Early lead vanishes in Twins' latest loss

Nick Blackburn couldn't keep the Orioles off the scoreboard after Michael Cuddyer's early home run.

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BALTIMORE - Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer drove a pitch nearly 400 feet to center in the second inning Wednesday to open the scoring. There's nothing as deflating as handing the lead right back.

Righthander starter Nick Blackburn, struggling with his mechanics early, did just that. By the end of the second inning, the Twins were down three runs and on their way to a 5-4 loss to the Orioles.

"That's not good," Blackburn admitted. "I can't be doing that, and I think it just gets everybody down in the dugout. It's got to be frustrating for everyone."

The Twins have been terribly inconsistent, which is why they have lost two-thirds of their games this season. The one thing that has been consistent is that they have had to try to dig out of holes.

"I'd be lying to you if I said the dugout has been as peppy as it's always been. It's not," said Cuddyer, whose first home run was also his first RBI, ending a career-long 16-game RBI drought. "And that's our fault. We have to change that, and the only guys who can change that are the guys on the bench. Us."

Cuddyer said watching the early lead vanish so quickly was a little deflating, but "you still have to play the game."

Blackburn pitched seven innings before leaving because of a sore back -- caused by a little flaw in his mechanics -- that he said won't be a problem. But the damage had been done as the Orioles, led by a two-run homer by Matt Wieters in the second and a solo shot by Vladimir Guerrero in the third, won for the second consecutive night and can take the four-game series with a victory in Thursday's finale.

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia battled through tough at-bats for a pair of singles that drove in two runs in the sixth and one in the eighth. That was it for the Twins offense, which has yet to score more than five runs in a game all season.

They tied the 1909 Washington Senators for the longest stretch in franchise history to start a season without scoring at least six runs.

"I didn't know that," Cuddyer said. "It feels like it, but I didn't know that."

Sure, the Nos. 2 through 5 hitters -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young -- are either sick or injured. There are still standards to be met.

"I think we're to a point where we are tired of it, too," Blackburn said. "We're obviously not excited about what is going on, but we haven't been playing just absolutely awful baseball, either. A couple breaks here and there, we could get some more wins."

They haven't, so the Wieters of the baseball world been having their way with them.

Wieters is the catching prodigy who still is tapping into his ability -- but looks like a star against the Twins. Two of his three homers and seven of his 11 RBI have come in this series.

Valencia led the Twins with nine RBI. Others have yet to get going, making those deficits look more and more insurmountable.

"You can only say 'It's early' so many times,'' Cuddyer said.

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  • Minnesota pitcher Nick Blackburn gave up a two-run home run to Baltimore's Matt Wieters during the second inning.

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