Blackburn shows off chin -- and good stuff

In his first start after a demotion to the minors, the clean-shaven pitcher showed marked improvement in his command.

view larger photos

  

KANSAS CITY, MO. - The latest version of Nick Blackburn is back -- without a beard -- to prove he can bring reliability to a beleaguered Twins rotation.

Since we're on the subject of trimming things, Blackburn needed to trim his 8.10 ERA -- which he certainly did on Friday night against the Royals in a game the Twins eventually won 2-1 in 11 innings.

Blackburn's sinker showed more life than earlier in the season and his aim didn't let him down many times. He pitched into the seventh inning with a 1-0 lead behind Darin Mastroianni's second-inning home run.

Blackburn left the game in the seventh after giving up a single to Eric Hosmer and a two-out RBI double to Yuniesky Betancourt. But the Twins pulled the game out in the 11th against Kansas City closer Jonathan Broxton, when Joe Mauer doubled to left, lifting his batting average to .334, and Josh Willingham followed by driving him in with a single.

Glen Perkins pitched the bottom of the inning to earn his fifth save, surviving a leadoff double by Alcides Escobar as Casey Fien got his first major league victory. Escobar tried to score from third on a one-out grounder to second but was cut down by Alexi Casilla.

But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire couldn't forget Blackburn's effort. It was the third consecutive game a Twins starter pitched at least six innings.

"He made it look effortless," Gardenhire said. "That was something he had been working on. All of his pitches, good changeups, good sinkers and good sliders. That was a great performance, desperately needed by him -- for him and for our baseball team."

The only drawback for the Twins was that Trevor Plouffe left after jamming his right thumb while lining out in the seventh. He expected to miss at least one game.

The Twins will win on most days when Blackburn pitches like he did Friday, but the game was a little bit of a tester, as Mastroianni's homer was one of only five hits they had off Royals righthander Luke Hochevar.

Blackburn was just as effective. In 6 2/3 innings, he gave up one earned run on seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts. He pounded the strike zone, resulting in nine groundball outs. Of his 103 pitches on Friday, 78 were strikes.

"Just to go out there and attack the strike zone," Blackburn said. "I don't think I was in any three-ball counts tonight, and that was big. I had been walking a lot of guys lately, and to go out there and get some pretty early action indicates that there was pretty good movement [on my pitches]. I got a couple flyballs, but for the most part kept the ball on the ground."

Can Blackburn keep it up and salvage a season that once was promising?

He posted a 2.12 ERA in spring training and was ready for a big year but, in his second start, had to leave because of cramps in his shoulder.

During an April 30 start against the Angels, Blackburn felt enough pain in his rib cage area to wonder if he had broken a rib. In May, he battled left quadriceps problems that eventually sent him to the disabled list.

When he returned from the DL, he pitched poorly and was sent to Class AAA Rochester on July 4 in search of his groove.

Looking back on it all, the Twins believe that Blackburn's physical issues led to breakdowns in his mechanics, which led to poor pitches.

"He got all out of whack trying to take the load off of what hurts," Gardenhire said.

He looked back in alignment on Friday.

"It felt a lot better," Blackburn said. "Just finally putting it all together."

  • TWINS 2, KANSAS CITY 1 (11)

    Up next: 6:10 tonight at Kansas City • FSN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 7:00 PM
Miami
Indiana 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Utah 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Portland 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Golden State
San Jose 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Toronto 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:30 PM
Montreal
Arizona 7:00 PM
Nashville
Carolina 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Chicago
Vancouver 7:30 PM
Dallas
Florida 8:00 PM
Colorado
Tampa Bay 8:00 PM
Calgary
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Are you happy to see the Royals in the World Series?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close