Twins blank the Tigers to pull closer in AL Central race
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Duensing was second-guessing himself late Friday night. The rookie wondered if he'd disappointed a raucous Metrodome crowd. This wasn't about his pitching. Duensing had just tossed 6 1/3 impressive innings as the Twins defeat...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Duensing was second-guessing himself late Friday night. The rookie wondered if he'd disappointed a raucous Metrodome crowd.
This wasn't about his pitching. Duensing had just tossed 6 1/3 impressive innings as the Twins defeated Detroit, 3-0, trimming their deficit to three games.
Duensing wondered if he'd been too stoic walking off the mound, as an announced crowd of 32,693 roared its approval. Manager Ron Gardenhire took the ball, and the lefthander just strolled off _ no hat tip, nothing.
"The ovation was nice, kind of gave me some chills," Duensing said. "I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know if I was supposed to acknowledge it or just keep walking."
Duensing (4-1) said it's not like he had pitched eight shutout innings or something. Never mind that he's 4-0 with a 1.72 ERA in seven starts and emerged out of nowhere to save this injury-riddled rotation.
This marked the third time in four September starts that Duensing has held his opponent scoreless, and he was too shy to acknowledge the fans. Didn't his teammates give him grief?
"No one said anything, so I don't know," he said. "I'm just going to leave it _ just thanks, fans, that was awesome. Hopefully they keep coming out. We've got some big games coming up."
Indeed, the Twins have six more against the Tigers, including two this weekend, and these contests might be meaningless if it weren't for Duensing.
When Francisco Liriano went down with left arm fatigue in mid-August, Gardenhire waited and waited that week to name Duensing as his replacement.
By Friday, Gardenhire could only marvel at Duensing's poise, pitching opposite Tigers 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello. The Twins' only damage off Porcello (13-9) came on Michael Cuddyer's two-run homer in the fourth inning and Delmon Young's RBI double in the sixth.
The Twins extended their winning streak to five games, matching their longest of the season, and their three-game deficit is the smallest since Aug. 4.
"Heck of a baseball game," Gardenhire said. "Very exciting, huge crowd, playoff atmosphere. That's two young pitchers stepping up on a big stage,.
Duensing, 26, held the Tigers to four hits, including two that didn't leave the infield in the seventh inning. On the second one, Duensing dived off the mound toward first base, trying unsuccessfully to corral a tapper from Brandon Inge.
It was the only time all night Duensing overextended himself, but with a 3-0 lead, Gardenhire wasn't about to let him come undone, so he summoned lefthander Jose Mijares.
"He was over 100-plus pitches, and that dive was really ugly," Gardenhire said.
Actually, Duensing tripped.
He started falling and "tried to turn it into a dive and just made a fool of myself," Duensing said.
Then he snubbed the fans. But Minnesotans are a forgiving bunch. If he keeps pitching like this, and the Twins continue their remarkable surge, they'll be happy to keep coming to their feet.
-- Copyright (c) 2009, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services