Brian Duensing pitched two different games on Independence Day, skating through the first four innings against Tampa Bay before dominating the final five to earn his second career shutout. Tsuyoshi Nishioka smacked a two-run double the opposite way to get the Twins scoring started in the second, Michael Cuddyer homered to extend the lead in the third, and Danny Valencia put three insurance runs on the board with a deep fly to left to seal the victory.
Through the first four innings, Duensing had allowed five hits and three walks, yet somehow kept the Rays from crossing home plate. In the first, he got a bases-loaded double play to end the inning; in the second, Minnesota turned yet another Twin killing to erase an early rally. In the fourth, he allowed a leadoff single to BJ Upton, but the speedy center fielder was caught attempting to swipe second (though replays suggested he was safe and second-base umpire Gary Darling blew the call.) All told, the Rays left five men on base and made three outs on the bases, counting the double plays, and failed to turn all those early runners into runs.
Duensing also walked the leadoff batter in the fifth, but from there, he would dominate, retiring the next ten batters he faced. Ultimately, other than a Sean Rodriguez single in the eighth, Duensing would pitch flawlessly from that point on, even striking out three men in an inning for the first time in his career. The lefty finished with seven punch-outs, six in the final five innings, and threw 119 pitches on the way to his first complete game of 2011.
The Twins gave Duensing the early lead by getting to All-Star Rays lefty David Price in the second inning. Valencia singled to lead off the inning and Jason Repko slapped a base hit of his own with one out. Matt Tolbert drew a walk to load the bases, and Nishioka curved a double into the right-field corner to score a pair. Ben Revere followed with a groundout to score Tolbert, and the Twins had a 3-0 lead.
Michael Cuddyer followed with a solo home run in the third, a shot into the left-field upper deck that was his first-ever hit against Price. In the eighth, with the Twins leading 4-0, they put some more distance between themselves and the Rays thanks to Valencia. Joe Mauer was hit with a pitch and Cuddyer walked on four not-very-close pitches from Adam Russell, before Valencia lofted a fly ball just over the wall in left, his tenth homer of the year.
Fitting, I suppose, that the team wearing red, white, and blue should come through on July Fourth. Studs and duds after the jump:
3) Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who not only drove in two runs, he did NOT, repeat NOT, make an error today. Alert the press!
2) Danny Valencia, who had three hits, drove in three, and scored twice.
1) Brian Duensing, for obvious reasons.
3 (tie)) Alexi Casilla, Joe Mauer and Ben Revere, all of whom played good defense but who combined to go 0-11 at the top of the lineup.
1) Luke Hughes, who not only went 0-4 but struck out three times. Maybe being Australian hurt him today.