Blackburn strong as Twins down slumping DiamondbacksJun 22, 2008 - 3:28 AM By Anthony Maggio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) - Joe Mauer admitted he wasn't seeing the ball well off Micah Owings his first two at-bats - heck, none of the Minnesota Twins were. So, to lead off the seventh, he laid down a surprise bunt single down the third-base line.
It was all the Twins needed.
Nick Blackburn was rewarded with a win for his stellar performance and a six-run seventh helped the Twins erase a one-run deficit en route to a 7-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday at the Metrodome.
The Twins (39-36) have won a season high-tying five straight contests - with its starters earning the win in all of them - and seven of their last eight to pull within 2 1/2 games of American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox (41-33).
"I kind of made up my mind when I was on deck," Mauer said. "When (third baseman Augie Ojeda) was as far back as he was, I had a pretty good feeling I could get on first."
The 2006 AL batting champion did reach safely and Justin Morneau tied the score with a double the next at-bat. Jason Kubel walked two batters later to put runners on the corners and end what had up to that point been a brilliant night for Owings (6-6).
Then the Twins teed off on Chad Qualls.
Delmon Young singled in a run, Brian Buscher doubled in two, Brendan Harris doubled home Buscher and Alexi Casilla followed Carlos Gomez's strikeout with another RBI single to chase Qualls and give Minnesota a five-run advantage.
"Owings didn't make it easy for us and we needed a baserunner," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's the way you play the game, they give you an opportunity to try something and he did. We got a bunt base hit, and it ignited us."
"It wasn't like I wasn't expecting it, like I was deep," Ojeda said. "I don't know how close the play was because I just threw it, but I know it was pretty close. He made a great bunt."
It was a frustrating finish to an otherwise strong night for Owings, who had his best start in several weeks.
The righthander entered the game in a three-week slump, going 0-3 with a 9.95 ERA in his previous four starts. He faced just two more than the minimum and didn't allow a run through six innings, but ultimately allowed three runs on five hits with a walk and three strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
"I've been fighting some things and I'm going to build on this," Owings said. "I just slowed things down and remembered what makes me successful. I just tried to locate and not worry too much about anything else."
Blackburn was just as sharp, his only scoreboard blemish Stephen Drew's leadoff double and Chad Tracy's two-out RBI single in the fourth inning. Drew also led off the game with a single, but those were the only three hits the rookie righthander allowed.
Blackburn, who said he felt completely healthy after missing a turn in the rotation with pain in his right elbow, retired the final 10 hitters he faced, didn't walk a batter and struck out three as he allowed no more than a run for the fifth time in 15 starts this season.
"Me and (pitching coach Rick Anderson) have been working a lot," Blackburn said. "Everything is finally starting to click a little bit, I'm getting on top of my pitches and staying sharp. I think once we get it all figured out and everything ironed out it's going to start working pretty well."
Minnesota's offense has been plenty sharp, putting together six-run innings in three of its last four games. The Twins are batting .348 with 33 runs scored in those four contests and improved to 8-3 in interleague play this season.
Meanwhile, Arizona is scuffling. The Diamondbacks have lost five of their last seven games and 16 of their last 22 road games dating back to May 9, but remains 4 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
Arizona managed just four hits on Saturday, with Drew getting two of them and Conor Jackson adding a ninth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to seven games.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - -
WASHINGTON 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 1
MINNESOTA 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 x 2 5 0 (FINAL)
BATTERIES: WAS - JOHN LANNAN, CHARLIE MANNING (8TH) AND JESUS FLORES
MIN - LIVAN HERNANDEZ, MATT GUERRIER (8TH), JOE NATHAN
(9TH) AND JOE MAUER
HOME RUNS: WAS - NONE
MIN - J
Jun 17 10:09 PM
AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
TWO-RUN HOME RUN BY JUSTIN MORNEAU (11) TO RIGHT WITH 2 OUT
IN THE 6TH OFF JOHN LANNAN SCORED JOE MAUER.
CURRENT SCORE: WASHINGTON 1, MINNESOTA 2
DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: M CUDDYER (.244, 0-FOR-1, BB)
Nationals 1, Twins 2 Bot 6, 0 OutsJun 17 9:32 PM
AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
SINGLE BY CRISTIAN GUZMAN SCORED PAUL LO DUCA.
SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, C GUZMAN ON FIRST, 2 OUT
CURRENT SCORE: WASHINGTON 1
MINNESOTA 0 TOP, 3RD
DUE UP FOR WASHINGTON: E DUKES (.233, 0-FOR-1)
Nationals 1, Twins 0 Top 3, 0 OutsJun 17 8:43 PM
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