Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blackburn looks to improve upon recent struggles

On Friday night, the Twins will look to keep their recent hot streak going in the friendly confines of Target Field. The man toeing the rubber for the Twins will be Nick Blackburn and he is looking to overcome some recent struggles on the mound.

In Blackburn's last three starts before the All-Star break, he was never able to pitch longer than five innings. Blackburn was only able to average a little over four inning pitched in those outings. During this rough streak, Blackburn managed an ERA of 12.15 and opponents had a .433 BA with him on the mound.

The problem for the Twins is that Blackburn is a sinkerball pitcher who relies on ground balls to get batters out but those ground balls have disappeared. The three starts before the All-Star break saw Blackburn giving up a home run in each outing. In these starts, he also saw his ground ball percentage decrease in comparison to other parts of the first half of the season. This means he is leaving the ball up in the zone and that is not what the Twins want from a sinkerball pitcher.

The season has been a roller coaster ride for Blackburn as a starting pitcher. He struggled through the first month of the season by losing four of his first five starts. The next month and a half were strong for Blackburn because he had a streak of five straight decisions without a loss. His ERA on the season dropped all the way to 3.15 and he looked like he could be part of the Twins turnaround.

Hopefully the All-Star break provided Blackburn with some time-off for him to refocus and to improve upon his recent struggles. The team needs consistency out of Blackburn and for him to stay off the roller coaster ride he was on in the first half.

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