In his first big-league start last Wednesday, Nick Blackburn was in control. He pitched seven efficient innings, keeping runners off the bases and making just one important mistake (a wild pitch that scored the Angels' only run of the game). Making his second career start yesterday, Blackburn was not nearly as effective. He needed 90 pitches to get through five innings, allowing seven hits and two walks. Nevertheless, Blackburn worked out of trouble again and again, and when he handed the game over to the bullpen in the sixth inning, the Twins were ahead 3-2.
Unfortunately, it would not last. Matt Guerrier tossed a scoreless sixth, but then in the seventh inning disaster struck. Guerrier and Pat Neshek combined to allow five runs in the inning, capped off by a Joe Crede grand slam on a meaty fastball from Neshek. The big inning gave the White Sox a 7-3 lead, and they went on to win the game 7-4.
It was a pretty tough inning to watch, but it will happen from time to time. Guerrier and Neshek might be the team's most reliable relievers outside of Joe Nathan, but they aren't perfect. From time to time these guys will have rough games -- it's just unfortunate that both both happened to struggle in this one and lose Blackburn a shot at his first major-league win.
I'm a little less forgiving when it comes to the offense. The Twins have exceeded four runs only once in eight games so far. Yesterday, only one player had multiple hits. (On a positive note, that player was Mike Lamb, who doubled twice and drove in two runs, showing signs of breaking out of his early-season slump.) Adam Everett has a 301 OPS. As Aaron Gleeman notes, Delmon Young is showing a frustrating inability to pull inside pitches, which is preventing him from driving the ball with any kind of authority and raising serious questions about whether he'll even surpass last year's power totals. Denard Span is getting starts in right field for some peculiar reason.
All in all, things aren't going well on the offensive side of the ball. The Twins scored four runs in yesterday's game, which isn't horrible, but they wasted some scoring opportunities early on and the bats went to sleep in the middle innings, failing to give the pitchers any kind of breathing room in a tight game. I've been pleasantly surprised by the starting rotation so far, but it's time for these hitters to come around. The performance of the lineup thus far has been totally unacceptable.