Blackburn's gem gets Twins closer in Central
Nick Blackburn is enjoying the Minnesota Twins' late surge and everything that comes with it.
"This is what we all play for. It's a blast," the right-hander said Monday night after pitching seven sharp innings to help Minnesota beat the fading Chicago White Sox 7-0 for its seventh victory in eight games.
With 12 games to go, the Twins moved within 2 1/2 of first-place Detroit in the AL Central.
"Being in a race like this makes it even more exciting," Blackburn said. "There's more pressure, but it makes us enjoy the wins even more."
Blackburn (11-11) allowed eight singles with no walks and six strikeouts to earn his first road win since May 31 against Tampa Bay. He is 4-1 this season against Chicago.
He got plenty of offensive support from shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who helped the White Sox win the AL Central last season. Cabrera had a triple, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single. He also reached on an error and scored three times.
Just as important, Cabrera has taken charge of keeping the Twins pumped up.
"He gets everybody else fired up," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He started the game yelling, hooting and hollering before the first pitch."
Cabrera said he just wanted his teammates to know that good things are ahead if they stay emotionally ready.
"I just thought everybody was too quiet in the beginning of the game," he said.
The Twins did get a scare in the sixth inning when center fielder Denard Span had to leave the game after being hit in the helmet by a pitch from reliever Randy Williams. Span was able to get off the ground and leave the field with assistance.
"I have a headache and I'm a little dizzy," Span said after the game. "It was even scarier on the replay. ... I've never been hit in the head before. ... I'll take some Tylenol tonight and see how I am tomorrow."
The White Sox lost for the fifth time in six games. They are seven back of the Tigers and 4 1/2 behind Minnesota.
The offense continues to sputter. Chicago was shut out for the 13th time this season and second time in four games. No wonder the boos started to pour down at U.S. Cellular Field as the game ended.
"I don't blame them," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "Come and see this day in and day out and obviously they're going to act that way. ... They are right. They pay money to watch a better baseball game and right now we're not doing it."
Daniel Hudson (0-1) took the loss in his first major league start. He allowed four hits and three runs in five innings, but only one run was earned.
Hudson gave up a first-inning triple to Cabrera, who scored on A.J. Pierzynski's two-out passed ball.
Starting because Gavin Floyd has a sore hip, Hudson walked Span with the bases loaded in the second - the Twins' third walk of the inning - to make it 2-0.
In the fifth, he fielded Cabrera's leadoff bunt and threw past first for an error, putting Cabrera at second. Michael Cuddyer delivered a two-out RBI single to push the Twins' lead to three.
Nick Punto hit an RBI single off D.J. Carrasco in the sixth after a single by Matt Tolbert and a wild pitch. Williams relieved and his pitch hit Span in the helmet.
Carlos Gomez replaced Span and, after he and Punto pulled off a double steal, Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly that made it 5-0. Cabrera singled in another run in the eighth and Jason Kubel added an RBI double.
"We're trying to finish the season hard. When (Justin) Morneau and (Joe) Crede went down for us, you have to step up," Cabrera said.
Chicago RF Jermaine Dye, MVP of the 2005 World Series, went 0 for 3 and is 33 for 196 (.168) in the second half of the season. He heard some boos after hitting a comebacker in the sixth inning with a runner at third. ... Punto had two singles, two walks and two stolen bases.