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Capps allows two-run shot as Twins fall

July 15, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins’ closer controversy doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

After a quick eighth inning by Joe Nathan, closer Matt Capps entered with the Twins holding a one-run lead. Capps opened the ninth with a four-pitch walk before retiring the next two batters.

Capps got ahead of Eric Hosmer, but Hosmer crushed his next offering off the batter’s eye in center field, and the Twins lost, 2-1, to the Royals.

“Any time you’re facing a good closer like Capps, especially with a good fastball like his, you’ve got to try to jump on it early,” Hosmer said. “The first one didn’t work out as planned, so I told myself, ‘Just step out and relax. Just take a deep breath.'”

The first pitch from Capps was a 92-mph fastball up in the zone, which Hosmer swung and missed at.

With the home crowd on its feet cheering for Capps with two outs, he tried to come back with the same thing. But Capps’ location was not as good the second time, and Hosmer hit it 421 feet to dead center field.

“Same thing, yeah. Just ran back over the plate, and he was able to get it,” Capps said. “I don’t know. Maybe he was looking up there after swinging through it, too, but whatever happened it wasn’t good for us. For me, us.”

It was Capps’ seventh blown save of the season, and his fourth straight bad outing at home. Capps recorded saves in the Twins’ last two wins in Chicago before the All-Star break, but that success did not carry over upon returning to Target Field.

“We scored one run tonight. In defense of [Capps], we scored one run, we had plenty of opportunities to score more runs,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Everything gets thrown on the closer. Sure, he gave it up at the end, but a lot of people misfired, too.

“So, let’s not cut him down too awful much here. The young man’s a very good pitcher and our closer. We give him the ball and we have all the trust in the world in him. He didn’t get it done tonight, that’s all that happened.”

After being retired in order the first time through the lineup, the Twins broke through for their only run in the fourth as leadoff hitter Ben Revere singled, stole second, and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

The Twins threatened again in the sixth and seventh, but Royals starter Luke Hochevar pitched out of both jams. Revere tripled to right with one out in the sixth — and did not even miss a beat as he did an accidental somersault between second and third — but the Twins could not drive in the run.

“I thought I was going to be on ‘Not Top 10’ for a second, but then I looked at the third baseman, and he was still kind of waving to get the ball in,” Revere said. “Luckily it went pretty good at that. It’s not the first time I’ve done that [stumbled] either, so I need to quit doing that.”

Hochevar finished with one run allowed on just three hits over seven innings, with four strikeouts.

He also walked three batters, but two were intentional passes to catcher Joe Mauer, a strategy that paid off twice as Hochevar retired All-Star right fielder Michael Cuddyer after each one.

Before Capps gave the game back to the Royals, the story of the night was Nick Blackburn, who was brilliant in his first outing of the second half.

Blackburn tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks, while striking out three batters. He outdueled Hochevar, delivering his best start in nearly a month.

It was the first time since June 22 that Blackburn allowed three or fewer runs. Blackburn had been 1-1 with a 12.15 ERA over his last three starts, giving up 18 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings pitched.

“Everything was just down. That hasn’t been the case for probably the last four or five starts,” Blackburn said. “Today my fastball was below the knees more often than it has been in a long time.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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