AJ: "So, I was traded for you." Frankie: "Yes. And two other guys." AJ: "Because of that Mauer guy, right?" Frankie: "I assume so, yes." AJ: "We'll strike him out on a pitch about six inches inside tonight, okay?" Frankie: "Okay, AJ."
Nick Blackburn worked around an early double and Francisco Liriano was a very good version of himself as both starting pitchers limited the opposing offense to just a pair of runs each. Denard Span picked up the first two hits off Liriano but was erased both times, and the Twins didn't get to Liriano until a two-run sixth that could have been much better...or much worse...depending on just a couple of extra inches.
Those inches largely worked in the Twins' favor. Paul Konerko's relay home. Infield hits. Balls and strikes (although I'm sure Joe Mauer wasn't particularly happy with all of those calls). Oh, and Darin Mastroianni stealing second and then third base.
Liriano got through six innings on 113 pitches, striking out eight while walking four and giving up just four hits. But Blackburn was more efficient, if not better: eight innings for his two runs, striking out just two while walking just one and scattering five hits (two in the second, two in the seventh, one in the eighth).
Instead the Twins ran out Jeff Gray. Perkins was only to be used in a save situation, which is about as wasteful as you can be. It also ignores Burton completely, who Gardy could have turned to if he was so set on running out a right-handed pitcher. But it was Gray, in a high leverage situation; the same reliever who leads the team in base runners per inning, who is walking as many batters as he strikes out, whose ERA is the highest among active relief pitchers with more than 20 innings pitched.
Alex Rios took the third pitch of the inning, a third consecutive fastball, and stroked it into left for a single. A.J. Pierzynsky fouled off a couple more fastballs before pulling a slider into the right field seats. 4-2, White Sox.
The Twins didn't go away quietly. Ben Revere singled and was off running when Jamey Carroll grounded out, then scoring on Span's third hit of the night. But Mastroianni struck out swinging, and Mauer chopped a grounder to a fumbling Paul Konerko to end it.
It was a disappointing loss, partially because Blackburn's effort was fantastic and partially because it's just sweet to beat Chicago. Instead we have to settle for a series victory with a win tomorrow, when Gardy will hopefully use his best relievers when he needs them instead of when the team is in a save situation.