MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Twins know they'll need some quality performances from their starting rotation if they are to have any shot at getting back into the AL Central race.
So far ... not so good.
Nick Blackburn (7-9) gave up two homers to Carlos Quentin and walked a career-high six as the Twins lost for the sixth time in eight games, 5-3 to the Chicago White Sox on Friday night. Minnesota fell nine games behind Detroit in the division they won handily a year ago, and 10 games below .500.
The club has billed this weekend as a celebration of the Twins' thrilling 1991 World Series win over the Atlanta Braves. With members of that championship team looking on, the Twins' offense sputtered against Mark Buerhle (9-5), and Blackburn lost his third straight start.
``Not a good way to start it,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``I think we were a little shaky defensively early in the game, a few too many walks early in the game. And combine defense and walks, always adds up to some runs and it did.'
All three of Minnesota's runs were unearned and came in the first inning after Ben Revere's grounder rolled between first baseman Adam Dunn's legs. After that inning, Buerhle shut down the Twins, allowing only four hits over eight innings and extending his streak of allowing three runs or fewer to 17 straight games.
``It's one of those little tricky ones,' Revere said of Buerhle's curveball, which frustrated the Minnesota batters all night. ``You come in there, you think you're on time, and nope, it still sinks by you.'
Jason Kubel hit a two-run homer in the first inning after Joe Mauer - getting another start at first base - drove in the Twins' other run with a single.
Even working with a 3-1 lead, though, Blackburn had trouble settling down. He gave up hits in each inning he pitched and struggled with his location all game.
``Just trying to pick around the plate a little bit too much,' he said. ``With the way things have been going, I haven't really been trusting my pitches lately. ... I had good movement, I just wasn't relaxing enough, I was trying to make sure everything was on the corner instead of just going out there and getting ground balls.'
Even so, Blackburn's outing of 5 1-3 innings was still longer than his previous two starts in which he gave up 12 earned runs.
``When things aren't going your way, you start to not have a whole lot of faith in your pitches,' Blackburn said.
Blackburn has walked 11 batters in his last two starts.
``He'll tell you, he's walking too many people, that's not his game,' Gardenhire said. ``Throw them over and let them hit it, put guys on base, you miss a play, it's a bad recipe. It always has been, always will be.'
Kubel's home run was the lone highlight for Minnesota. It was the 100th of his career and 20th against the White Sox.
``It's definitely cool. I hope there's another 100 in there, maybe a couple more 100s,' he said.
Minnesota arrived home at 5:30 a.m. Friday after going 4-6 on a West Coast trip.
Notes: The White Sox announced after that game that RHP Zach Stewart will be called up to start Saturday's game in place of RHP Jake Peavy. Peavy will be pushed back to Sunday. Reliever Brian Bruney was designated for assignment to make room for Stewart. ... Guillen on Thome possibly hitting his 600th home run this weekend: ``I hope if he hits it, it's not to win the game. But I want to see it.' ... Twins 2B Alexi Casilla (right hamstring) took grounders before the game and is on track to return next week. ... Twins 1B Justin Morneau began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester. ... Carl Pavano starts for the Twins on Saturday night against Stewart. ... Pavano is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA against the White Sox this season. ... Kubel's home run was the 100th of his career and 20th against the White Sox. ... Quentin's last multi-homer game was June 8 against Seattle. ... Twins 3B Danny Valencia committed his 15th error in 105 games. He had six errors in 81 games last season.
The Associated Press News Service
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