A win is a win.
Nick Blackburn was a whiz on Tuesday evening, going as far to notch one out in the ninth before being pulled for Joe Nathan to come on and close the door. Up to that point he'd had one of the best starts for a Minnesota starter all season, throwing an astonishing number of pitches for strikes and getting excellent movement off both his slider and his curveball. With a very consistent release point, Blackburn's horizontal movement was one of his keys to success:
Blackburn was pleased with his performance, and kept the focus on the team:
"I finally felt sharp up on the mound," Blackburn said. "Everything felt like it was coming out of my hand well tonight. It doesn't really matter about being a factor in the decision. I kept my team in it, and that's basically all a starter is asked to do. Overall, we won and that's most important right now."
Through eight innings, Blackburn had allowed only seven hits, but his fatigue was evident as he climbed the mound for the final inning. After hitting Alex Gordon with a runaway curveball to lead things off, he induced a fly-out from left fielder Jose Guillen. Miguel Olivo followed up with a single through the left side, off a fastball at the knees. With his fastball tailing off and the tying run coming to bat, Gardenhire turned to Nathan.
On Nathan's first offering to Mark Teahen, Teahen popped the ball down the left field line. On came Delmon Young, who slid to make the catch instead of keeping the ball in front of him. The ball trickled past him and bounced along the trajectory of the wall, and as Young turned to confirm it was a fair ball, the Kansas City base runners were going for broke. By the time Young caught up with the ball and hit the relay man, Teahen was going into his slide at the plate. On one pitch, and on one mistake, the Twins had gone from a 3-0 lead and two outs from victory, to a tie game.
After the game, Young said he thought the ball was going to be in foul territory and that he was just trying to record an out. Gardenhire wasn't happy:
"You have a three-run lead in the ninth, and I know it was right on the line. That's not one of those plays when you can go diving all-out and let three runs come in there. ... It was an honest effort mistake. He was trying to make a play. But we have to know situations, and we kind of let that one get away."
With the win so close you could taste it, the game ploughed on through a pair of extra innings before the Twins pulled ahead for the final time in the top of the twelfth. Joe Mauer drew a walk with one out, with Royals reliever Leo Nunez struggling to hit the strikezone. In spite of the lack of command, on the first pitch Justin Morneau saw from Nunez he remained aggressive and pushed a line drive down the left field line. He was credited with a single, but advanced to second as the relay attempted to kill Mauer at third. The throw was too late, and the Twins had runners at second and third with one away.
Nunez came inside once to Cuddyer on the first pitch, but then worked him away with four consecutive sliders. On the fourth slider, Cuddyer took it the other way and lined a single into right field, scoring Mauer from third base. Matt Guerrier would come in for the bottom of the 12th and put the game away.
Dennys Reyes, Jesse Crain and Guerrier combined for three innings of two-hit, scoreless relief, while recording on strikeout each. Alexi Casilla had a 3-for-6 game, and is now batting .306/.366/.500 in 36 at-bats. Morneau and Cuddyer also contributed three hits apiece, raising their respective lines to .313/.384/.490 and .237/.304/.319. With the win the Twins move above .500, to 26-25, two games off the pace currently set by the Chicago White Sox.