It was another fast game at Target Field today, as for the large part Nick Blackburn and Mark Buehrle traded zeroes on the scoreboard. They threw strikes and worked quickly, and in conjunction with the fact that neither team had sustained rallies and both clubs combined for one run they managed to get through the game in two hours and nine minutes. That is one quick ballgame.
Blackburn was very good today, although his credit comes to his ability to work out of jams rather than his ability to avoid them. He allowed just seven hits and a walk through his eight innings of work, but ran into varying degrees of trouble in the second and sixth when the Sox managed to put a pair of runners on base in each inning. His toughest test came in the eighth, when Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko singled with two outs. But A.J. Pierzynski flew out to end the threat, finishing Chicago's day with an 0-for-6 line with runners in scoring position.
In some ways Buehrle was actually better than Blackburn. In seven innings he walked a pair but surrendered just three walks. His only mistake, at least the only one he paid for, was to Michael Cuddyer as he led off the bottom of the second inning when Buehrle left a 2-2 fastball right over the heart of the plate.
Cuddyer destroyed it.
It was an early run, innocuous enough to not cause anyone great distress even if it was great to draw first blood on Chicago once again. But it was a home run that managed to seem bigger the later we got into the game, as Buehrle and Blackburn each turned in groundout after groundout (they combined for 24).
Matt Capps finally relieved Blackburn in the ninth, allowing a one-out base runner but putting down a ninth consecutive zero to complete the shutout.
With the win the Twins move to 28-39 (seriously, we're still 11 games under .500, that's how big the whole was we have to dig out of) and secure another winning week of baseball. And hey, no matter how far you are under .500, it's always good to sweep the Sox.
- Nishioka picked up an infield single in the ninth inning, giving him a 1-for-4 day in his return. He picked up a fielding error in the fifth, but largely he looked fine playing short. A number of plays saw him range to his left, and he looked fine. He charged up and to his right on one play and made a good throw to first, so he's clearly athletic enough to field the position. I have full confidence that he'll be at least a competent shortstop, but I'm looking forward to seeing him make a few throws from deep in the hole after moving to his right.
- Two more hits for Cuddyer today brings his batting average up to .282.
- Blackburn was very aggressive today, throwing first-pitch strikes in 26 of 32 plate appearances (81%). In fact that was the one biggest advantage Blackburn had today. He wasn't getting many swings and misses, per usual, but he was able to force the White Sox to swing the bat by getting ahead early and avoiding hitters counts.
- Buehrle, meanwhile, was unstoppable with his off-speed stuff today. Not one of his off-speed pitches was categorized as well-hit by Inside Edge's post game report, in spite of the fact that 73% of his off-speed pitches being strikes. His fastballs weren't as good, but he only made the one mistake.
Nick Blackburn, Michael Cuddyer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka