If the Minnesota Twins are going to get back into the American League Central race, they could use a lot more performances like the one they got from Nick Blackburn on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals. They could also stand to cut down on the kind of performances they got from Matt Capps on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals.
Seven brilliantly pitched innings from Blackburn went to waste, as Capps blew his Major League-leading seventh save of the 2011 season, and the Minnesota Twins fell to the Royals by a score of 2-1 at Target Field.
The Twins got their lone run of the ball game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Ben Revere led off the inning with an infield single, and then stole second base as well. A groundout by Alexi Casilla moved Revere to third. After an intentional walk to Joe Mauer and a pop out by Michael Cuddyer, Revere came in to score on a wild pitch by Royals' starter Luke Hochevar to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.
The Twins didn't get any more runs, but with the way Blackburn was going, it didn't look like they were going to need any more. Blackburn mowed down the Royals for seven solid innings, holding Kansas City scoreless and allowing only four hits during his time on the mound. Joe Nathan came in to relieve Blackburn, and set the Royals down in order in the top of the eight.
Then Capps came in for the top of the ninth. He started the inning off with a four-pitch walk to Melky Cabrera, who subsequently stole second. Capps then retired Alex Gordon on a ground ball to third, and Billy Butler on a fly ball to right for two outs. Then Royals' first baseman Eric Hosmer jumped on an 0-1 offering from Capps, and launched it into the center field seats to give the Royals their first lead of the night at 2-1. As mentioned, it was the seventh blown save of the year for Capps, tying him with the Chicago Cubs' Carlos Marmol for the big league lead in that category.
The Twins had a chance in the bottom of the ninth against Royals' closer Joakim Soria. Jim Thome started the inning off with a walk, and was lifted for pinch-runner Matt Tolbert. Danny Valencia then flew out to center for the first out, but Delmon Young singled to center and moved Tolbert up to third. Luke Hughes then pinch-hit for Jason Repko, and tapped a weak ground ball to the pitcher. Soria fielded it and went to the plate to easily get Tolbert for the second out. Young advanced to second base, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka was unable to bring him around, as he grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
Tim Collins (4-4, 3.65 ERA) got the win for the Royals after pitching a scoreless eighth in relief of Hochevar, who allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings in the no-decision. The save for Soria was his sixteenth of the year. Capps took the loss for the Twins to drop his record to 2-5 on the year.
Minnesota will attempt to bounce back from this loss on Saturday afternoon at Target Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM Central time. The Royals will send southpaw Jeff Francis (3-10, 4.60 ERA) to the mound, while the Twins will counter with right-hander Carl Pavano (6-6, 4.10 ERA).