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Updated: March 29th, 2011 9:00pm
Twins Daily: Nick Blackburn cruises, Matt Capps scuffles at Atlanta

Twins Daily: Nick Blackburn cruises, Matt Capps scuffles at Atlanta

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Matt Capps blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning with help from a Chase Lambin error, and Mauro Gomez homered off Chuck James in the 10th to lift the Atlanta Braves to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a two-game exhibition series on Tuesday at Turner Field.

The skinny

Nick Blackburn finished the spring on a high note with his second consecutive scoreless outing.

The right-hander allowed a hit and a walk over four innings, throwing only 30 pitches (18 strikes). That followed a six-inning scoreless effort on Thursday against Philadelphia and lowered his spring earned-run average to 1.73 with a 1.04 WHIP in 26 innings.

Jeff Manship, Joe Nathan, Dusty Hughes and Jose Mijares each threw a scoreless inning to send the Twins into the ninth with a 2-0 lead. Then came the rough appearance by Capps, who hadn't allowed a run in nine previous spring appearances before Lambin's one-out boot opened the door.

Capps plunked the next hitter, allowed three singles and struck out one before exiting following J.C. Boscan's tying, two-out single. Kyle Waldrop induced a groundout to leave the bases full, and Gomez gave Atlanta the walk-off win with a two-out, two-run blast off James, the former Brave who is headed to the minors.

Who's hot

• 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka's third-inning single gave him hits in 15 of his past 16 spring outings -- a stretch in which he's hitting .391 (18-for-46) with two doubles, five runs scored and seven RBIs.

• Hughes gave up a one-out single and a warning-track double to Dan Uggla. But the left-hander struck out Jason Heyward, then got Alex Gonzalez to ground out and end the inning -- Hughes' 12th scoreless frame in as many spring appearances.

Numbers game

2: Runs scored by the Twins without an RBI hit. DH Jim Thome doubled and scored on Braves LF Martin Prado's error in the second inning. CF Denard Span's second walk led to another run on C Joe Mauer's sacrifice fly in the third.

20: At-bats this spring for Mauer, who missed the first three weeks of games while rehabbing his knee injury.

7: Runs batted in by Mauer, good for sixth on the team.

3.37: Twins' team ERA this spring before Tuesday's shutout, trailing only the Braves (2.84) and Detroit (3.03).

Health watch

No significant concerns.

On deck

The Twins are scheduled to wrap their exhibition schedule at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday at Atlanta. However, a strong chance of rain had manager Ron Gardenhire adjusting to get his primary relievers into Tuesday's game. Starting pitchers are to be determined.

Coming up

• Friday: Season opener at Toronto, 6:07 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano vs. LHP Ricky Romero.
• Saturday: at Toronto, 12:07 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano vs. RHP Kyle Drabek.
• Sunday: at Toronto, 12:07 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn vs. TBD.

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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