Nick Blackburn, newly acquired Brian Fuentes combine on 2-hitter as Twins beat Mariners 1-0

Nick Blackburn and newly acquired reliever Brian Fuentes combined on a two-hitter Saturday, leading the Minnesota Twins to a 1-0 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Denard Span hit an RBI single in the third inning for the AL Central leaders, who began the day with a 3½-game cushion over the Chicago White Sox.

After a walk to Ryan Langerhans in the second, Blackburn (8-8) retired 21 in a row before he walked Chone Figgins with two outs in the ninth. Fuentes was brought in to make his Twins debut and struck out Russell Branyan for his 24th save.

A four-time All-Star, Fuentes was acquired Friday from the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said he plans to use the left-hander primarily in a setup role, but Fuentes entered Saturday with the game on the line to face Branyan, a dangerous left-handed hitter.

Fuentes had 23 saves in 27 chances with the Angels before the trade.

Blackburn allowed two hits against the punchless Mariners, both in the first inning. He struck out six and walked two on 98 pitches and came up just short of his first career shutout.

Making his second start since July 18, Blackburn entered the game with a 6.49 ERA. He allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings of a 4-0 loss to Texas on Monday.

The Twins lead the AL with 12 shutouts. The Mariners have been blanked a league-high 12 times.

Span singled home Danny Valencia in the third. The hit went in and out of the glove of center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who tried to make a low catch of the line drive.

Blackburn and Doug Fister (4-10) were in a pitching duel through seven innings. Sean White relieved Fister in the eighth.

Fister gave up one run and six hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked two on 107 pitches.

The Twins had seven hits, but hit into three double plays.

Branyan doubled and Jose Lopez singled with two outs in the first before Blackburn retired Casey Kotchman on a flyout.

NOTES: Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson left in the top of the first with a sprained right ankle sustained while leading off from first base. He is day to day. Matt Tolbert replaced him. ... Twins designated hitter Jim Thome left after one at-bat with lower back stiffness. Jason Repko replaced him. ... Floyd Little, inducted this month to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, threw out the first pitch. The former Denver Broncos and Syracuse University running back lives in Federal Way, Wash.