MINNEAPOLIS – The Twins, who haven’t had much to cheer about thus far this season, got another little glimmer of satisfaction on Thursday as Nick Blackburn and company out dueled one of baseball’s hottest ball clubs.
The Texas Rangers opened up a 4 game series in Minnesota on Thursday owning a record that is tied for fifth best in the Majors in terms of wins. The Twins owned the League’s worst in terms of pretty much everything, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell based on the outing they had. Starter Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.47 ERA) had one of his finer outings strictly because he did what has been a rarity for Twins starters this season; he made it through 6 innings.
He ended up making it through 7 1/3 to be exact, pitching quite well through 5 innings allowing just one run on six hits. His sixth inning was less impressive; Blackburn allowed 2 runs on 2 hits but did suffer from two errors. But the positivity to take out of that inning was it didn’t discourage Blackburn who returned to the mound the next inning to face just five batters and allowed no runs. He tried to stretch it out into the eighth but only managed to face 2 batters. The dagger in Blackburn’s night came after he had gotten Adrian Beltre to ground out. Nelson Cruz came up next and blasted a 453 foot home run which tied the game and forced a ND to destroy Blackburn’s impressive work.
Another thing that usually doesn’t happen happened offensively for the Twins; the bats came out to save the day. After Blackburn allowed a Josh Hamilton solo shot in the first, the Twins bat’s scored 4 runs in 5 innings; one in the second and 3 in the fifth. The lone run in the second came off the bat of Delmon Young who countered Hamilton’s homer with one of his own. In the fifth Micheal Cuddyer hit a 416 foot blast to centerfield that scored Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert.
“We’ve got some energy. We’ve got some life,” Cuddyer said.
The scoring didn’t stop there and neither did the oddities. After Blackburn’s 1-0 changeup in the eighth was exploded by Cruz, The Twins did what they used to do best and battled back by chipping away at the Rangers. In the ninth, Luke Hughes led off with a ground rule double off of reliever Mark Lowe who also walked Matt Tolbert. Arthur Rhodes came in for Texas and after getting out Ben Revere, he gave up a fatal single to the suddenly red-hot Alexi Casilla to end the game in the Twins favor.
“I love these situations. Myself, I just try to calm down, don’t get too excited,” Casilla said. “I’m looking for a good pitch to hit.”
It was Casilla’s fifth career walk-off hit and continued his amazing success at the plate as of late. It also propelled the Twins out of last place in the Major’s as they move a half game ahead of the Astros. It is also continuing a hot start to June for the Twins which is giving Twins apologists something to cling to; that mid-late season push.
The question is, is it the beginning or just a fluke? Prior to June, the Twins were just 18-36, so far in June they’re 6-2 and not only off to their best start to a month this season, but they are a half game ahead of Boston, Detroit and San Fransisco for the best record in June.
“You feel like you have a chance in ballgames again,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, “and that’s the atmosphere you’re looking for.”
Hopefully for Twins fans, this recent epiphany for the Twins goes the distance.