. Fister got saddled with the loss, dropping his record for the season to 2-5.

The same two teams will play the rubber game of this series on Wednesday at Target Field. It's going to be an early start, with the first pitch scheduled for 12:10 PM Central time. The pitching match-up will see Seattle's Erik Bedard (2-4, 3.94 ERA) take the hill against Minnesota left-hander Brian Duensing (2-4, 4.98 ERA).


Twins Bullpen Falls Apart In 8-7 Loss To Seattle

The Minnesota Twins took a 7-4 lead into the top of the eighth inning on Monday night against the Seattle Mariners, and it looked as though the team was about to get back on the winning track. The Minnesota bullpen once again fell apart when it mattered, and the Twins wound up giving one away to the Mariners, losing 8-7 in ten innings.

The Mariners got on the board right away in the top of the first inning, thanks to Jack Cust's two-run homer off of Carl Pavano. The blast snapped a 40-game homerless drought for Cust, the longer of his career. In the bottom of the inning, however, the Twins answered back as Denard Span hit his first ever Target Field home run to lead off the bottom of the first, slicing the lead to 2-1.

Seattle added single runs in the top of the second and in the top of the third to extend their lead to 4-1. However, the Twins came all the way back in the bottom of the fourth by putting up three runs, the first two coming courtesy of Jim Thome's two-run blast to right off of Seattle starter Jason Vargas. Span added a second RBI for himself with a single, bringing Delmon Young home to tie the score at four.

The Twins took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth on Young's RBI single, and extended their lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh when Thome took Mariners' reliever Aaron Laffey to the opposite field for a two-run homer. Then, Ron Gardenhire pulled starter Carl Pavano prior to the top of the eighth and replaced him with Joe Nathan.

Nathan got the first out of the top of the eighth by striking out Carlos Peguero. Brendan Ryan then singled, and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Nathan. Jack Wilson then reached first on an error by shortstop Trevor Plouffe, and came home to score on a single by pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy, with Wilson advancing to third. Nathan then gave way to closer Matt Capps, who came in to face Ichiro. Ichiro hit a floater behind second base that Plouffe probably could have fielded, but wasn't aggressive enough in getting to the ball, allowing it to land and letting Wilson score from third on what turned into a fielder's choice.

The Twins failed to score in the bottom of the eighth, and took their 7-6 lead to the top of the ninth. Justin Smoak led off the inning with a single for the Mariners, and pinch-runner Michael Saunders stole second base when Cust struck out. Capps then got Franklin Gutierrez to ground back to him for the second out, but just couldn't close the deal as Peguero singled to bring in Saunders and tie the game at seven. The Twins had a chance in the bottom of the ninth, as they put runners on first and second, but Jason Repko grounded out to short to end the inning.

Anthony Swarzak came in to pitch the tenth, and gave up back-to-back singles to Jack Wilson and Miguel Olivo. Ichiro then sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Chone Figgins was intentionally walked to load the bases. Former Twin Luis Rodriguez then lifted a fly ball to center deep enough to score Wilson from third, and the Mariners took an 8-7 lead. The Twins went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the tenth, and wound up with their fourth consecutive loss.

Jamey Wright got the win for the Mariners after pitching the ninth inning, a victory that evens his record at 1-1. Brandon League got the save for the Mariners, his eleventh of the year. Swarzak took the loss for the Twins, dropping him to 0-2 on the year.

The same two teams will get together again at Target Field tomorrow night, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:10 PM. The Mariners will send right-hander Doug Fister (2-4, 2.93 ERA) to the mound, and the Twins will turn to Nick Blackburn (3-4, 3.40 ERA) to try to halt their latest losing streak.

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