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Justin Morneau (33) congratulates pitcher Nick Blackburn after a complete-game effort in the Twins' a 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners at Target Field on Tuesday.

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

TWINS 4, SEATTLE 2 Up next: 12:10 p.m. today vs. Seattle Target Field • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

Relief without the bullpen: Blackburn's complete-game win

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • May 25, 2011 - 10:01 AM

At around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nick Blackburn received a text message from his wife, Alicia, with the type of news that could alter one's mindset.

Oklahoma and Kansas were being hit hard by tornadoes, and one was headed to Washington, Okla., which is about a 10-minute drive down Interstate Hwy. 35 from Norman -- and where the Blackburns live.

Blackburn had to pitch against the Mariners in an hour.

"It's all stuff, that's what I told her in case she was stressing out about it," Blackburn said. "It can be replaced. If the house gets blown away, we'll get a new one. That's what insurance is for."

Stuff comes and goes. Memories are more important. And Blackburn led the Twins to a 4-2 victory over Seattle on Tuesday night that was memorable in several ways:

• It ended a four-game losing streak.

• It ended the Twins' nine-game losing streak at Target Field.

• It was Blackburn's fifth career complete game and his first since May 4 of last year.

• He also threw a career-high 127 pitches on a night in which relievers Matt Capps and Joe Nathan were unavailable to close because of fatigue, so he had to stay on the mound.

"We needed that," said Twins right fielder Jason Kubel, who drove in a run and made a diving catch of Adam Kennedy's liner in the fourth. "Blackie went out and pitched a heck of a game."

Blackburn's May mastery continued as he held Seattle to two runs on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Blackburn (4-4) is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA this month, after going 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA in May 2010.

He clicked with batterymate Rene Rivera, as they made sure Seattle hitters were busted inside all night, which opened up the outer half of the plate.

"My pitches aren't overpowering enough to where I can just live on the outside edge and guys start diving over," Blackburn said. "I think a big key lately has been pitching in, just trying to crowd guys as much as possible and keeping them from getting out over the plate."

The Twins scratched for runs -- they took a 2-0 lead in the third inning when Matt Tolbert's suicide squeeze bunt enabled Alexi Casilla to score. With the score tied 2-2 in the seventh, Seattle starter Doug Fister (2-5) balked home the go-ahead run and Denard Span followed with an RBI double.

Blackburn pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and went to the dugout having thrown 109 pitches. He took the mound for the ninth as the announced crowd of 37,691 rose and applauded.

"Very few times you get to have a standing ovation as a starting pitcher, so it's special," Blackburn said. "It gets the blood going and goosebumps and all that stuff."

Kennedy tapped to first to end the game, and first baseman Justin Morneau flipped Blackburn the ball as they celebrated the victory.

Back in the clubhouse, another text from Alicia informed him that their home -- which is unoccupied at the moment while the family is in the Twin Cities -- was safe.

"Apparently, some [funnel clouds] were pretty close because I had three or four text messages from buddies asking if my house was OK," Blackburn said.

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