A five-run seventh inning propels Rays to 7-4 victory over Twins
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It looked as if Nick Blackburn was in line for his second consecutive serviceable start on Sunday after a horrific June, but the wheels came off in a five-run fifth inning that propelled the Rays to a 7-4 victory over the Twins.
The Twins trailed 2-1 to start the inning when Blackburn allowed back-to-back singles to Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton. Jason Bartlett then dropped down a bunt, and Blackburn fired wide to Orlando Hudson at first base, allowing Pena to score, which put the Rays up 3-1.
With first base open, Carl Crawford was intentionally walked to load the bases for Evan Longoria, who lined a two-run single to center on the first pitch -- also Blackburn's season-high 104th pitch of the ballgame.
Brian Duensing came on in relief, but after striking out Willy Aybar, he allowed a double to the gap in left to pinch-hitter Gabe Kapler that plated two runs to give the Rays a 7-1 lead.
Blackburn (7-6, 6.00) allowed seven runs -- four earned -- on nine hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, and he has now allowed at least four earned runs in eight of his 16 starts this season.
Rays starter James Shields (7-8, 4.83) went six-plus innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and a walk, while striking out two.
The Twins offense responded to the Rays' five-run seventh by scoring three runs in the bottom half of the inning, courtesy of a Jim Thome two-run single that bounced off the wall in right, and a Delmon Young RBI single to left. Grant Balfour, however, retired J.J. Hardy, Denard Span and Hudson to end the inning, stranding two runners in scoring position.
With two runs driven in, Thome now has 1,592 career RBIs, surpassing Andre Dawson for 34th on the all-time list.
The Twins dropped three out of four to the Rays in the series and finished the homestand 3-4. After Monday's off day, the team will head out for a six-game road trip against the Blue Jays and Tigers to wrap up the first half of the season.