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).