Twins Daily: Joe Nathan notches saves record as Twins avoid sweep
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Closer Joe Nathan broke Rick Aguilera's all-time Twins' saves record as the Twins avoided leaving home empty handed, defeating the Boston Red Sox 5-2 in Wednesday's series finale. Despite surrendering the lead for the third straight game, the Twins managed to score three times in the eighth inning to help break a six-game losing streak.
Right-hander Nick Blackburn had been struggling to regain his form in his two starts since he was shelled for six earned runs in the Twins' 20-6 loss to Texas on July 25.
But Blackburn bounced back Wednesday, holding the Red Sox to two runs off five hits and striking out four.
"I was just aggressive with the strike zone today," Blackburn said. "I think I looked up there at one point and had 30-something strikes and five balls. That's where I needed to be. Everything was late and sharp and for the most part down. That just allowed me to stick around longer."
Nursing a three-run lead in the ninth, Nathan held the potent Red Sox's lineup in check to record career save 255 and move him into sole possession of the Twins' saves record.
"I think the bumps in the road made it mean even more to me coming back and accomplishing this," said Nathan, who returned this year from Tommy John surgery. "To get No. 255, it's obviously a great honor for me to pass such a great pitcher in Aggie."
With the lead they had been holding onto all game gone, the Twins were in need of some late-inning production entering the bottom of the eighth.
Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester continued to pitch around Joe Mauer, walking him on six pitches. Mauer later advanced to second on a soft ground-out to second base.
The next batter, Jim Thome, who entered the game with a .667-lifetime average against Lester, watched the first two pitches to draw the count to 1-1. Lester went back at him with a 90-miles per hour four-seam fastball, which Thome sent rocketing over the head of left fielder Carl Crawford to the outfield fence, scoring Mauer easily.
"He had a big smile on his face," Gardenhire said of Thome. "He got a bunch of hits for us tonight and the last one was as big as any for our baseball team."
That would be it for Lester as the Red Sox brought in right-hander Alfredo Aceves to face Danny Valencia, who doubled on a two-seam pitch to score Thome's pinch-runner Jason Repko. After Tolbert reached on a single, Aceves fell behind in the count 3-1 to Tsuyoshi Nishioka. But Nishioka would get a hold of a fastball and drive it into center field to score the fifth and final run.
1: Home run allowed this season by pitcher Glen Perkins after David Ortiz belted a 419-foot homer to center field in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game.
31: Blown leads for the Twins this season following Ortiz's game-tying home run.
255: Career saves for Joe Nathan, passing Rick Aguilera for first place in Twins history.
"He's got courage. I know he looks nervous out on the mound, but he actually has that knack when something bad happens he just moves on to the next day and that is probably the biggest trait of a closer -- they forget real easy. And he's been able to do that."
-- Gardenhire, addressing Nathan's saves record.
1B Justin Morneau (neck surgery, wrist) will join the team Friday in Cleveland after playing Wednesday and Thursday for the Rochester Red Wings. "His body feels good," Gardenhire said. He's hitting on everything. He's ripping the ball pretty good. So we'll get him up here and let him swing."
2B Alexi Casilla (pulled hamstring) will be activated for Friday's game against the Indians. "His legs feel good running, the whole package," Gardenhire said.
RHP Scott Baker (elbow tendonitis) was placed on the 15-disabled list Tuesday. Kevin Slowly will take his place in the rotation for Sunday's series finale against the Indians.
The Twins are off Thursday before heading to Cleveland for a three-game series.
• Friday: @ Indians, 6:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.71) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.08)
• Saturday: @ Indians, 6:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-10, 4.56) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (8-9, 4.55)
•Sunday: @ Indians, 12:05 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.91) vs. TBA