Nick Blackburn bounces back
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MINNEAPOLIS -- There was one pitch on Tuesday night that Nick Blackburn would like to have back.
But with the way things had been going for the Minnesota Twins right-hander -- not to mention how things worked out in a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers -- Blackburn can live with that.
In by far his best start all season, Blackburn threw only 95 pitches (67 strikes) over nine innings, allowing 11 hits, walking just one and entering the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead.
His sinker was sinking again. His changeup was surprisingly effective. He only threw a handful of sliders.
And then he hung a 76 mph curveball that Brennan Boesch deposited into the second deck in right-center field, tying the score at 3 with no outs in the top of the ninth.
"That was unbelievable," Blackburn said. "It's frustrating to go out there and throw that curveball."
The frustration wore off quickly in the minutes that followed, as the Twins stopped the potential go-ahead run from scoring and then gave Blackburn his first win since April 6 when J.J. Hardy scored on a wild pitch in the bottom half of the inning.
It came only days after Blackburn left the team to deal with a family matter in Oklahoma, where he also squeezed in a bullpen session that apparently was productive. He entered the game with a 6.85 earned-run average and had lasted 9 1/3 innings combined in his previous two starts while also battling a sore throwing elbow.
"Blacky was just super," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Was running through it, had his sinker working. Then, unfortunately, he gives up a curveball in that last inning to tie the ballgame up. But that was his ballgame all the way. He was on a mission tonight. He really threw the heck out of the ball."
Only six of Blackburn's 27 outs came on fly balls. He also struck out two, and otherwise kept his infielders busy with a steady diet of grounders.
Even when the Tigers broke through with two runs in the fourth inning, the damage came on four consecutive singles.
"He was keeping the hitters off balance," Hardy said. "Every time he needed to make a pitch, he did."
And that one pitch Boesch blasted?
"It was the wrong pitch to throw," Blackburn said. "(Rick Anderson) talked about it, and it makes a lot of sense now -- we've been throwing (Boesch) all fastballs and changeups all night. He probably was sitting changeup. Threw a curveball and it broke right into the swing.
"Definitely learned my lesson on that, and hopefully, next time, I'll know better."