KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Win or lose, injuries keep piling up for the Minnesota Twins.
Starter Nick Blackburn left after five inning with tightness in his back and Alexi Casilla matched a career high with four hits and drove in two runs, leading the Minnesota Twins to a 7-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.
Blackburn was the latest addition to an overcrowded Twins training room.
“They’re probably tired of seeing people,” Blackburn said. “They’re shutting the doors pretty soon. I don’t think they are too concerned about my back and I’m not either. I think it was more of precautionary type move. I don’t think it’s going to be anything serious. I think it’s going to be a little stiff tomorrow. We won’t really know a whole lot until I do wake up.”
Blackburn said he hurt it while leaping for Alcides Escobar’s comebacker to end the fourth.
“I just reached up quick, a little jump and it’s almost like how you hyperextend your back,” Blackburn said. “I don’t think it’s going to be anything serious. I went out there and threw the fifth. It didn’t feel great. I wasn’t real comfortable, but obviously it’s not something very severe if you’re able to go out there and pitch.”
Blackburn gave up two runs on seven hits, throwing 80 pitches. Blackburn is 4-0 in his past seven starts after finishing April with four straight losses. Five Twins relievers held the Royals to one single after Blackburn departed.
“It’s a strained muscle,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He went back in the fifth inning and definitely felt it on fastballs. We think he’ll be OK.”
Justin Morneau and Denard Span were both held out of the lineup. Morneau had a sore left wrist and Span was a late scratch with a stiff neck.
The Twins have eight players on the disabled list, but it appears likely left-hander Francisco Liriano will be activated Tuesday and start at Cleveland. Liriano, who has been out with shoulder inflammation, threw a bullpen session Saturday at Kansas City.
Catcher Joe Mauer, who has played only nine games this season and is on the 60-day disabled list with bilateral leg weakness, is rehabbing with Class-A Fort Myers in the Florida State League and was scheduled to be the designated hitter Saturday night.
Casilla hit RBI singles in the third and seventh innings to help the Twins to their third straight win, equaling a season high. Casilla’s other four-hit game was Sept. 3, 2007 against the Cleveland Indians.
“A super night for Alexi,” Gardenhire said. “Alexi is starting to play like we hoped he would at the start of the season. We’ve seen him play like for long periods of time and one year he was like that the whole year. He just has his moments, but right now he’s as focused as I’ve seen him.”
The Twins scored five runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Delmon Young and Danny Valencia got the RBIs in the sixth.
The Twins batted around in the seventh — opening the inning with five straight hits to chase Royals starter Luke Hochevar, who gave up hits to eight of the last 11 batters he faced. Ben Revere, Michael Cuddyer and Casilla had run-producing singles. Revere extended his hitting streak to a career-high eight games.
“Casilla killed us,” Jeff Francoeur said. “He was a pain in the rear.”
The Twins’ 13 hits included two doubles by Matt Tolbert. Casilla drove him home each time. Cuddyer homered to lead off the ninth, his 19th career homer against Kansas City which is his most against any club.
Hochevar, the first player picked in the 2006 draft, gave up six runs and 11 hits in six-plus innings. Hochevar (3-6), who has allowed 18 runs in 18 innings in his past three starts, is 0-3 in six starts since a May 1 victory.
The Royals scored both of their runs in the third. Alcides Escobar snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a one-out single. Alex Gordon and Melky Cabrera had singles to load the bases. Eric Hosmer’s hit scored Escobar. Francoeur’s sacrifice fly brought home Gordon for his 500th career RBI.
The Royals have lost 11 of 14 to drop a season-low eight games below .500.
NOTES: Manager Ned Yost said the Royals still haven’t decided yet who will start Tuesday in the place of RHP Sean O’Sullivan, who went on the disabled list Friday with biceps tendinitis. … Twins LF Brian Dinkelman had a memorable big league debut. He was hit by the first pitch he saw in the second inning. His sixth inning single was his first hit.
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