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Updated: August 11th, 2012 8:51pm
Nick Blackburn roughed up early as Twins fall to Rays, David Price

Nick Blackburn roughed up early as Twins fall to Rays, David Price

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Nick Blackburn was ambushed early and the Minnesota Twins were unable to solve David Price in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The skinny

Blackburn threw his first pitch at 6:11 p.m. He trailed 2-0 by 6:14 p.m. after B.J. Upton smoked a two-run homer deep into the bullpen in left-center field.

The next batter, Matt Joyce, hit a towering home run over the scoreboard in right field to give the Rays a 3-0 lead before an out was recorded. Blackburn walked back to the mound to a chorus of boos from the home crowd at Target Field.

The right-hander managed to settle down, allowing only one more run -- another homer to Upton in the fifth -- while finishing six-plus innings. Blackburn allowed 11 hits and a walk while striking out two.

"I mean obviously it's disappointing right out of the gate to be down 3-0," Blackburn said. "I know that's tough on the offense. They're facing a pretty good guy over there. But you have to kind of move past it and go ahead and try to start executing your game plan, and I thought we settled in pretty well. Still gave up quite a few hits, but that's what those guys do. They go out there and they're swinging. They're extremely aggressive."

Falling behind David Price early was too tough a hill for the Twins offense to climb. Price held the Twins to just two runs -- an RBI infield single by Darin Mastroianni in the second and a solo homer by Brian Dozier in the fifth -- on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out five, all looking, and walked nobody.

"I think you saw why that guy is one of the best lefties in the league," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was filthy. Inside, outside, back-door breaking balls, 96-97 miles an hour. We put together a couple innings on him, but pretty much got shut down by a really good pitcher out there."

Fernando Rodney collected his 35th save of the season with a clean ninth inning.

Turning point

For the second straight night the Rays came out swinging early. Leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings laced the first pitch he saw from Blackburn up the middle for a single.

Upton took the second pitch he saw into the bullpen.

On Friday night, six of the Rays' seven hits against Cole De Vries came within the first three pitches of at-bats.

"I think we know going in, these guys are swinging early in the first inning," Gardenhire said. "That's where we have to be better. I think if we go back out there (Sunday), shame on us if we go and let them whack the ball in the first inning. ... We've got to make better pitches early. Living proof two nights in a row."

Numbers game

3: The number of pitches it took for the Rays to take a 2-0 lead.

21: Home runs allowed by Blackburn in 18 starts.

7: Consecutive starts of seven innings or more for Price.

2,006,264: Target Field attendance this season after a sellout on Saturday night.

14: The number of times in franchise history the Twins have surpassed the 2 million mark in attendance.

6: Home runs for Dozier.

Health report

3B Trevor Plouffe (bruised thumb) went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a rehab game for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday night. If all goes well health-wise, Plouffe could return to the Twins on Monday.

On deck

Sunday: vs. Rays, 1:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (10-5, 2.91) vs. RHP James Shields (10-7, 4.08)
Monday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Samuel Deduno (3-0, 3.27) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-9, 4.37)
Tuesday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-7, 4.46) vs. RHP Doug Fister (6-7, 3.48)

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