Twins top Orioles 6-0 behind Span, Blackburn and bottom hitters
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A few adjustments have paid big dividends for Nick Blackburn.
Blackburn threw seven strong innings, Denard Span had his third three-hit game of the month and the Minnesota Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-0 Sunday to earn a split of the four-game series.
Brendan Harris and Alexi Casilla -- the bottom two hitters -- twice started three-run innings for Minnesota.
"It can't be the same guys every night; you have to have different people picking you up," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "Harry and Casilla come off the bench a lot and don't get to swing much, so it was a big game for them. Everybody wants to contribute to wins."
Joe Mauer was 1 for 3 as Minnesota's designated hitter, his first start after missing eight games because of a deeply bruised left heel he sustained while running out a grounder April 30. Gardenhire expects Mauer to be back behind the plate Tuesday when the Twins open a two-game home series with the Chicago White Sox.
Blackburn (3-1), who pitched a complete game Tuesday, allowed just four hits. He moved the ball around the zone -- especially his slider and sinker -- getting 11 flyouts and 10 ground-ball outs. He induced a double-play in the second, the lone time Baltimore had a runner in scoring position in the first six innings. Garrett Atkins lined out to left field with runners on first and second to end the seventh.
"Early on I was up a little bit and they were hitting a lot of fly balls, but once I kind of settled in everything was sharp and down so they hit the ball back into the ground which is what we usually want," Blackburn said.
In his four April starts, Blackburn went 1-1 with a 6.85 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs and 33 hits. Since then his delivery has changed slightly.
"I was getting out ahead of myself too fast, opening up the front hip, and that's leaving my shoulder open. I think for a couple of weeks I couldn't get on top of any pitches and I was pulling off of everything. Once we got that straightened away, I've just been working on keeping my front foot closed a little bit," Blackburn said. "I think we're getting closer to where I can feel what I'm doing wrong and what adjustments I need to be making."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley was puzzled as to why his team didn't have better swings, but was pleased when bat met ball.
"Almost every ball we hit on the button was right at somebody."
It did not matter because Brian Matusz was struggling.
Matusz (2-3), coming off four straight quality starts, allowed six earned runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. He has lost three straight, getting one run of support in those games.
Harris and Casilla singled off Matusz to start the third, before Span drove in both with a triple to the wall in right-center. It was just the third extra-base hit by a left-handed hitter against Matusz this year. New York's Robinson Cano doubled and homered April 29.
Span, who had three hits May 1 at Cleveland and on Wednesday against Detroit, scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Punto.
"It just wasn't meant to be," Trembley said. "I just didn't think he had the finish on his pitches. He had probably more balls, pitches up in the strike zone than he's thrown all year and the third out was a difficult one for him to get."
With two outs in the fourth, Harris doubled, Casilla had an RBI double and scored on a Span single to make it 5-0.
"A lot of times those two-out hits are backbreakers," Harris said.
Span scored on a bloop single by Punto and Mauer singled to chase Matusz.
"That's a tough lineup one through nine and you can't take any of those hitters lightly. I didn't do a good job at keeping the ball down," Matusz said
Jason Berken pitched 2 1-3 innings of scoreless relief for the Orioles, and picked Span off first in the sixth.<
NOTES: Harris also had three hits. ... Minnesota's Justin Morneau struck out four times. The only other time he's done that was July 9, 2003, at Texas. ... Baltimore is 2-18 when scoring fewer than four runs. The Orioles have been shutout three times. ... Army Specialist Logan Hastings threw out the game's first pitch to his father, Jeff, an Army captain. During a 16-month tour in Iraq, Logan and Gardenhire formed a friendship via e-mail. Father and son are expected to be deployed again later this year.