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Updated: May 9th, 2011 10:27pm
Twins Daily: Offense fires more blanks in 11-inning loss to Red Sox

Twins Daily: Offense fires more blanks in 11-inning loss to Red Sox

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Carl Crawford's 11th-inning double off Jim Hoey plated the game-winning run in a 2-1 victory by the Boston Red Sox over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night, rendering a solid outing by right-hander Nick Blackburn otherwise meaningless.

The skinny

Solid starting pitching performances are no guarantee for the Twins through the first five weeks of the season, but the offense -- not surprisingly -- squandered Nick Blackburn's solid outing on Monday night.

The Twins offense scattered 10 singles over 11 innings against Josh Beckett and company, but other than scratching across a run in the eighth inning, the chamber was filled with blanks.

Finally, with the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Carl Crawford roped a double off the Green Monster against right-hander Jim Hoey. Jose Iglesias, running on the pitch, scored from first base to give the Red Sox a 2-1 win.

Turning point

Trailing 1-0 in the top of the eighth, Denard Span reached on an infield single with one out, then advanced to second base on a balk by Alfredo Aceves. After Matt Tolbert popped out, Red Sox manager Terry Francona brought closer Jonathan Papelbon into the game to face Jason Kubel.

After seeing eight pitches and fouling off three in a row, Kubel muscled one into center field to score Span and tie the game at 1-1.

Manager Ron Gardenhire then took a calculated gamble in an attempt to win the game, pinch-running the speedy Alexi Casilla for Kubel with Justin Morneau coming to the plate. Casilla immediately stole second, meaning a single would likely have given the Twins a lead, but Morneau eventually struck out to end the inning.

Two innings later, with the game still tied 1-1 in the top of the 10th, the Twins had runners on first and second with one out. Matt Tolbert struck out swinging, and Casilla -- hitting for Kubel -- grounded weakly to third base.

Numbers game

1: The number of times Blackburn, in more than 600 career innings, has struck out the side after he accomplished the task in the sixth inning. Blackburn fanned J.D. Drew, Jed Lowrie and Carl Crawford, topping off a 6 2/3-inning performance where he allowed only one earned run on seven hits, walking three and striking out five.

54: Career ejections for manager Ron Gardenhire, and his second of the season. Gardenhire was tossed in the top of the ninth for arguing with home plate umpire Joe West about a phantom foul tip by Danny Valencia.

16: RBIs for Kubel this season, which ranks second on the team behind Danny Valencia (18). Kubel, who went 1-for-4 before being lifted for a pinch runner, is now hitting .347/.397/.508 on the season.

3.2: Scoreless innings pitched by left-handers Glen Perkins and Jose Mijares after Blackburn exited.

Health report

• SS Trevor Plouffe strained his hamstring in Sunday's game, and manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters he is scheduled to receive an MRI on Tuesday.

• OF Delmon Young (ribs) flew to Florida on Sunday, and he will play in an extended spring training game on Tuesday. Young was eligible to return from the disabled list on May 4.

• DH Jim Thome (back/oblique) traveled to Florida on Monday, and he is expected to play in extended spring training games later this week.

On deck

In his encore to last Tuesday's no-hitter, left-hander Francisco Liriano (2-4, 6.61) will take on right-hander Rick Porcello (2-2, 3.93) when the Twins return home to face the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN).

Liriano, who had his start pushed back one day due to a sore throat, has not pitched well this season, even with the no-hitter included. The left-hander has walked more batters (24) than he has struck out (20), and he has already allowed half as many home runs (4) as he did all of last season. Liriano's biggest problem could be a lack of first-pitch strikes -- 44%, as opposed to 57% for his career and 62% in 2010.

Liriano's opponent, Porcello, has been lights-out in his last four starts, allowing only six earned runs in 26 2/3 innings (2.03 ERA) while striking out 20 and walking only five. That said, he threw a career-high 120 pitches in his last start against the Yankees -- a seven-inning, two-earned run performance that resulted in a 6-3 win.

Coming up

• Wednesday: vs. Detroit, 12:35 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (2-2, 2.97) vs. LHP Phil Coke (1-5, 4.75).
• Thursday: Off day
• Friday: vs. Toronto, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-2, 3.00) vs. LHP Ricky Romero (2-4, 4.04).

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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