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Updated: June 27th, 2012 2:58pm
Twins hitters stymied by Sale, Blackburn shelled in loss to White Sox

Twins hitters stymied by Sale, Blackburn shelled in loss to White Sox

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Sale continued his 2012 dominance by baffling the Minnesota Twins for the better part of seven innings on Wednesday as the Chicago White Sox rolled to a 12-5 win in sweltering heat at Target Field.

The skinny

With his quirky delivery and nasty mix of pitches, 23-year-old lefty Sale has emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, and he showed why on Wednesday by holding the Twins to just two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five in seven innings.

Sale lowered his ERA to 2.27 with his performance.

"He's got some funk to it," said Justin Morneau, who singled in three tries against Sale. "A breaking ball, for it to be a strike, pretty much has to start behind you. He's got pretty good feel for that.

"Also, when he needs to get a strike with it he can, and when he's ahead in the count and he feels like he can get you to chase, he's also got that one. He's got plus-velocity. He can reach back for 95 if he needs it. Anytime you have that it makes it difficult to stay back on that stuff that's coming in there 15, 20 mile an hour difference."

Despite playing with fire through the first four innings, Nick Blackburn was able to limit the White Sox to just two runs heading into the fifth. But his inability to induce groundballs finally caught up to him when Adam Dunn hit the facing of the second deck with a three-run bomb that put the White Sox up 5-0.

Dunn's home run, which snapped an 0-for-24 streak, was the 12th given up by Blackburn this season. The 13th came seconds later when Alex Rios followed with a solo shot of his own.

Blackburn was charged with six earned runs on nine hits in five innings. This marked the ninth time in 12 starts Blackburn has allowed at least four earned runs.

The White Sox added three more runs off Jeff Manship in the top of the sixth inning on RBI singles by Alejandro De Aza, Kevin Youkilis and Dunn. Jordan Danks, brother of John Danks, singled home a run in the seventh. Rios delivered an RBI single in the eighth off Tyler Robertson, and Pierzynski's sac fly plated Chicago's 12th run.

Darin Mastroianni hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off Will Ohma, and Dozier drove in a run on a fielder's choice in the ninth.

Turning point

Considering Sale has allowed more than three earned runs only once all season, Blackburn had little room for error on Wednesday.

The White Sox struck first in the second inning when Rios scored from third after a groundball went through the legs of shortstop Dozier. In the third inning, Youkilis doubled to deep right-center, scoring Eduardo Escobar.

The White Sox scored 12, but they didn't need much more than those two runs to pin the Twins down early.

"A bad day for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We'll have to go into the day off an try to regroup and come back this weekend."

Numbers game

21: Hits for the White Sox.

6: Groundballs induced by Blackburn out of 20 total batted balls. Only twice this season has he induced fewer groundballs in a start.

24: Home runs for Dunn.

3: Home runs for Dozier.

Health report

Denard Span crashed into the centerfield fence while trying to track down a deep fly ball by A.J. Pierzynski in the top of the seventh inning. He was slow to get up but signaled to trainers that he was OK to stay in the game.

"Initially I was shaken up, but I didn't want him to come all the way out there," Span said. "I was fine to finish the inning, I probably could have finished the game too. But he came to me, and the score was kind of out of hand, and he just told me, 'We're going to put Mastroianni in.' I told him that was probably a good idea -- kind of just relax and take the rest of the day off. ...

"I mean, anytime I have a collision or anytime I run into the wall, my first reaction is probably the same as you guys. 'Am I OK? Did I run into the wall a little bit harder than I probably should have?'"

Bargas passes away

Minnesota Twins minor leaguer Paul Bargas passed away on Tuesday night after a battle with brain cancer. Bargas was a 13th-round draft pick in 2009 by the Colorado Rockies and was traded to the Twins for Jose Morales two seasons ago.

The Twins issued a statement on Wednesday morning:

The Minnesota Twins are deeply saddened to share the news that Paul Bargas, one of our minor league players, has passed away. Paul had been battling a rare form of cancer for over a year and on Tuesday night he lost his battle. Paul was an incredible young man who displayed a phenomenal ability to stay positive through all of this and we at the Twins feel honored to have known him.

Please keep his wife, Victoria, and the rest of his family in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.

On deck

Thursday: Off day
Friday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (1-3, 3.82) vs. RHP Luis Mendoza (2-4, 4.95)
Saturday: vs. Tigers, 12:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (6-3, 2.67) vs. LHP Jonathan Sanchez (1-3, 6.21)
Saturday: vs. Tigers, 6:10 p.m. TBD vs. RHP Luke Hochevar (5-7, 5.07)

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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