Twins drop opener of road trip to Mariners

Twins drop opener of road trip to Mariners

Twins drop opener of road trip to Mariners
SEATTLE -- If there was ever a start that could help jumpstart a turnaround for Nick Blackburn from his season-long struggles, it was against the Mariners on Friday night at Safeco Field.

After all, the Mariners entered the game last in the Majors in runs scored and batting average at home, as their offense has been down this year and Safeco Field is notoriously tough on hitters.

But instead, it was more of the same for Blackburn, who was hit hard again -- tying a season-high by giving up 11 hits -- in a 5-3 loss to the Mariners.

"It was a typical outing," said Blackburn, who gave up five runs over 5 1/3 innings to fall to 4-8 with a 7.33 ERA. "Make a couple mistakes, give up home runs, make good pitches, give up hits. I don't know. I don't even know where to start. I felt pretty good going out there tonight. I didn't feel like I was ... I don't know what to say."

It's been a tough year for Blackburn, who has turned in just three quality starts in 19 outings. The sinkerballer has particularly struggled to keep the ball in the park, as he gave up two early homers on Friday and has now served up a team-high 23 this season.

"You saw it again tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He missed over the plate, and they put it in the seats. It's not like a single or a double. He's just gotta get the ball down in those situations, he's gotta make better pitches, and that's the ballgame."

Seattle jumped on Blackburn early, with John Jaso crushing a two-run homer in the first before Miguel Olivo smacked a solo blast in the second for a 3-0 Mariners lead.

"It was good to jump on the board there early in the game," Jaso said. "I just got a pitch inside. I was trying to keep a short swing, because his ball usually sinks and when he keeps it down, it's pretty effective. But he left that one up. My hands were inside of it, short swing and I got a good result."

Blackburn settled down after those first two frames, before running into trouble again in the sixth, when he gave up an RBI double to Eric Thames and a run-scoring single to Dustin Ackley. He was then removed in favor of reliever Tyler Robertson, who was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.

But it was enough for Hisashi Iwakuma, who was perfect for four innings, coming off Felix Hernandez's perfect game against the Rays on Wednesday. Justin Morneau finally ended Iwakuma's bid for perfection with a leadoff double in the fifth -- ending a stretch of 42 consecutive batters retired by Mariners pitchers. It was the longest such streak by any team since 1974.

Minnesota finally got on the board in the inning on an RBI single by Matt Carson, who was making his Minnesota debut. But the Twins ended up leaving the bases loaded, as Iwakuma struck out Pedro Florimon -- also making his Twins debut -- and Darin Mastroianni to end the inning.

Iwakuma ended up allowing just one run on four hits with six strikeouts over seven strong innings to get his fourth win of the year. "I tell you what, he did a great job in that fifth inning," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "That was a big inning for us. To leave the bases loaded out there and let them only score one run in a 3-1 ballgame, that was a separator for us. He did a nice job getting us through the seventh. Just a good effort again by Kuma."

The Twins scored twice in the eighth on back-to-back homers by Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham off reliever Stephen Pryor. It was Mauer's eighth of the year and Willingham's 31st. It was the third time this year that Minnesota hit back-to-back homers, but Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a perfect ninth inning to preserve the win for Seattle.

"Offensively, we didn't do much," Gardenhire said. "We had a couple of home runs back-to-back, which kind of got us into the ballgame and made it interesting. But as you saw, a pretty good closer there. He threw the living fire out of the ball."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.