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Updated: July 30th, 2011 11:08pm
Twins Daily: Sloppy performance by Blackburn sinks Twins in Oakland

Twins Daily: Sloppy performance by Blackburn sinks Twins in Oakland

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Another sloppy performance by Nick Blackburn sunk the Minnesota Twins in an 8-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night, keeping the AL Central deficit at six games.

The skinny

The Twins had a chance to pull within five games of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central for the first time since July 20, but a poor outing by Blackburn and a muffled offensive performance kept the deficit at six.

Coming off a 20-6 bludgeoning at the hands of the Texas Rangers where he gave up nine runs (six earned), Blackburn picked up right where he left off, leaving pitches belt-high and over the plate. The A's chased Blackburn after only 4 1/3 innings, scoring seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits. Blackburn walked a season-high five and struck out only two.

Anthony Swarzak pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief of Blackburn, allowing one run (zero earned) on one hit and a walk while striking out four.

The Twins jumped in front 1-0 on an RBI single by Michael Cuddyer, then took a 2-1 lead in the second on an RBI single by Delmon Young. Jim Thome drove in the Twins' third run in the top of the ninth with an RBI single to left.

Turning point

The way Blackburn was leaving pitches up and over the middle, he was somewhat fortunate to be trailing only 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning.

But the odds caught up quickly.

Blackburn allowed three consecutive hits to start the inning -- a single by Hideki Matsui, a double by Josh Willingham and an RBI infield single by Ryan Sweeney.

Two batters later, Cliff Pennington was intentionally walked with one out to load the bases for Scott Sizemore, who chopped a hard bouncer down the third-base line that Danny Valencia was unable to corral.

Sizemore's double plated three runs to give the A's a 7-2 lead, bouncing Blackburn from the game.

Numbers game

2: Physical gaffes by catcher Joe Mauer, whose throwing error in the first inning and passed ball in the sixth each led to a run.

2: Mental gaffes by Cuddyer, who was thrown out rounding first base in the first inning, then forgot how many outs there were after a 4-6-3 double play in the bottom of the second.

Health report

• OF Denard Span (concussion) sat out Sunday's game for Triple-A Rochester due to travel reasons, manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters in Oakland. Barring a trade, it's possible Span could rejoin the lineup when the Twins head to Los Angeles on Tuesday.

• 1B Justin Morneau (neck surgery, wrist) continues to progress and could begin a rehab assignment sometime in the next 7-10 days.

On deck

With the trade deadline approaching, the Twins look to take two out of three from Oakland on Sunday (3:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN) as right-hander Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.60) battles right-hander Brandon McCarthy (3-5, 3.52).

Pavano is coming off perhaps his worst start of the year -- a five-inning outing against the Rangers on Tuesday where he allowed eight earned runs on nine hits and two walks, although the Twins came back to win 9-8 in the ninth inning. After pitching at least seven innings in 10 of his 11 starts dating back to mid-May, Pavano has failed to go beyond six innings in his last two outings.

McCarthy, on the other hand, is coming off one of his best starts of the year -- an eight-inning outing against the Tampa Bay Rays where he allowed only one run on six hits and two walks while striking out three. In his two starts against the Twins this year, McCarthy has allowed five earned runs on 18 hits in 14 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking nobody.

Coming up

• Monday: Off day
• Tuesday: @ LA Angels, 9:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-8, 4.35) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (6-8, 3.47)
• Wednesday: @ LA Angels, 9:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (8-6, 2.86) vs. RHP Joel Piniero (5-5, 4.91)

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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