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Updated: July 8th, 2011 10:32pm
Twins Daily: Tosoni and Hughes fuel six-run 4th in win over White Sox

Twins Daily: Tosoni and Hughes fuel six-run 4th in win over White Sox

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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CHICAGO -- A disastrous start for Nick Blackburn was avenged by a six-run fourth-inning outburst by the Minnesota Twins, who defeated the Chicago White Sox for the ninth straight time on Friday night, 8-5 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The skinny

Things looked pretty gloomy after Nick Blackburn gave up five runs in the bottom of the first inning, but he grinded his way through four scoreless frames after that, buying the Twins' offense time to play catch-up.

And catch up they did, scoring seven runs on nine hits and two walks against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, who lasted only 3 2/3 innings. Rene Tosoni's two-out, two-run single tied the game in the fourth, and Luke Hughes' three-run homer immediately afterward put the Twins on top for good.

Blackburn finished five innings, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits and two walks, striking out four. After he exited, Phil Dumatrait, Alex Burnett, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps combined for four shutout innings, with Capps picking up his first save since June 29.

Every Twins hitter reached base at least once, and five of them tallied at least two hits -- Hughes (3), Tosoni (2), Michael Cuddyer (2), Joe Mauer (2) and Alexi Casilla (2).

"Luke Hughes had a big home run," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Tosoni, huge at-bat and a big base hit and some good things happened. We grab a lead and Blackie battled. He didn't have his best stuff, but it was very important to get him through five innings, saved a lot of our staff out there.

"We were able to use (relievers) one inning at a time to get through it. And I think it as a confidence builder for him to throw four zeroes in a row.That was huge. We really didn't want to go to Swarzak because he was starting Sunday. Trying to get away from that. So a lot of good things happened for us after the first inning, and a good win."

With the win, the Twins (40-47) pulled to within seven games of .500 for the first time since June 21 -- the day before they went on a six-game losing streak.

Turning point

In an effort to close a four-run deficit early in the game, the Twins nearly squandered golden opportunities against a struggling Floyd.

Trailing 5-1, the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the third inning, and Danny Valencia's sacrifice fly to center field cut the lead to 5-2. But Floyd was able to induce a flyout off the bat of Rene Tosoni and a groundout by Tsuyoshi Nishioka two batters later to end the frame.

In the top of the fourth, still trailing 5-2, the Twins loaded the bases once again, this time with one out. Michael Cuddyer's single to center made it 5-3, leaving the bases loaded with one out for Valencia, who swung at all four pitches he saw against the errant Floyd -- the final one a strikeout for the second out.

That left things up to Tosoni -- who came into the game hitting just .169/.217/.277 -- to save the Twins from wasting yet another opportunity to post a crooked number.

Tosoni did not disappoint, driving a 3-2 fastball into right field for a two-run, game-tying single.

"I feel like when there's been no one on base I've wasted at-bats, and gotten out easier," Tosoni said. "And then when someone's on base ... I don't know why, but you feel like you have to get something done at this time."

Having seen enough, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pulled Floyd from the game in favor of lefty Will Ohman, who was greeted with a three-run bomb by Hughes that gave the Twins an 8-5 lead.

"I was pumped up enough that I got two runs in," Tosoni said. "When he got that three-run homer, I was pumped up. I was running, because it was 3-2, right? So he had a great at-bat, and he did what he should do with that pitch. The guy laid it over the middle, and he hit it pretty damn far."

Hughes called it the best moment of his young career.

"It was so much fun to put the team up by a couple of runs, and everyone was pretty pumped in (the dugout)," he said. "You see big (Jim) Thome standing on the top step, he loves it. He loves seeing the guys play well, loves seeing the good, young guys swing the bats. It's definitely fun to watch everybody and what they've been doing the last couple games."

Numbers game

13: Baserunners allowed by Floyd in only 3 2/3 innings.

7: Baserunners allowed by Blackburn from innings 2-5, but he did not allow a run in any of those frames. "It's not easy," Blackburn said when asked about his mindset after the five-run first inning. "You just have to tell yourself it's a 0-0 game and it's the first inning again. It's not easy to do that. It was a battle. The entire game was a battle. It's not like I settled in and it was fine and dandy and I was getting every guy out. I was battling the whole night. I wasn't spotting my fastball the way it needed to be and it's something we'll have to work on."

11: Consecutive batters retired by the Twins bullpen to end the game.

9: Consecutive wins for the Twins over the White Sox.

Overheard

"We've been conscious where we are because we've had to look at everybody else on top of us forever. We were 20 games below .500 at one point and we knew a lot of things had to go our way. We knew we had to get healthier. We still haven't gotten healthy. We also knew we really had to have our organization step up here. These kids from our organization come in and really played a big part to keep us alive at the All-Star break. That's really what we have been working towards, trying to get to the All-Star break with an opportunity to at least see the guys in front of us and take it from there."
-- Gardenhire

Health report

• DH Jim Thome is currently dealing with a sore toe, but he's expected to return to the lineup on Saturday.

• OF Denard Span (concussion) ran the bases Friday for the first time since being sidelined more than a month ago. According to head athletic trainer Rick McWane, if Span gets through the weekend with no symptoms, he could start a rehab assignment sometime next week.

• OF Delmon Young (sprained foot) went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and an RBI as the left fielder for Triple-A Rochester on Friday night.

• OF Jason Kubel (sprained left foot) and 1B Justin Morneau (wrist, neck) remain back in Minneapolis getting treatment.

• RHP Kevin Slowey is scheduled to start and throw 70-75 pitches for Rochester on Sunday.

On deck

Coming off the second complete-game shutout of his career, left-hander Brian Duensing (6-7, 4.25) will take on left-hander Mark Buehrle (6-5, 3.66) on Saturday afternoon (3:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN).

Duensing has posted a 2.50 ERA in 36 career innings against the White Sox, striking out 17 while walking only six. Prior to blanking the Rays on Monday, Duensing had completed seven innings or more only two times in his previous 10 starts.

Buehrle owns a 4.03 career ERA against the Twins in 310 1/3 innings, striking out 181, walking 65 and allowing 31 home runs. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 12 starts, including in a 1-0 loss to the Twins on June 16 when he allowed just one run in seven innings.

Coming up

• Sunday: @ Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 3.71) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (4-2, 3.83)
• Monday: All-Star break begins
• Tuesday: All-Star Game

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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