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Updated: September 2nd, 2010 11:59pm
Twins burn three starting pitchers in epic 10-9 loss to Tigers

Twins burn three starting pitchers in epic 10-9 loss to Tigers

by Phil Mackey
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In one of the wildest major league games of the season, Gerald Laird's 13th-inning solo home run off Nick Blackburn -- yes, Blackburn, who was scheduled to start Friday -- lifted the Detroit Tigers to a 10-9 win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

For the Twins, the loss came with some extra baggage.

Starting pitcher Scott Baker, who suffered through a bout of elbow tendinitis in early July, left the game after two innings with pain in his right elbow.

Baker labored through two innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits and two walks. He threw 46 pitches before being replaced by Jeff Manship, who allowed just one earned run in four innings of emergency relief.

On top of that, the Twins -- who have yet to call up any pitchers from Class-AAA Rochester since rosters expanded on September 1 -- were forced to use Friday's scheduled starter Blackburn, who threw 19 pitches in one inning.

The Twins also used Jesse Crain for 41 pitches, as well as starter Brian Duensing, who tossed 33 pitches over two innings after throwing 103 pitches just 48 hours earlier.

In a game with several twists, turns, bobbles and drama, the bottom of the 11th inning provided the most glaring set of follies.

With the Twins trailing 9-8, Denard Span drew a leadoff walk against Detroit closer Jose Valverde. Alexi Casilla followed with a single to left. After Joe Mauer struck out, Michael Cuddyer hit what appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball to third baseman Brandon Inge, but Inge bobbled it, and threw late to second base.

Everybody was safe.

The next batter, Delmon Young, then hit a dribbler to Will Rhymes at second base -- again, a potential game-ending double play ball -- but the second baseman bobbled it and collided with shortstop Ramon Santiago. Rhymes wound up converting the force at second base, but Span scored from third to tie the game, 9-9.

The Twins appeared primed for victory twice in the late-innings.

In the top of the eighth inning, while nursing a 7-3 lead, Randy Flores and Matt Guerrier allowed back-to-back one-out homers to Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn, cutting the lead to 7-5. Guerrier then gave up a single to Alex Avila, and after Ramon Santiago struck out swinging, Austin Jackson reached base safely when a low throw by shortstop J.J. Hardy skipped under the glove of first baseman Cuddyer.

The error allowed Avila to move to third base and Jackson to move to second base. Soon after, Will Rhymes drove both men home with a single up the middle, tying the game, 7-7.

A short while later, Casilla -- who earlier in the game played a role in two botched double plays, and a third one later on -- slapped a 2-0 fastball by Phil Coke up the middle to score Jason Repko from third base, putting the Twins up, 8-7.

The lead didn't last long. Jesse Crain -- pitching in place of closer Matt Capps, who was experiencing some soreness after throwing back-to-back days, according to manager Ron Gardenhire -- gave up an opposite-field, solo home run to Casper Wells, tying the game, 8-8.

Casper's blast was the first home run Crain has allowed since May 18.

After some back and forth action in the early innings, the Twins jumped out to that 7-3 lead with help from a botched double play by the Tigers in the bottom of the fifth inning.

With one out and runners on first and second, Delmon Young hit a tapper back to the mound. Starting pitcher Justin Verlander picked it up and fired to second baseman Rhymes, who had the ball glance off his glove and into center field. Mauer scored on the play, giving the Twins a 4-3 lead.

A double play would have ended the inning. Instead, Danny Valencia followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring Michael Cuddyer from third base, and two batters later Jason Repko added a single that scored Young, who tap-danced his way around a tag by catcher Avila to make the score 6-3.

The Twins added one more in the bottom of the seventh, courtesy of an RBI single by the red-hot Valencia.

All 15 hits for the Twins were singles.

Gardenhire was ejected in the top of the seventh inning by umpire Joe West for arguing a call at second base. Casilla dropped the baseball while trying to turn a double play on a throw from shortstop Hardy. Casilla appeared to drop the ball while throwing to first base, but West called the runner safe at second, saying Casilla dropped the throw from Hardy.

Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera left in the sixth inning with left biceps tendinitis.

Blackburn was set to face LHP Derek Holland (2-2, 4.76) on Friday night with the Texas Rangers coming to Target Field for a three-game series.

That plan has likely changed.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd