MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Nick Blackburn pitched eight shutout innings for the Minnesota Twins, and Michael Cuddyer’s home run was enough to beat Mark Buehrle and the Chicago White Sox 1-0 on Thursday.
Buehrle was beaten despite giving up just three hits over seven innings, and the White Sox fell to 0-4 this year against their primary division rival – scoring a total of three runs in the process.
Blackburn (6-4) matched his career high by winning his sixth straight decision, coming over his past nine starts. He scattered seven hits with one walk and one strikeout, continuing a remarkable run this month by the Twins rotation. Minnesota has won 11 of its last 13 games.
Matt Capps, making his first appearance in eight days, pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 14 attempts this season. He gave up a one-out single to Adam Dunn, but Gordon Beckham and pinch hitter Omar Vizquel each struck out to end the game.
Buehrle (6-5) has pitched exceptionally well over his last eight starts since the beginning of May, surrendering only 17 runs in 55 innings for a 2.78 ERA. He’s 5-2 in that span, thanks to this hard-luck second loss. Buehrle walked two, hit one batter and struck out three.
All it took was one big swing from the surging Cuddyer, who leads the Twins with 10 home runs, double the amount of the next-closest teammate. He sent Buehrle’s pitch into the White Sox bullpen beyond left-center field leading off the second inning, and Blackburn held that up.
Cuddyer has been a streaky hitter in his career but also can be a dangerous opponent for left-hander pitchers, as Buehrle has learned. Cuddyer is now batting .344 – 33 for 96 – with three homers and 11 RBIs against Buehrle.
Mimicking Carl Pavano’s complete game the night before, Blackburn kept the White Sox guessing and kept the ball on the ground all afternoon.
The right-hander induced a pair of double plays and could’ve had a third, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka committed an error by bobbling a bouncing ball hit by Paul Konerko in the sixth before he could start to turn two. Nishioka was plenty busy at shortstop, showing exceptional range – if a weak arm – and nearly making a highlight-reel play by stopping Carlos Quentin’s grounder deep in the hole and throwing accurately to first.
Quentin beat the ball to the base for a two-out single in the eighth, and Konerko followed by ripping one up the middle. But Blackburn retired A.J. Pierzynski on a lazy fly to center, ending another threat.
Blackburn recovered from Nishioka’s mistake and from his own, in the second when he threw the ball away trying to double up Pierzynski after snaring a line drive near his neck hit by Alex Rios. With runners at second and third and one out, Blackburn retired Dunn on a fly ball to left field that was too shallow for Konerko to score.
Dunn, stuck in a season-long slump, hit himself on the right side of the helmet as he reached first. Beckham followed with a groundout.
Nishioka made his Target Field debut after missing more than two months due to a broken lower left leg. He went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Nishioka looked a little tentative, still adjusting to new surroundings, and except for the error he looked deft on defense. Manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t exactly ease him in, sticking him in the third spot in the order, but he said before the game Nishioka told him he’d be comfortable anywhere in the lineup.
“He’s just excited to be playing again,” Gardenhire said.
Notes: The White Sox won’t have a DH this weekend during their series at Arizona, but manager Ozzie Guillen said he’ll play Dunn once or twice, at 1B or perhaps LF. Despite a batting average barely above .180, Guillen said he likes the way Dunn has been swinging and is seeing progress. As for his defense? “He’s better than what people think. Obviously he’s not a Gold Glover, but he’s going out there and he knows what to do,” Guillen said. … The Twins will send RHP Joe Nathan to Triple-A Rochester this weekend to continue his rehab from a strained forearm.
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