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Updated: April 24th, 2012 10:13pm
Blackburn latest to get hit, but Twins 'can't go out and buy' pitching

Blackburn latest to get hit, but Twins 'can't go out and buy' pitching

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins pitchers were bludgeoned, and hitters were unable to capitalize on Boston starter Josh Beckett being on the ropes early in an 11-2 loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

The skinny

Nick Blackburn's return from right shoulder stiffness didn't go how he envisioned.

Making his first start in 10 days, Blackburn was limited to a pitch count of 85 -- but he didn't make it that far. In three innings, the right-hander surrendered five earned runs on eight hits, including a mammoth two-run homer into the right-field upper deck by David Ortiz.

Blackburn threw 71 pitches (44 strikes), striking out two and walking one. Out of 14 batted balls, four were hard line drives, three were flies (one home run, one double) and seven were grounders.

"I kept falling behind, and that's never going to help," Blackburn said. "People are talking about that team struggling, but it's still a really good lineup. You can't overlook any of those guys. They did what they do. They hit some balls well, they kept finding holes, they found ways to get guys in and it was one of those nights."

Twins starters now own a 6.73 ERA with only three quality starts in 18 games.

"We have to get them straightened out," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We can't go out and buy people. We gotta make this work. ... I can't rub a bottle to make somebody pop out. We have to make these guys work."

Left-hander Matt Maloney came in to replace Blackburn, but he didn't fare any better. The Red Sox pounded Maloney for five earned runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Boston hitters drew three walks and tallied 18 hits, including six doubles and two home runs. Mike Aviles led the charge with two doubles, a single, a home run, three runs scored and two driven in.

"I have a lot of confidence in these guys," Gardenhire said. "But they have to get it done in the field. It doesn't matter what I say in here. They have to go out between the lines and get it done. Right now, we're scuffling. We gotta get better performances and more consistent performances or else we'll kill our bullpen. So we got a lot of work to do with these guys to get them on track. We need them to step up. I think they know that. Nobody knows that more than them."

A bases-loaded walk by Justin Morneau in the first inning and an RBI double by Josh Willingham in the fifth were the only runs the Twins could scratch across against Red Sox righty Josh Beckett.

The Twins fell to 5-13 with the loss.

Turning point

Trailing 3-0, the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first inning against Beckett with a single by Denard Span and back-to-back walks by Joe Mauer and Willingham.

Morneau coaxed a 10-pitch walk to drive home a run, but Beckett was able to strike out Ryan Doumit on three pitches, then get Danny Valencia -- after falling behind 3-0 -- to ground out.

The game may or may not have turned out differently had the Twins taken advantage and posted a crooked number, but it was a wasted opportunity nonetheless.

"It was unfortunate it didn't translate into more runs," Morneau said. "We kind of got him to throw a bunch of pitches early, and he ended up lasting pretty late into the game. It was a chance to take advantage of him and get back into the game early, and get into their bullpen, and we didn't do it. That was the story of the game."

Beckett settled down to allow only two earned runs on five hits and those three walks while striking out five in six innings.

"If we come up with another big hit there and find a way to get another run or two in there and it's a whole different game," Morneau said. "He's a veteran guy and settled down after that."

Numbers game

18: First-inning runs allowed by Twins pitchers so far this season, which ranks as the second-most in baseball.

37: Pitches thrown by Beckett in the first inning.

3: Former Twins that batted in a row for the Red Sox in the eighth inning -- Ortiz, Nick Punto and Darnell McDonald.

12: Strikeouts for Clete Thomas in his last 14 at-bats.

Health report

• INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka was placed on the Triple-A seven-day disabled list on Tuesday with a sprained ankle.

• RHP Kyle Waldrop (inner elbow strain) is scheduled to mix in some sliders during a bullpen session on Wednesday.

Overheard

"It's kind of funny to say, but I think we're a lot better team than we've shown. We've been, with the exception of tonight and maybe one or two other games, we've been in every other game and we've either had leads or battled back to tie games. We've shown some character and shown that we can play with these teams. We just haven't been able to take that final step of either putting them away or finishing them off when we need to or whatever it is. ... Obviously we've played some tough teams but that's no excuse. We've at least played with these guys and we feel like we're a better team than we've shown for sure."
-- Morneau

On deck

Wednesday: vs. Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-0, 3.86) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (1-1, 9.00)
Thursday: Off day
Friday: vs. Royals, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (1-2, 4.73) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (1-2, 3.63)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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