Quick. Efficient. Victorious.
Twins fans could get used to this.
While the Twins and White Sox were scheduled for roughly nine hours of baseball this week, it turns out that they played for just over four hours thanks to a rainout and two lightning-fast games.
Less than 24 hours after Carl Pavano sped through the White Sox lineup by tossing a complete game, Nick Blackburn produced a near carbon copy on Thursday. Blackburn went eight shutout innings for the Twins, scattering seven hits and a walk to out-duel White Sox ace Mark Buehrle.
Blackburn got into trouble a couple of times on the afternoon, but he was always able to scramble out of it. He allowed singles to Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski to start the second. Both runners advanced after Blackburn's throwing error trying to get a double play out of Alex Rios' line out. But Blackburn was able to get Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham to end the threat.
In the sixth, Konerko appeared to hit into a inning-ending double play, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka bobbled it to keep the inning alive. (Nishioka was kept incredibly busy in his first game back from a broken leg; he had a ball hit to him in all nine innings.) But once again Blackburn got the next two hitters to avoid any damage.
In Blackburn's final inning, the White Sox got back-to-back 2-out singles, but he got Pierzynski to fly out. Twins closer Matt Capps came on in the ninth. Although Twins fans may have been thinking "here we go again" after Adam Dunn laced a 1-out single, Capps slammed the door by striking out the next two batters for the save and a 1-0 victory for Minnesota.
Michael Cuddyer supplied all the offense the Twins would need in the bottom of the second. He absolutely tattooed a Buehrle pitch for a 427-foot bomb to left center. As Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune pointed out during the game, Cuddyer had exactly zero homers or RBI on April 19. Since then, he has a team-leading 10 homers (good for first on the team) and 27 RBI (third).
Buehrle more or less shut down the Twins for the rest of the game, allowing only two singles, two walks, and a hit batter after Cuddyer's home run. Nishioka did tally his first-ever hit at Target Field with an infield single in the 8th inning off Sox reliever Matt Thornton.
The Twins still have a long way to go if they want to contend in 2011, but winning 11 out of 13 games with sparkling starting pitching is definitely a step in the right direction. And oh yeah--it looks like Joe Mauer might be back by the end of the week.