Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/17/12
When Twins starter Nick Blackburn left Wednesday's game after just two innings, Minnesota's bullpen knew it was in for a long night. On Wednesday in Detroit, Blackburn was gift-wrapped a 5-1 lead in the second inning but gave it all back and left the game with the Twins trailing, 6-5, after two. It was the shortest start of the year for Blackburn, who had "an issue with his thigh," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game. The two-inning start was Blackburn's shortest outing since he left the game after 1 13 innings on Aug. 21 of last year against New York with an arm injury. After Blackburn's early exit Wednesday, Minnesota's bullpen stepped in and kept the Twins in the game. Five different pitchers came out of the bullpen and combined to allow just one more run over the next seven innings as the Twins beat the Tigers 11-7."The bullpen came in and just did a super job," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Some huge pitches, some huge outs against a very talented lineup over there. A big win for us. A lot of fun."When Blackburn left after two innings, right-hander Jeff Gray relieved him and actually had a longer outing out of the bullpen 2 13 innings than Blackburn. Gray allowed one run on two hits when he gave up a leadoff single to Andy Dirks in the fifth and allowed a double to Miguel Cabrera one batter later.But that would be the last run Minnesota's bullpen allowed the rest of the way, as Gray and Co. kept the Tigers scoreless from that point."He was able to stretch out and at least get into his third inning," Gardenhire said of Gray. "Because of his pitch count, he was getting first-pitch swings. Those were huge."After Gray was done, Alex Burnett pitched a scoreless inning despite allowing two walks. Left-hander Brian Duensing pitched an inning and a third and got a key strikeout of Alex Avila for the second out of the seventh inning with runners on second and third.Jared Burton, who recently had an 11 13 inning scoreless streak snapped, was lights-out after Duensing in the seventh and eighth innings. He came on in relief with two outs in the seventh inning and struck out Ryan Raburn for the third out to leave runners on second and third. One inning later, Burton pitched a perfect eighth inning to set up the ninth."(Burnett) came in and had a big inning, got a big out and got through it and it just went on from there," Gardenhire said. "Duensing got some huge outs. Burton came in and got some huge outs and you finish it off there at the end."Prior to Wednesday, opponents were hitting .227 against Twins relievers, which put Minnesota's bullpen at ninth-best in baseball in that category. But that same group of relievers was the fourth-most worked bullpen in baseball, having pitched 120 innings before Wednesday's seven-inning effort. Only Kansas City, Baltimore and Boston had logged more innings out of the bullpen.Trevor Plouffe's two-run homer made it 11-7 heading into the ninth, giving Glen Perkins some breathing room in the ninth. Perkins pitched a scoreless ninth inning as the Twins won the first game of the two-game series. Closer Matt Capps Burnett was technically the pitcher of record, earning the win for Minnesota. But in reality, the entire Twins bullpen should have shared that victory."Sometimes you have to have that to win a game," outfielder Josh Willingham said of the patchwork effort by the relievers. "They had some tying runs on, the winning run at the plate one inning. We were able to get some big outs late."Kevin Gorg contributed to this report.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter
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