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Updated: August 5th, 2011 9:44pm
Twins Daily: Blackburn walks six as Twins fall 10 under .500 again

Twins Daily: Blackburn walks six as Twins fall 10 under .500 again

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Another sloppy outing by Nick Blackburn headlined Friday night's 5-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox, as the Minnesota Twins fell 10 games under .500 for the first time since July 3.

The skinny

Blackburn just can't get things turned around.

The right-hander issued six walks and allowed four runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 ugly innings, marking the third consecutive game he has been roughed up severely.

"We were a little shaky defensively early in the game, and a few too many walks early in the game, and you combine defense and walks, always adds up to some runs," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And it did."

After the White Sox scored a run on Carlos Quentin's fielder's choice groundball in the top of the first inning, the Twins answered immediately with three in the bottom of the frame -- an RBI single by Joe Mauer and a two-run blast by Jason Kubel.

Blackburn held the lead briefly, but Quentin delivered a solo home run in the third inning and a two-run bomb in the fifth to give the White Sox a 4-3 lead.

The two home runs give Quentin 23 on the season, and the four men driven in push his RBI total to 70.

Aside from Kubel's home run, the Twins' offense was mostly silent, tallying only four hits off lefty Mark Buehrle, who went eight innings and allowed no runs after the Twins' three-run first.

"The ball moves a lot, especially for lefties," said Ben Revere, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. "You don't know if it's going to come in, go away, and he's quick. His tempo is really quick."

Turning point

Walks will haunt.

The White Sox came into the game having drawn zero walks in their last four games, but Blackburn immediately halted that streak by issuing free passes to Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn in the first inning. The free passes eventually pushed Juan Pierre into scoring position, where he later scored the first run of the game.

Dunn walked again in the fifth and later came across to score on Quentin's homer.

Those two walks that came around to score obviously made a huge difference in a two-run ballgame.

"(I) just nibbled around the plate a little bit too much," Blackburn said. "The way things have been going, I haven't really been trusting my pitches lately. And tonight everything was down in the strike zone, I had good movement. I just wasn't relaxing enough. I was trying to make sure everything was on the corners instead of just going out there and getting groundballs."

Numbers game

11: Walks issued by Blackburn over his last two starts. "He'll tell you, he's walking too many people," Gardenhire said. "That's not his game. Throw it over and let them hit it."

41: Balls thrown by Blackburn, to just 47 strikes, in 88 pitches.

17: Consecutive starts in which Buehrle has allowed three earned runs or fewer. "He locates the ball in and out, and he moves the ball in and out," Gardenhire said. "And talking with a couple of our hitters, Joe Mauer and guys like that, the ball (has) really late movement. And that's the hard thing about hitting. It dives one way one time and one time the other way. It's late movement and constantly pounding in and out, and very seldom does he give you a pitch across the middle part of the plate. He works the outer third and inner third."

100: Career home runs for Kubel -- 20 of which have come against the White Sox.

3: Combined errors committed in the first two innings. In the first inning, Tsuyoshi Nishioka made a poor flip to second baseman Matt Tolbert after ranging far to his left to stop a groundball, and Adam Dunn allowed Ben Revere's groundball to go right through his lefts just a few minutes later. Then in the second inning, Danny Valencia sailed a routine throw over Joe Mauer's head at first base.

133: Plate appearances without a walk for the White Sox until Paul Konerko reached on a free pass in the first inning.

7: Walks drawn by the White Sox.

0: Walks drawn by the Twins.

1: Pitches thrown by left-hander Phil Dumatrait, who came in to retire Dunn on a pop-up in the sixth inning. Dunn is now 3-for-78 (.038) off left-handed pitchers this season.

Overheard

"Our starters have to go deeper in the games. We've known that. We haven't had a seven- or eight-inning start in a long time. We have to do better than that."
-- Gardenhire

Health report

• 1B Justin Morneau (neck surgery, wrist) went 0-for-4 in his first rehab game with Triple-A Rochester on Friday night, playing seven innings at first base.

• C Joe Mauer will play first base for the third straight day on Saturday because he is "a little beat-up," according to Gardenhire.

• INF Alexi Casilla (pulled hamstring) took grounders during batting practice on Friday and Gardenhire is optimistic he can return from the disabled list when eligible on August 12.

On deck

The series continues Saturday (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when right-hander Carl Pavano (6-8, 4.90) faces right-hander Jake Peavy (4-5, 5.13).

The Twins last faced Peavy on July 10 in Chicago and touched him up for five earned runs on 10 hits and two walks in just 4 1/3 innings. Peavy has allowed at least three earned runs in each of his last nine starts -- a stretch that spans back to May 30.

Pavano has gotten pelted lately as well, allowing 20 earned runs and 27 hits over his last three starts (15 innings). He has pitched extremely well against the White Sox this season, however, having allowed only three earned runs in 16 innings over two starts.

Coming up

• Sunday: vs. White Sox, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-9, 4.50) vs. LHP John Danks (4-9, 3.90).
• Monday: vs. Red Sox, 6:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (8-6, 3.01) vs. LHP Andrew Miller (4-1, 5.44).
• Tuesday: vs. Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (7-9, 5.03) vs. RHP Tim Wakefield (6-4, 4.99).

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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