Updated: April 20th, 2011 8:49pm
Twins Daily: Danny Valencia's bat not enough to overcome slow start

Twins Daily: Danny Valencia's bat not enough to overcome slow start

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Danny Valencia drove in three runs to spark the Minnesota Twins' anemic offense, but that wasn't enough to overcome Nick Blackburn's early struggles in a 5-4 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday night in Baltimore.

The skinny

Down 5-1 early, the Twins rallied behind Valencia, who chopped a two-run single over the mound in the sixth inning and swatted an RBI single to left field in the eighth -- both with two outs.

But Luke Hughes was retired to end each frame, and Denard Span's two-out drive in the ninth died in center fielder Adam Jones' glove on the warning track to preserve the save for Kevin Gregg and the win for left-hander Zach Britton, who allowed three runs on five hits over six innings.

The Twins (6-12) finished with seven hits, including Michael Cuddyer's leadoff homer in the second inning, but failed to exceed five runs for the 27th consecutive game (including playoffs) dating to last Sept. 28.

Still without their usual Nos. 2 through 5 hitters -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula), Joe Mauer (viral infection/bilateral leg weakness), Justin Morneau (flu) and Delmon Young (ribs/flu) -- the Twins are at the bottom of the majors in runs (54), home runs (six), slugging percentage (.314) and on-base percentage (.284).

Turning point

One bad inning was enough to turn the tide against Blackburn, who entered the bottom of the second with a 1-0 lead after Cuddyer's homer in the top half.

Blackburn promptly gave up three consecutive hits -- singles to Vladimir Guerrero and Luke Scott and a two-run double to Jones. Then, with one out, Matt Wieters launched a 2-1 changeup into the center field seats to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead.

After Guerrero blasted a two-out homer to left field in the third, Blackburn settled down -- completing seven innings, finishing with four strikeouts and retiring the last eight batters he faced before leaving with back tightness. But the damage was done, and Baltimore never relinquished the lead.

Numbers game

0, 0: Home runs and RBIs for Michael Cuddyer before his second-inning home run.

83: Temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for the first pitch in Baltimore on a day the Twin Cities were hit with a snowstorm.

Health watch

• Morneau took batting practice but did not start for a fourth consecutive day. There was some discussion about using him in a pinch-hitting situation, but Steve Holm (popup) and Matt Tolbert (strikeout) both batted in the ninth, confirming that wasn't an option.

• Young did not start for a second consecutive day and was not available.

On deck

If there's one team Scott Baker (0-2, 4.50 earned-run average) should be confident against, it's the Orioles -- the only opponent he's faced more than once without taking a loss. In seven career starts against Baltimore, Baker is 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA, 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 42 2/3 innings. He'll start Thursday's series finale (6:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN) against fellow right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (1-2, 3.32), who allowed one run in his first 14 innings this season before a messy start on Saturday against Cleveland (six runs, 10 hits in five innings). A first-round pick in 2002 who turned 32 this month, Guthrie has faced the Twins six times in parts of eight big-league seasons, going 3-0 with a 3.03 ERA.

Coming up

• Friday: vs. Cleveland, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (1-0, 3.60) vs. RHP Fausto Carmona (1-2, 4.74).
• Saturday: vs. Cleveland, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-3, 7.40) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 4.85).
• Sunday: vs. Cleveland, 12:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (1-2, 5.47) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (0-1, 10.38).

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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