Minnesota Twins-Cleveland Indians: Nick Blackburn Stops Twins' Skid

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IApril 25, 2009

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 30:  Nick Blackburn #53 of the Minnesota Twins throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the American League Central Division Tiebreaker game at U.S. Cellular Field on September 30, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Twins arrived in Boston looking forward to two games started by their dual aces, Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano.

What they got were three rain delays, an annotated doubleheader on Wednesday, and a ride out of town with a distinctive red footprint squarely on their posterior.

The Red Sox drilled three two-run home runs off of Scott Baker on the road to a 10-1 victory in the rain shortened game one, then four more extra base hits off Francisco Liriano en route to a 7-3 win to sweep the two game series.

With the top two in their rotation soundly beaten, the Twins needed a solid start from one of their other starters, lest a few bad games turn into two bad weeks. Friday night, they got just what they needed.

Nick Blackburn gave the Twins seven innings of one run ball, then passed the ball of Jose Mijares and Joe Nathan, who combined for two innings of perfect relief to close out the Twins' 5-1 win.

Friday night's victory was Blackburn's first win of the season, and the first start in which he did not give up four runs. He was due for a good outing, but it should come as no surprise that he chose Cleveland as his victim of choice.

In his career, Blackburn is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts against the Tribe, his best record and second best ERA against any team he's faced, irrespective of innings.

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Blackburn was backed by Justin Morneau's second consecutive game with a home run, and very solid 2-for-4 night from Jose Morales. Every Twins hitter had at least one hit, save Delmon Young, who, somewhat uncharacteristically, made up for his poor performance at the plate with excellent defensive play in the outfield.

After poor pitching and mediocre offensive output in the Boston series, Friday's win was just what the Twins were looking for. Saturday, they will look to Kevin Slowey to continue that momentum.

Slowey was rough in his first few outings this season, but his last start against the Angels was much closer to the form he showed in spring training.

If Slowey can follow Blackburn's lead, force the Indians to hit to get on base, and keep them from scoring in bunches, the Twins will move back to .500 with a chance to sweep the series behind their best starter so far this season, Glen Perkins.

However, the Indians are averaging 5.6 runs per season (inflated a bit by their 22-run beatdown of the Yankees) and Slowey will need to be precise with his offspeed pitches to avoid becoming the next Chien-Ming Wang.

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