Posts Tagged ‘Nick Blackburn’

Twins notebook, 6/18

June 18, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — When two runs allowed over six innings marks your team’s worst start in nearly a week, you know you must be doing something right.

One of the biggest keys to the Twins winning 12 of 14 games has been starting pitching. Since June 2, Twins starters entered Saturday having posted a 1.87 ERA, while allowing 20 earned runs in 96 1/3 innings with 61 strikeouts against 16 walks.

In the last time through the rotation, Twins starters averaged eight innings per start, including a pair of complete games by Scott Baker and Carl Pavano.

“Any time you have that working for you, it means you’re still in the games if your starter’s still in there late,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “You want to see your starters going deep into games, and that means you’re having those opportunities to win things. Normally when they’re out there the game’s a pretty good one.”

In the month of June, the Twins had a Major League-best 2.01 ERA through Friday night. Not only is their ERA the best, it’s a half-run better than the Phillies’ second-best mark of 2.52 and nearly 1 1/2 runs better than the Mariners (3.45), who rank second in the American League.

On their current homestand, Twins starters have gone 5-1 in the first seven games, with a 1.82 ERA over 63 innings pitched. The only disappointing start came against the Rangers last Saturday when lefty Brian Duensing gave up seven runs (three earned) on seven hits in two innings.

Duensing made up for it by holding the Padres to two runs over six innings Friday night.

“Our starters have all kind of adjusted to what they need to do,” Gardenhire said. “They’re throwing the ball very well. Hopefully it’ll continue.”

Not surprisingly, the starters’ success has coincided with much better performances out of the Twins’ bullpen this month as well. Before right-hander Alex Burnett gave up a three-run homer Friday night, the bullpen had allowed just three runs in 28 2/3 innings in June.

Even with those three runs added, the Twins bullpen has posted a 1.71 ERA in June. A common theme with both the rotation and bullpen has been a significant reduction in the number of walks issued lately compared with early in the season.

“More so than anything else, I think it’s just a concerted effort to throw the ball over the plate,” Gardenhire said. “They all know that working ahead in the count, and not walking people, it’s been proven that it’s been successful here, and pretty much everywhere else in baseball.”

Blackburn’s gem gives Twins series win

June 16, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — A lot of people will tell you that good pitching, or hitting, can be contagious. Nick Blackburn is not one of them.

Over the last four games, the performance of the Twins’ pitching staff might suggest otherwise. It was another fast-paced pitchers’ duel at Target Field on Thursday — the fourth in a row — and once again, the Twins came out on top, with a 1-0 victory.

Thanks to a solo home run by Michael Cuddyer and eight shutout innings from Blackburn, the Twins swept the rain-shortened series against the White Sox. Twins closer Matt Capps also pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save since June 6 and his ninth of the season.

“Blackie was a great story today, threw the heck out of the ball,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Good sinker, slider, he had it all — changeup — working. … A heck of a game.”

Blackburn followed up dominant performances by Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano with one of his own. The right-hander scattered seven hits over eight scoreless innings of work, with one strikeout, a walk and a hit batter. He needed just 95 pitches to get through eight, before the Twins called upon the bullpen to close out the game.

One of the keys for Blackburn was the aggressiveness of the White Sox at the plate, which he used to his advantage.

“No one is up there trying to work the count too much, a lot of first-pitch swingers and guys who kind of put it into play early in the at-bat,” Blackburn said. “When everything’s coming out of my hand pretty well, that can sometimes play into my advantage.”

After Baker allowed one run in a complete game on Saturday, Liriano followed by giving up one run over eight innings while flirting with both a perfect game and no-hitter on Sunday. Pavano followed with another complete game on Wednesday night, and Blackburn continued the trend with his performance.

Over the last four games, Twins starters have allowed just three runs over 34 innings of work, posting a 4-0 record with a 0.79 ERA. Blackburn improved to 6-4 on the season, while lowering his own ERA to 3.16.

Minnesota entered the game with a Major League-leading 1.94 ERA in June, and lowered it to 1.80 with Thursday’s shutout of the White Sox.

“It kind of reminds you of ’06 — that run that we had in ’06 where you felt like you were going to win,” Cuddyer said. “You felt like, no matter what, you were going to win the game. And all that is, is just confidence.

“You get that confidence and you start feeling like you can win every game, and that’s kind of how we feel right now.”

During that 2006 run, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen dubbed the Twins the “piranhas,” because they just kept coming after opposing teams again and again with bloopers and infield singles — with players like Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto and Luis Castillo.

Asked about what the 2011 Twins were, if the 2006 club was the piranhas, Guillen had a new label for the current Minnesota ballclub, which featured a speedy center fielder and two quick infielders batting 1-2-3 in Thursday’s lineup.

“These are the little sardines here,” Guillen said. “They are sardines … but they can play. That kid who is the leadoff guy … pretty good. When you’re missing [Justin] Morneau, [Joe] Mauer, [Jim] Thome and [Jason] Kubel and you’re still winning games, you have to give those guys credit.

“They never sit back and say ‘We’re missing the big boys.’ They continue to play. That’s the reason Gardy is the most underrated manager. … I think Gardy makes those guys play, and play right. He gets the most out of his players, and they will be in the pennant race.”

Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka made his first start for the Twins since suffering a fractured left fibula on April 7 in New York, batting third behind Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla. Nishioka went 1-for-4 at the plate, singling in the eighth — while showing excellent range in the field and improved arm strength, though he was also credited with a sixth-inning error.

Leading off the bottom of the second inning, Cuddyer crushed a 2-2 fastball from lefty Mark Buehrle into the bullpen in left-center field. It was Cuddyer’s 10th home run of the season and his 27th RBI.

Buehrle gave up just the one run on three hits — two by Cuddyer — in seven innings, but took the loss.

In his career against Buehrle, Cuddyer is batting .344 with three home runs. His 33 hits are the most for Cuddyer against any pitcher. Cuddyer is batting .340 with five doubles, seven home runs, 22 RBIs and 11 walks in his last 28 games, dating back to May 14.

“I feel good right now,” Cuddyer said. “It’s all cyclical, you’ve got to ride those good times out. Right now is a good time — and fortunately, we were able to get wins to go along with it.”

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

Bautista’s 13th homer sparks Blue Jays

May 14, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins could hold Jose Bautista without a hit for only so long.

After going 0-for-3 with a walk in his first four plate appearances on Saturday, Bautista came to the plate in the 11th inning with a runner on and no outs. Bautista connected with a 1-1 fastball, crushing a two-run go-ahead home run to right off reliever Jim Hoey, setting up a 9-3 Blue Jays victory over the Twins at Target Field.

Bautista’s home run was his Major League-best 13th of the season, and he has now homered 10 times in his last 20 games. In the clubhouse after the game, Bautista’s teammates marveled at the way he’s been hitting this season.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, other than Barry Bonds hitting,” said left fielder Corey Patterson, who scored on Bautista’s home run. “It’s impressive, it’s fun to watch and he’s a tremendous player.”

Bautista finished 1-for-5 on the day and has reached safely in 30 of 31 games this season, in 20 consecutive games and in 78 of his last 88 games, dating back to last season.

Bautista was intentionally walked in the eighth inning, raising his Major League-leading total of walks to 35 on the season.

“He’s ridiculous right now,” said catcher J.P. Arencibia, who hit his sixth home run of the season in the second inning. “He’s just so consistent; that’s why the results keep on coming. He’s got a good plan, he knows what he’s doing and he stays within it. If the ball’s out of the zone, he lays off it. If it’s in the zone, he crushes it.”

They may be biased, but do Bautista’s teammates think he is the best hitter in baseball right now?

“For sure, definitely,” Patterson said without hesitation. “It’s no doubt. He’s hitting home runs, he has a high average, RBIs, on-base percentage. Typically, guys that hit a lot of homers are going to be lacking in something, as far as average, but when you look across his numbers in all of the offensive categories, he’s up there in the tops of everything.”

One thing is for sure — Bautista is the last hitter that Blue Jays starter Jo-Jo Reyes would want to see coming up to the plate.

“I tell everybody in here, ‘That’s one guy I do not want to face,'” Reyes said. “People try to throw him in and he hits home runs, and then today they start going away and he hits a home run the other way. I guess throw the whole kitchen sink and see what he hits.”

Bautista’s blast sparked a six-run outburst for the Blue Jays in the 11th, as his homer was followed by two walks, a double, a single and two more walks. The Blue Jays brought 11 batters to the plate in the frame, and the first eight reached base.

If you ask manager John Farrell, though, Bautista would not have even had that chance if it had not been for Patterson’s big hits in the eighth and 11th.

“Obviously, it’s a huge home run to give us the lead, but if it wasn’t for Patterson’s triple in the eighth and the work of our bullpen, we might be looking at 3-2, advantage Minnesota,” Farrell said.

Patterson’s triple tied the game in the eighth and was the second straight hit for the Blue Jays after Twins starter Nick Blackburn had retired 17 in a row. In the 11th, Patterson led off with a single, which set the table for Bautista and the Blue Jays’ six-run inning.

As Farrell mentioned, the Blue Jays’ bullpen also performed admirably, holding the Twins scoreless for 5 1/3 innings. Jon Rauch pitched the ninth and 10th, allowing just one hit while retiring six of the seven batters he faced to pick up his second win of the season.

The Blue Jays also extended their winning streak to four games, while lefty Jo-Jo Reyes extended his winless streak as well. For Reyes, going one more game without a win was fine, so long as the team got a victory.

“Our main goal is to keep the team in the game and give them a chance to win,” Reyes said. “Obviously, that happened today. The only frustrating thing about this outing was that leadoff walk in the first. That’s the only thing I have negative to say.”

Many times in his nearly three-year span without a victory, Reyes has pitched well enough to win, only to be outdone by an opposing starter. While Reyes did not have his best stuff on Saturday, that once again was the case, as he settled for a no-decision.

Reyes allowed three runs (two earned) on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking one. But he was outpitched by Blackburn, who gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits over 7 2/3 frames, while striking out a career-high eight batters and issuing just two walks.

To pitch as well as he did and come away with a no-decision after allowing two eighth-inning hits was disappointing for Blackburn.

“It’s pretty tough,” Blackburn said. “It’s a frustrating way to end the day for myself. I went out there and jerked a pitch and left it over the plate for a triple. But I still felt like I went there today and made some good pitches, but the way it ends is pretty frustrating.”

A big first inning for the Twins and a big game by right fielder Michael Cuddyer were enough to extend Reyes’ streak to 26 straight games without a win.

Walking the Twins’ first batter of the game came back to hurt Reyes, as center fielder Denard Span later scored on an error by first baseman David Cooper that followed a Justin Morneau infield single. Shortstop Trevor Plouffe also scored one batter later on Delmon Young’s sacrifice fly to center field.

Cuddyer went 3-for-5 with a solo home run in the sixth, but even the homer came on a good pitch down in the zone from Reyes.

“It kills me, because he’s pitched so well for us,” Arencibia said. “But you know what? We haven’t really scored for him. He did what his job was. Other than that first inning, that run that scored that really shouldn’t have scored, he pitched his butt off again.”

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

Zobrist’s eight RBIs propel Rays’ blowout

April 28, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Ben Zobrist’s good week only got better on Thursday afternoon.

Entering Thursday’s Game 1, Zobrist had 15 RBIs for the season, eight of which had come in the Rays’ previous three games. With four hits, including a three-run home run, Zobrist put up a club-record eight RBIs in the first game of a day-night twin bill as the Rays rolled to a 15-3 victory over the Twins.

Zobrist’s eight RBIs broke the previous club record of seven, set by Carlos Pena in 2007.

“I did not know that,” Zobrist said of the record. “Any time you have that many RBIs, it’s because your teammates are getting on base for you.

“That’s a team thing, RBIs are.”

In the first inning, Zobrist helped the Rays get out to an early lead with an RBI single. In the sixth, he followed a pair of one-out singles with a three-run blast to right field for his sixth home run of the season.

Zobrist later added a pair of two-run doubles, in the seventh and in the ninth. With his performance, Zobrist was the first player in the Majors with eight or more RBIs in a game since Adam Lind did it for the Blue Jays on Aug. 31, 2009.

In his last four games, Zobrist has three home runs, and five homers in his last 11 games.

“He just came up at the right spots and didn’t miss,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.

“Ben’s just not missing. He’s getting his opportunities, the at-bats have been working, and he’s done a great job with it.”

Of course, Zobrist was far from the only Rays player swinging the bat well. While the temperatures remained chilly at Target Field, the Rays’ bats stayed hot in a second straight easy win over Minnesota.

The first five batters did not get hits like they did Wednesday night, but the Rays got on the board early with a two-run first inning, and they didn’t stop there.

“Everybody kept having good quality at-bats,” Zobrist said. “We can be a very dangerous team up and down the lineup.”

Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn fared even worse than lefty Francisco Liriano did in the series opener, which was the opposite of what the Twins needed to open Thursday’s day-night doubleheader.

Blackburn lasted 3 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs — five earned — on eight hits and four walks.

“I just couldn’t throw strikes,” Blackburn said. “Everything I was throwing was going in the dirt. It was just one of those days. It’s not very often I have to tell myself to the get the ball up.”

After the two-run first, Casey Kotchman belted a solo homer in the second. In the third, a walk, single and two Twins errors brought in two more runs for the Rays, and in the fourth, Blackburn surrendered two more runs on a walk, triple and two singles.

Just as they did in Wednesday’s 8-2 victory, the Rays kept hitting even after knocking the starter out of the game, scoring in six of the first seven innings.

“It was a pretty good day for us,” designated hitter Johnny Damon said. “Hopefully we can continue this.”

Damon extended his hit streak to 15 games with a second-inning single, also notching a triple, two walks, a stolen base and three runs scored. Matt Joyce went 3-for-4, with two walks, two runs scored and one RBI. B.J. Upton also went 3-for-4, walking twice, driving in a pair and scoring three runs.

Overshadowed a bit by the Rays’ 15-run outburst, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson delivered yet another quality performance by a Rays starter on the mound. Tossing 6 1/3 innings, Hellickson gave up three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Hellickson, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, which is about a 3 1/2-hour drive from Target Field, picked up his second straight win in front of about 100 friends and family members, improving his record to 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA.

As much as he was impressed by Zobrist, Maddon really liked what he saw from his rookie right-hander.

“It starts with Hellickson for me,” Maddon said. “Jeremy came out, we got some runs, and he held them in check and permitted us to keep batting on.”

Hellickson appeared to run out of gas in the seventh inning, which his manager attributed to all the sitting the right-hander had to do during the top halves of innings.

When asked about it, Hellickson didn’t have a problem with the long innings in the dugout.

“I’ll take those all day, every day,” Hellickson said. “I’ll sit in there as long as they want to stay out and hit.”

It was a true team effort for the Rays, as seven different players scored at least one run and every starter except for Sam Fuld and Kelly Shoppach hit safely at least once.

With the win, the Rays improved to 12-3 since April 10, the best record in baseball over that stretch. Maddon also improved to 417-417 for his career, the first time he’s been at the .500 mark since 16 games into his first season with the club in 2006.

Right now, Maddon is very happy with the way his team is playing.

“The energy’s there, the want to is there, and that’s all you can ever ask for as a manager,” he said. “I really like the way we’re going about our games right now. And I really believe it’s going to stay.”

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

Brewers beat 5/22

May 22, 2010 Comments off

Twins not mad at ex-mate Gomez

MINNEAPOLIS — When center fielder Carlos Gomez stood and watched his three-run home run in the eighth inning Friday, which made it a 15-3 ballgame, the Twins were not too happy about it.

But after expressing their displeasure with his actions, they realized that it should not have been a surprise coming from Gomez, who played with Minnesota for two years before being traded to Milwaukee in the offseason.

“That’s the type of player he is. It made me mad, but I shouldn’t be getting mad about that,” said Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn, who surrendered the three-run blast. “We were winning the game by 15 runs, so I’m glad he kept it fair.

“That’s the type of guy he is. He gets so caught up in the moment. We all saw it for us last year, so I don’t have too bad feelings. I don’t want to fight the guy, but he hit a home run.”

After the game, Gomez was aware that his actions were inappropriate and was very apologetic about the entire situation.

He added that he was prepared for any sort of retaliation the next time up from the Twins. In his first at-bat, however, Gomez was not thrown at. Instead, he lined out to third base.

When asked about it before Saturday’s game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire shared a similar opinion to that of Blackburn, while suggesting another player in a similar situation may not have been so lucky.

“Those are the moments we know Go-Go can have every once in a while,” Gardenhire said. “He was excited, and I think everyone in the clubhouse was a little fired up about it, but when all is said and done we like this kid a lot.

“If it were somebody else it might be a little different. But with Go-Go … you just live with it. He plays with a passion that not a lot of people do. He doesn’t have to apologize to me. I know what he’s all about, that’s him.”

Hawkins’ return from DL extended

MINNEAPOLIS — Though he was eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday, it may be some time before Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins returns to the bullpen.

Hawkins, who has been out for two weeks with right shoulder weakness, is continuing to work to get back but is not expected to return any time in the next few days.

“From what I understand, it may be a while,” manager Ken Macha said. “It’s a strength issue. … So he’ll see the doctor when we get home.”

Despite the lack of progress with his shoulder, Hawkins did join the Brewers in Minnesota after missing the first two cities of the Brewers’ current three-city road trip.

Saturday morning, Hawkins and teammate Rickie Weeks joined a group of 24 fathers and their kids at a downtown Minneapolis hotel as part of the Fatherhood Initiative trip, sponsored by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and several other local business executives.

When asked about his shoulder, Hawkins confirmed he did not know when he would return and echoed his manager in discussing his plans.

“I’m still doing my strengthening program,” Hawkins said. “I’ll get re-evaluated when we get back to Milwaukee on Tuesday.”

Like Hawkins, outfielder Jim Edmonds, who is on the DL, with an oblique strain, may not be ready to return when he is eligible May 31.

Edmonds’ injury occurred on a check swing in the second inning of the Brewers’ second game against the Phillies last Saturday.

The veteran outfielder played another inning in the field — hoping the injury would subside — before being replaced by Jody Gerut in the top of the fourth.

Edmonds noted the next day that he thought the injury could be related to the back issues he dealt with earlier in the season. With oblique injuries often turning into lingering issues, Macha was not confident Edmonds would be ready by May 31.

“Just reading what we’ve got in here,” Macha said, referring to the Brewers’ daily injury report, “he may not be 15 [days] and off [the DL].”

Inglett exits game with sprained ankle

MINNEAPOLIS — A long injury report got longer Saturday as Joe Inglett, who started in left field, left the game with a sprained left ankle.

Starting for the second straight game, Inglett appeared to have injured his ankle sliding into home plate as he scored in the fifth inning on a single to center field by catcher George Kottaras.

Inglett was replaced in left field by Jody Gerut, who rejoined the team Saturday after going home for the birth of his child.

Worth noting

In Friday night’s 15-3 loss at Target Field, the Brewers set season highs for runs allowed in a game (15), runs allowed in an inning (seven) and largest margin of defeat. … Casey McGehee and Ryan Braun, with 37 and 30 RBIs, respectively, entered Saturday’s game tied for the Major League lead in combined RBI (67) this season. … Brewers outfielder Jody Gerut was expected at the ballpark just before game time on Saturday. He was home on Friday and Saturday for the birth of his daughter — Jody and Mary Gerut’s second child. … McGehee asked to play third base on Saturday, a day after he served as the designated hitter in the Brewers’ Interleague opener. Manager Ken Macha liked the idea of giving McGehee a chance to rest his surgically-repaired right-knee, but he honored the request and used Braun as the DH instead. McGehee could serve that role again on Sunday. … Reliever David Riske, who was moved to the 60-day disabled list Friday to free a 40-man roster spot, is eligible for reinstatement June 9 and could be an option for the big league club on that date. He had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow June 1.

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