"A bit of a shocker there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We were in control of the ballgame up until two outs. ... We ended up losing a ballgame that we didn't see was possible with the way Blackie was throwing the ball."
Blackburn came into his start against the Brewers having just thrown his first career complete game in his last outing against the Pirates. He had come within one out of pitching a shutout in that contest, settling for allowing just one run over nine innings.
And on a very hot and humid night in Milwaukee, Blackburn seemed to carry the momentum of that start into this one as he was cruising along with a gem. He had held the Brewers to just two runs over his first seven innings while throwing 84 pitches.
So leading, 3-2, heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Twins were able to keep Blackburn on the mound. And the pitcher, who had hit in the top half of the inning, recorded two quick outs.
That's when J.J. Hardy hit what seemed to be an innocent two-out blooper just over the top of the infield. But two pitches later, that blooper proved costly when Jason Kendall connected on a fastball and hit it off the wall in left-center field. The double scored one run, but it was the events that happened after that which left the Twins clubhouse virtually silent afterward.
Left fielder Jason Kubel got to Kendall's ball quickly, and began the relay home in an attempt to beat out Hardy, who was running from first.
"I think we had a shot at him if we make a good relay," Gardenhire said. "But we didn't make a good relay."
Kubel got the ball quickly in to shortstop Brendan Harris, but it was on Harris' throw that the relay took a bad turn. Harris' throw was off line and ended up on the first-base side of home plate. Catcher Joe Mauer could not field the ball as he tried to make a sweeping tag.
"I was really just kind of disappointed. I should have made a better throw than that," Harris said. "But I got a little excited and I pulled a little bit to the left."
Blackburn, who was backing up home plate on the play, fielded the ball and looked up to see Kendall heading toward third base. That's when Blackburn made a throw to try to get Kendall at third, but the ball sailed past third baseman Joe Crede and into left field.
And Kendall was able to jog home for the winning run, tagging home plate in front of a slumped over Blackburn.
"It was just frustrating," said Blackburn, who, along with Harris, was charged with a throwing error on the play. "All kinds of stuff went through my mind out there. It was an annoying play all the way around. I make a better pitch than that [to Kendall], it never happens."
When asked about his throw to third, Blackburn said he went with his instinct in the heat of the moment.
"It looked like he was less than halfway down the line and I think if I make a decent throw right there, we have a close play," Blackburn said. "Obviously, I should have just held onto it. But it's kind of hard to do when you get in the heat of the battle. When you see something that you think you might have a play at and to let it just go is a tough thing to do."
This wasn't the first time that Blackburn (6-3) had watched a win disappear in the eighth inning. A similar thing happened on June 11 in Oakland when the pitcher took a shutout into the eighth, only to give up three runs and leave with the game tied at 3. The Twins eventually went on to lose that contest, 4-3, as well.
"I'd put it right up there with that one," Blackburn said of this latest stunner. "Neither one of those were fun. That's never a good thing for the manager to have that much confidence in you and you go out there and melt down."
Blackburn stayed in to record the final out of the eighth, getting Casey McGehee to fly out to center, to give him his second successive complete game.
The last pitcher to throw two complete games in a row for the Twins was Brad Radke, who accomplished the feat on June 9 and 15, 1998.
But trailing by one in the ninth, the Twins couldn't make a comeback off Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman. He struck out the first two batters of the inning before walking Joe Mauer. The veteran then got Justin Morneau to ground out, completing the Brewers' stunning comeback.
Considering just how well Blackburn had pitched and how quickly things went awry in the eighth, the Twins seemed in shock after this one. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak over the Brewers and marked only the third time this season that the Twins had lost when leading after seven innings.
"It's disappointing, because to be in control of a ballgame and then to lose it late like that is unbelievable," Gardenhire said. "I guess that's the only way we can describe it."