Twins come through for Blackburn
After righty leaves with injury, bullpen shuts down Yankees
MINNEAPOLIS -- In an emergency situation, a weary Minnesota bullpen came through again.
A trio of Twins relievers combined to throw 4 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, and Minnesota beat New York, 5-1, on Sunday in a game overshadowed by an injured teammate.
Michael Cuddyer had three hits and three RBIs for the Twins and Justin Morneau contributed two extra-base hits, as the Twins moved within one game of the White Sox, who lost to the Rays, for first place in the American League Central.
Starting pitcher Nick Blackburn left the game in the fifth inning after a liner off the bat of Bobby Abreu deflected off his glove and hit him in the nose.
As a hush fell over the crowd at the Metrodome, Blackburn immediately sprawled out on the mound, and he was attended to by Twins trainers.
"I don't know if that was just shock and I wasn't able to sit up or anything," Blackburn said. "It didn't knock me out. I think it probably caught me a little goofy, and it was just hard for me to control my body at that point. Once I hit the ground, I don't know why, but I felt like I needed to get back up. It's never good to see someone laying there. I wanted to get up basically, I guess, for myself, so I knew I was OK."
Aided by team staff, Blackburn walked off the field holding a towel against his bloody nose.
X-rays at a local hospital showed no broken bones or teeth. He is listed as day-to-day with a bruised nose and upper lip. He expects to make his next start on Friday in Chicago.
"It's scary to see someone else get hit, so it definitely makes you a little leery about being out there, but it happens, and it's part of the game. Everything turned out all right," Blackburn said through a swelled black-and-blue upper lip. "I'll be able to get back out there and get back on the mound. Fortunately, I did slow it down. It would have been a lot worse if I didn't."
Standing on first base, Abreu was visibly shaken.
"I was feeling bad. I was saying prayers that nothing bad had happened," Abreu said, shortly after he and Blackburn spoke for about a minute outside the New York locker room. "He said he thought he was going to be OK."
Brian Bass (2-1) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, Jesse Crain pitched two shutout frames and Joe Nathan hurled a scoreless ninth for the Twins.
"You can't ask for any more of those guys," said manger Ron Gardenhire. "We didn't want to have to do it, but when Blacky got hit like that, we had to go in and ask them to pitch some more."
"That's a tough lineup, and you got to be able to make pitches and keep them off-balance," added catcher Mike Redmond. "Today, we did that. We pitched really well."
Minnesota used all seven relievers in Saturday's 12-inning loss to New York, ending a stretch when the bullpen was used for 19 2/3 innings over the course of four-plus games.
"It was big to go out there and get almost two innings, the way our bullpen was today," Bass said. "We've been throwing well as a staff. The workload comes and goes. Sometimes, you get stretches or weeks where the starter is going seven, eight innings and sometimes you don't. It's one of those things you deal with and fight through."
A two-run single by Cuddyer gave the Twins a 2-0 first-inning lead against Yankees starter Darrell Rasner (3-2). A sacrifice fly by Mike Lamb scored Morneau to make it 3-0 in the fourth.
Cuddyer, who missed 17 games with a dislocated and lacerated right finger, has just two home runs for the season, but he has 20 RBIs since May 1.
"Cuddy's going to get his hits, and he's going to drive in runs for us," Gardenhire said. "Big guys get hot and get cold a little bit. Cuddy's got a good track record. For the last few years, he's done pretty doggone good. I expect him to get hits, and as he gets more comfortable, he's going to get hits. The ball's going to leave the ballpark. Today, he had two really good at-bats that were two-out hits."
Morneau tripled in the sixth, and he scored on the play when New York center fielder Melky Cabrera slipped on the warning track. His attempted relay throw to Abreu landed in short right field, allowing Morneau to come all the way home.
A Cuddyer triple scored Redmond in the seventh. Alexi Casilla, one of the team's fastest players, playfully waved a towel in front of Redmond for a breeze after the latter scored from first base.
"As long as you make it, that's what matters," Redmond said smiling.
Mike Cook is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.