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Gomez Homers In 10th, Braves Beat Twins, 4-2

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(credit: Minnesota Twins)

(credit: Minnesota Twins)

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ATLANTA (AP) – Nick Blackburn looked ready for the regular season before problems in Minnesota’s bullpen kept him from winning his final spring start.

Blackburn shut down Atlanta’s projected opening-day lineup during four scoreless innings but Mauro Gomez hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning to give the Braves a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins in an exhibition on Tuesday night.

Gomez hit the homer off former Atlanta left-hander Chuck James after the Braves scored two runs in the ninth off Matt Capps.

Gomez entered the game as a pinch-runner. His homer came in his first at-bat of the spring — and his first time playing in front of new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

“Pretty good impression,” Gonzalez said.

Gomez was one of 13 minor league players who joined the Braves for two exhibition games in Atlanta.

Blackburn surrendered one hit and walked one. Helped by two double plays, the right-hander faced the minimum 12 batters.

Blackburn won his third straight start while lowering his spring ERA to 1.73. He was 10-12 in 2010 with a 5.42 ERA, the worst of his three full seasons in the Twins’ rotation.

“I feel so much better about my mechanics right now,” Blackburn said.

“For the most part, I was keeping them off-balance. I mixed in a lot of curveballs and change-ups. That makes my harder stuff more effective. I’m really pleased about how my pitches were coming out of my hand.”

An error by Twins first baseman Chase Lambin led to the two runs, both unearned, off Capps, who hit a batter and gave up three hits while recording two outs.

“He ended up throwing a lot more pitches because we didn’t make a play,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Braves and Twins are scheduled to play again on Wednesday, but a rainy forecast prompted Gardenhire to tweak his pitching plans. Blackburn threw only four innings to give Gardenhire a chance to use more relievers.

Blackburn said he threw 30 more pitches in the bullpen after his four innings.

“Those guys were swinging out there so I was able to get some pretty quick outs,” Blackburn said.

Cristhian Martinez was the first of 10 pitchers who each threw one inning for Atlanta. Co-closers Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel each recorded a scoreless inning.

Jim Thome doubled off Scott Linebrink and scored in the second. Denard Span walked in the third and scored on Joe Mauer’s sacrifice fly off George Sherrill.

The 2-0 lead held until the bottom of the ninth.

Ed Lucas had a bases-loaded single before Capps struck out Shawn Bowman. J.C. Boscan’s infield hit tied the game.

Minnesota’s second reliever, Joe Nathan, pitched a perfect sixth inning.

NOTES: Braves RHP Jair Jurrjens, whose status for the start of the season is uncertain due to discomfort in his right ribcage area, played catch in the outfield. Gonzalez said he hopes Jurrjens can throw in the bullpen “in the next couple of days.” … Braves C David Ross threw out Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla trying to steal second base. … 1B Justin Morneau was 0 for 4 to drop his spring batting average at .167.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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