Mariners crush Twins bullpen
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins righthander Nick Blackburn completed seven shutout innings Sunday just under the century mark in pitches thrown. He could have pitched the eighth, but manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson agreed t...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins righthander Nick Blackburn completed seven shutout innings Sunday just under the century mark in pitches thrown. He could have pitched the eighth, but manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson agreed that should be enough.
Blackburn couldn't get out of the fourth inning in his previous start, so they wanted to make sure he left the game on a positive note.
"All those things come into play when I talk to Andy," Gardenhire said.
Besides, the Twins have righthander Jesse Crain and lefthander Jose Mijares to nail down things in the eighth before closer Joe Nathan appears for the ninth.
The game with the Mariners was two innings from a series sweep, a return to .500 and momentum heading into a three-game series against Detroit starting Tuesday. But it took one inning for that plan to self-destruct: Mijares and Crain gave up four runs in the eighth on the way to a startling 5-3 loss to the Mariners. The game ended when Seattle closer Brandon Morrow got Brendan Harris to ground out to third with the bases loaded.
"A very disappointing end to a ballgame," Gardenhire said.
The Twins entered Sunday 13-0 when leading after seven innings. The bullpen was on a roll, with a 1.65 ERA over the previous six games.
Then Mijares started the eighth.
He got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out but Jose Lopez walked on four pitches.
That brought up Ken Griffey Jr. Mijares threw a
1-0 pitch that slid into, as Gardenhire put it, Griffey's "whomping zone," and he hit a momentum-changing two-run homer that tied the score at 2-2.
Crain replaced Mijares and gave up a single to center Adrian Beltre. Russell Branyan followed with a screaming liner to first that Justin Morneau tried to grab but had glance off his glove and into right field to put runners on first and third. A wild pitch allowed Beltre to score, then Wladimir Balentien crushed an RBI double to right to give Seattle a 4-2 lead. Lopez homered in the ninth off Craig Breslow. Box score, Page A6.