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Rays 7, Twins 4: One Big Inning Dooms Blackburn Once Again

Tampa won this series three games to one.  It easily could have been the other way around.

It started with a trickle.  Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton singled on ground balls just inches from the comforting glove of an infielder, amounting to an unfortunate but seemingly unimpressive start to the seventh inning.  Jason Bartlett put down a bunt...

...and Nick Blackburn threw the ball away.  A 2-1 deficit became 3-1.

A groundout.  An intentional walk to load the bases.  Another weak ground ball, this time by Evan Longoria, except it wasn't to a fielder.  It was up the middle.  5-1.

Brian Duensing strikes out Willy AybarGabe Kapler doubles on the first well-hit ball of the inning.  7-1.

The Twins got three back in the bottom half of the inning, but a couple of nice defenive plays by Pena and Longoria kept the Minnesota rally from getting any worse and that was the end of it.

This has been a disappointing series, gut-wrenching in nature when you consider just how close to victory the Twins were in the losses on Thursday and Saturday.

Notes, and a discussion about me going into therapy for optimists, after the jump.

  • Blackburn pitched pretty well today.  He kept the Rays in check until a couple of dribblers and an error ruined his afternoon.  On the plus side, while he gets charged with all seven runs only four of them were earned.  We'll call it a moral victory.
  • It really was a typical Blackburn start:  great job being around the strike zone and working ahead, throwing strikes.  Excellent command.  Mediocre job finishing hitters off.  Off-speed pitches were largely useless.  When he was behind in the count (2-0, 2-1 and 3-ball counts), he wasn't able to fight back to convert the out.
  • Jim Thome:  All he does is catch touchdowns get hits.  He whacked one over the head of Kapler with the bases loaded in the seventh, scoring two runs.  But it was just a single.  Sure, you can say that the ball bounced off the wall quickly and Kapler made a good throw, but let's be honest...even J.J. Hardy might have picked up a double on that one.
  • Delmon Young picked up two more hits today.
  • James Shields pitched a very good game.  Six great innings before the Twins rattled him by managing to get the first four batters to reach base in the seventh.
  • Therapy for optimists:  when you're down because your team just dropped a series it shouldn't have lost, pick up your PS3 and win a game of MLB 10: The Show.  It makes me feel better, anyway.

MVP:  Evan Longoria
MVP in a losing effort:  Jim Thome
Best Pitching Performance:  Grant Balfour, for halting the Twins' rally
This is why you hit 9th:  J.J. Hardy
I'm a pretty good mop-up guy:  Ron Mahay
My ERA went down today:  Nick Blackburn
I've been annoyingly efficient this series:  Sean Rodriguez
Dude, wanna catch some waves?:  Jason Bartlett