|Minnesota (90-60) «||1||0||0||2||1||4||1||0||x||9||13||0|
MINNEAPOLIS -- Struggling with his command and clinging to a one-run lead with the bases loaded, Brian Duensing showed why he could be a difference-maker come playoff time.
When the second-place Chicago White Sox lost 3-0 at Oakland later, Minnesota's magic number fell to two for winning its second consecutive AL Central title and sixth in nine years. The Twins can clinch Tuesday night with another victory over Cleveland and a White Sox loss to the Athletics.
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Run-scoring singles by Andy Marte and Drew Sutton trimmed the Twins' lead to 4-3 in the sixth, but Minnesota manager Rod Gardenhire let Duensing work out of the jam. He struck out Lou Marson and got Michael Brantley to line out with the bases loaded to preserve the lead.
"He was misfiring. He got some balls up, got some balls out and over the plate. He's a tough kid and he made some pitches when he had to," Gardenhire said. "We just really wanted him to get out and leave us with a lead. That's important for him in that situation. He did a really good job."
Cuddyer's two-run shot capped a four-run sixth and put the game out of reach.
Duensing (10-2) has allowed three runs or fewer in 10 of 11 starts this season. The left-hander entered the rotation midseason in both 2009 and 2010 and is 7-0 in 10 home starts.
After Valencia caught Brantley's line drive to third to end the sixth, Duensing yelled into his glove as he jogged back to the dugout.
"That was just a whole bunch of frustration coming out there," Duensing said. "Tonight was definitely a grind. I felt really good, but I think I was a little bit jumpy. After I got out of the sixth, the offense was able to come out and put it away."
Valencia has been one of the Twins' best hitters lately. His 409-foot homer in the fourth inning reached the second deck at Target Field and was the rookie's third in four games.
"You're seeing a guy develop right in front of your eyes, and he's doing it during a pennant race," Gardenhire said.
The Twins couldn't figure out Cleveland's young pitchers during the team's last series, but had no problems with 22-year-old Jeanmar Gomez on Monday. Gomez, who allowed eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings, is winless in his last six starts.
Most of the damage against Gomez (3-5) came with two outs.
"Younger guys tend to lose a little bit of focus and concentration. When you have two outs, you're three-quarters there," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "You've got to zero in, make that pitch and get out of there. It's part of the learning process for a kid like him."
The extra offense was needed because the Twins played without Joe Mauer, removed from Sunday's game after tweaking his knee in the sixth inning.
Gardenhire said the All-Star catcher was still sore and might get an MRI on Tuesday.
Jason Kubel also missed his fourth game with a sore left wrist.
Marte drove an RBI triple off the center-field wall in the second inning and finished with two hits and two RBI. But the Indians weren't able to seize the lead when they had a chance in the sixth.
"He's a tough pitcher," Brantley said. "We were just trying to get quality ABs and unfortunately we weren't able to do that with the bases loaded."
|The Twins' Michael Cuddyer celebrates with his teammates after hitting a two-run shot in the sixth. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Michael Brantley, CF||5||0||0||0||0||1||5||.237|
|Asdrubal Cabrera, SS||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.263|
|a- Luis Valbuena, PH-2B||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||.182|
|Shin-Soo Choo, RF||4||1||1||0||1||1||3||.295|
|Shelley Duncan, LF||3||2||1||0||1||0||3||.233|
|Jayson Nix, DH||4||0||0||0||0||3||4||.227|
|Matt LaPorta, 1B||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||.221|
|Andy Marte, 3B||3||0||2||2||1||0||0||.229|
|Drew Sutton, 2B-SS||4||0||1||1||0||1||2||.368|
|Lou Marson, C||3||0||1||0||1||2||3||.200|
|a-flied out for A. Cabrera in the 7th|
|2B - Shelley Duncan (9, Duensing)|
|3B - Andy Marte (2, Duensing)|
|RBI - Andy Marte 2 (19), Drew Sutton (5)|
|2-OUT RBI - Andy Marte (7)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Sutton-Valbuena-LaPorta|
|Jeanmar Gomez (L,3-5)||5.2||10||8||8||3||5||2||4.96|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeanmar Gomez 102-63, Tony Sipp 14-6, Frank Herrmann 15-10, Joe Smith 9-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeanmar Gomez 7-5, Frank Herrmann 1-1, Joe Smith 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Jeanmar Gomez 30, Tony Sipp 3, Frank Herrmann 5, Joe Smith 3|
|Denard Span, CF||5||1||2||2||0||1||2||.266|
|Orlando Hudson, 2B||4||1||1||1||0||1||0||.273|
|a- Alexi Casilla, PH-2B||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.265|
|Michael Cuddyer, 1B||4||3||2||2||1||1||0||.274|
|Jim Thome, DH||2||0||0||0||2||0||1||.276|
|Trevor Plouffe, PR-DH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.121|
|Delmon Young, LF||4||0||2||2||1||1||0||.297|
|Danny Valencia, 3B||4||1||1||1||0||0||5||.335|
|J.J. Hardy, SS||4||3||3||0||0||0||0||.274|
|Matt Tolbert, SS||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.235|
|Jose Morales, C||3||0||1||0||1||2||1||.211|
|Jason Repko, RF||4||0||1||1||0||0||1||.214|
|a-flied out for Hudson in the 7th|
|2B - Delmon Young (41, Gomez)|
|3B - Denard Span (10, Gomez)|
|HR - Michael Cuddyer (14, Gomez), Danny Valencia (5, Gomez)|
|RBI - Denard Span 2 (56), Orlando Hudson (35), Michael Cuddyer 2 (77), Delmon Young 2 (104), Danny Valencia (34), Jason Repko (9)|
|2-OUT RBI - Denard Span 2 (28), Orlando Hudson (13), Michael Cuddyer 2 (37), Delmon Young 2 (46), Danny Valencia (12), Jason Repko (5)|
|SB - Orlando Hudson (8, 2nd base off Gomez/Marson), Michael Cuddyer (7, 2nd base off Gomez/Marson)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Casilla-Tolbert-Cuddyer|
|Brian Duensing (W,10-2)||6||6||3||3||4||6||0||2.19|
|Pitches-Strikes - Brian Duensing 92-56, Jesse Crain 19-11, Matt Guerrier 8-8, Glen Perkins 16-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brian Duensing 6-6, Matt Guerrier 1-1, Glen Perkins 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Brian Duensing 28, Jesse Crain 4, Matt Guerrier 3, Glen Perkins 4|
|Attendance - 39228|
|Game Time - 2:42|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Brian Knight, First Base - Gerry Davis, Second Base - Sam Holbrook, Third Base - Greg Gibson|