Stat Potential: Win, ERA
Risk Factor: Moderate-High
The Twins were supposed to have one of the league's best rotations, top to bottom, going into this season. While Scott Baker struggled out of the gate, Francisco Liriano is simply struggling. Kevin Slowey has eight wins, but that's more a case of strong run support, as opposing hitters are batting a robust .317 against him this season.
The fourth guy in the pecking order, Nick Blackburn, has actually pitched better than all three of Minnesota's top guns. Currently sporting a 3.30 ERA and 5-2 record, the 27-year-old righty is following a solid 2008 campaign with an even better 2009, and will face the red-hot Athletics tomorrow night at Oakland.
The Twins actually snapped the A's seven-game winning streak last night, putting up ten runs to Oakland's five. With Mauer, Morneau and co., Blackburn is always a good candidate to receive run support. He will face rookie starter Trevor Cahill, a favorable matchup, but a pitcher who has fared a lot better at home this season.
Blackburn pitches to contact and has pretty solid control, so his success usually depends on how hard he's getting hit, and whether the defense is on its toes. Oakland burned me last time I suggested spotting against them (Jeremy Guthrie's inability to get out of the first), but they are still hitting just .238 as a team this year.
While he wont blow hitters away, Blackburn has been a solid innings eater this year, going at least seven innings in seven of his last nine starts. I don't think he's worth owning, despite the impressive ERA, but the matchup here looks good, so the probability for a win is high.