This afternoon, the Twins wasted a golden opportunity to get back to .500 by blowing a three run lead in the eighth inning and losing 4-3 to the Oakland Athletics. With the series split, Minnesota drops to 30-32 on the season, 4 games back of the division leading Detroit Tigers. The Twins also drop to 3-4 on their current 10 game road trip, and a pitiful 9-20 on the road heading into 15 games of interleague play.
Nick Blackburn and his opponent, Oakland starter Trevor Cahill, posted zeroes until the top of the top of the fourth. After a Justin Morneau single and Jason Kubel walk, Joe Crede stepped up and lined a Cahill fastball over the left field fence for a three run homerun. The homerun was Crede's 10th this season, his 7th in his last 81 at bats since early May.
Blackburn continued to cruise over seven efficient shutout innings, showing why he’s been the staff ace over the last month-plus. His only hiccup at this point was leading off the fifth inning with two straight four pitch walks to Jason Giambi and Landon Powell. Fortunately, a Daric Barton fly ball and a 6-4-3 double play got him out of the jam. As Blackburn had only thrown 82 pitches entering the eighth inning, he seemed well on his way to a complete game win, perhaps a shutout. All was good with the Twins’ world until Jack Hannahan stepped to the plate with one out…
After the top of the eighth, Minnesota brought in Carlos Gomez as a defensive replacement for Jason Kubel, moving Michael Cuddyer to right field. With one out, Jack Hannahan lined a low fastball to right. Instead of playing it safe with a three run lead and giving Hannahan the single, Cuddyer dived for the ball and missed, resulting in a Hannahan triple. Orlando Cabrera (Twins Killer) grounded a single up the middle to put Oakland on the board. Was Blackburn rattled at this point? Perhaps. He started Adam Kennedy off with two fastballs way outside, putting himself in a hitter's count. He then grooved a meat fastball right down main street, and Kennedy deposited it in the right field seats to tie the game.
According to the Oakland radio announcers, it sounded like this shot looked routine and kept carrying and carrying over the fence. I say, who gives a sh*t, it's gone! Fortunately, Blackburn bounced back to get the final two outs and give the hitters another chance at the A's bullpen.
Unfortunately, the damage had been done. Maybe it’s just my pessimism of late, but once this game was tied, it felt over. With the bottom of the Twins lineup coming up in the ninth, Cuddyer (fly out), Brian Buscher (strikeout) and Delmon Young (strikeout) went down easily. In the bottom of the ninth, Sean Henn relieved Blackburn and immediately proceeded to walk Jason Giambi on four pitches. Matt Guerrier relieved Henn, and he plunked Kurt Suzuki to put runners on first and second. Daric Barton sacrificed the runners to second and third, putting Rajai Davis in position to win the game.Davis lined a soft line drive to right field to end the game and put the Twins bullpen out of their misery.
Joe Crede: His three run homerun was the only damage the Twins hitters could manage against Cahill
Nick Blackburn: I'll take 8 IP, 3 R any day from our starters. Dominant through 7, lost it in the eighth.
Jason Kubel: 1-2 with 2 BB. Just beat out Morneau (2-4, R)
Sean Henn: Four pitches, all balls, walked the winning run on base.
Matt Guerrier: HBP, Sac Bunt, Single. Didn't get it done in a tough spot.
Michael Cuddyer: 0-4, 2 LOB, misplay in the eighth started the rally.