Game 10: Blackburn solid, three homers propel Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Behind a strong performance from Nick Blackburn and homers from Joe Benson, Danny Valencia and Michael Hollimon, the Twins won their second straight game with a 5-1 victory over the Yankees on Sunday at Hammond Stadium.

With the win, the Twins improved to 5-5 on the season and travel to Port Charlotte on Monday with the chance to get above the .500 mark in Grapefruit League play.

What went right: Blackburn has been impressive so far this spring, and he fared just fine in his Grapefruit League debut. He said after that he didn’t have his best stuff, but he still ended up tossing three scoreless innings.

But the story of the day was the power shown by the Twins, as they entered the game with just three homers in nine Spring Training games, but matched that total against the Yankees.

Benson, who had struck out in seven of his previous 13 at-bats, finally connected with a deep homer in the fifth inning. It marked his first homer in quite some time, as he didn’t hit any as a September callup or during his time in the Venezuela in the offseason.

Valencia continued to show off his power, as it marked his second homer in as many days. He hit a three-run shot in the Twins’ 4-2 win over the Rays on Saturday.

And Hollimon has turned some heads so far this spring, as he absolutely crushed a three-run homer in the eighth and has four hits in six at-bats in Grapefruit League action.

Justin Morneau also looked good at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. Alexi Casilla went 1-for-2 to raise his batting average to .438 this spring.

Twins relievers Brian Duensing, Matt Capps, Jeff Manship, Carlos Gutierrez and Brendan Wise each threw a scoreless inning.

What went wrong: Not much, as the Twins looked good in just about every phase of the game.

The defense was sharp — they executed a great relay play to get Brett Gardner out at home plate in the third — and didn’t commit any errors.

Only left-hander Aaron Thompson gave up a run on the afternoon. He allowed a double to Nick Swisher and an RBI single to Francisco Cervelli.

What they said: “It’s called Jim Thome getting loud,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire joked about his team crushing three homers. “We’re getting loud. That’s our new theory in hitting, we’re going to start getting loud. We’ll see what happens. Like to see the ball fly. Get the barrel on it and see what happens.”

What’s next: Right-hander Carl Pavano is set to get the start against the Rays on Monday at 12:05 p.m. CT at Charlotte Sports Park. It’ll be Pavano’s third start of the spring, as he’s allowed three runs on nine hits over five innings in Grapefruit League play. Left-handers Glen Perkins and Phil Dumatrait and closer Matt Capps are also scheduled to pitch for the Twins. Joe Mauer will also serve as designated hitter. Right-hander James Shields is slated to start for the Rays.

Injury update: Center fielder Denard Span was a late scratch with neck stiffness and is day to day. But the injury isn’t serious and isn’t related to the concussion-like symptoms he’s suffered from since sustaining his initial concussion in a home-plate collision on June 3. … Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka sprained his left pinkie making a tag and will be held out of action against the Rays. He’s also day to day and will be reevaluated further on Monday.

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