Twins tripped up as win streak ends

Twins tripped up as win streak ends

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Twins struggled Wednesday to mount what, as of late, has become their trademark comeback, the frustration became visible on the field. It came to a head in the eighth inning when shortstop Orlando Cabrera was ejected after slamming his bat following a strikeout.

In the locker room after Minnesota's 5-1 loss to Baltimore on Wednesday night, frustration was apparent -- this time in the form of starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. The right-hander extended his streak of starts without a win to eight, and in the process the Twins snapped their season high five-game winning streak.

"I'm getting tired of it," said Blackburn (8-9). "It's very frustrating coming to the field every single time and just continuing to do this stuff. I'm trying to battle my way out of it and I'm working just as hard as I was earlier in the season, just trying to fight through it."

By continuing his winless drought with a four-run, nine-hit outing, Blackburn in turn ended the team's winning streak that began with a sweep on the road of the Kansas City Royals followed by victories in Minnesota's first two games against the Orioles.

Trouble started for Blackburn right away in the first inning, as the right-hander gave up a pair of runs thanks in part to an error by Cabrera.

With two outs in the first, Nolan Reimold grounded to Cabrera, who fired over to first baseman Justin Morneau but bounced the ball short of Morneau's glove. Cesar Izturis and Luke Scott both came in to score, putting Baltimore ahead 2-0 before Minnesota came to bat.

The deficit grew to three runs in the fourth on a solo homer by Felix Pie. It was Pie's fifth of the season as he went deep to center on a first-pitch offering by Blackburn, who left the game after 5 2/3 innings.

"I felt like I made some pretty good pitches tonight and they got some hits on the good pitches," Blackburn said. "I obviously made some bad ones, too. Sometimes that's how it goes."

After Pie's solo shot in the fourth, Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla provided a highlight reel play to end the inning -- one of two impressive plays by Casilla on the night. With a runner on first and two out, Casilla chased down a grounder hit up the middle by Brian Roberts and in one fluid motion dove while swatting the ball with his glove to Cabrera at second for the out.

"That was unbelievable," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "I had a great view. I was right behind it both times. ... Pretty amazing plays."

The 3-0 edge was more than enough for Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie (9-12), who pitched seven strong innings and allowed just one run on six hits while striking out five. Four of the six hits allowed by the right-hander came against left-handed hitters, including Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, who combined to produce Minnesota's first run of the game on a double by Morneau.

"I think we saw tonight Guthrie threw the ball very, very well against us. Totally shut us down," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We really didn't do too much against Guthrie. He had everything working for him. ... Sometimes you run into those guys."

"He's got good stuff," said Cuddyer, who was one of just five Twins to collect a hit off Guthrie. "He hit the corners. He didn't give you too much over the plate, which is I guess what has been his problem this year. He didn't really do that tonight. He pitched well."

The Twins had mounted several come-from-behind victories over the past week, but never got the offense going on Wednesday. Trailing 5-1 in the eighth, Minnesota's Denard Span led off the inning with a walk and was followed by Cabrera, who was called out on strikes after failing to check his swing.

As he walked back towards the Twins dugout, the frustrated Cabrera slammed his bat into the ground and was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who's no stranger to Metrodome ejections.

In Minnesota's home series with the Boston Red Sox back in late May, it was Tichenor who ejected both team's catchers and managers in the same inning. Again Wednesday, he pulled the trigger, this time tossing Cabrera.

Gardenhire declined to comment on Tichenor's ejection.

"I'm not getting involved in that stuff," Gardenhire said.

With Cabrera ejected for only the second time in his career, Gardenhire was forced to move Casilla to shortstop and bring Cuddyer in from right field to play second. It was Cuddyer's first time playing second base since June 2005.

While the Twins were unable to gain ground on Detroit and pull ahead of Chicago in the American League Central -- both teams also lost Wednesday -- they hope their strong play during their five-game winning streak will carry into the weekend series against Texas.

Having an off-day after playing 16 straight games should help, too.

"Hopefully we get a nice, deserved day off [Thursday] and then come back against Texas," Cuddyer said.

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.