Valencia, riding a wave of confidence, delivers in 10th to give Twins a win
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A fantastic pitchers duel between Max Scherzer and Francisco Liriano eventually gave way to a battle between bullpens on Wednesday night.
Matt Guerrier blinked first in the eighth inning, but Tigers reliever Ryan Perry blinked harder in the 10th, allowing Danny Valencia to lace a game-winning RBI single up the middle to score Michael Cuddyer from second, giving the Minnesota Twins a 2-1 victory.
"My first walk-off hit in pro baseball," Valencia said.
"(Perry's) a tough pitcher. I faced him (Tuesday) and he had good stuff. He got me out pretty easily, so I was just hoping he'd give me a good pitch to hit."
That pitch was a 95-mph fastball after Valencia worked the count full. Valencia finished 2-for-4 with two singles, raising his season hitting line to .332/.375/.447.
Even the self-assured Valencia -- who when asked about his confidence said, "I've toned it down a lot, obviously, these past couple years" -- is somewhat surprised about the impact he's made during a pennant race.
"I'm just lucky they've put me in the position that I'm in... I knew I'd be able to play up here, obviously, but to do this well is pretty surreal. I'm just happy the way it's going right now."
Liriano turned in his second consecutive dominating performance, throwing seven scoreless innings on five hits, a walk and seven strikeouts. He allowed runners to reach scoring position with one out in both the third and fourth innings, but pitched out of both jams.
With the Twins leading 1-0 in the eighth inning, Jesse Crain allowed a leadoff single to Austin Jackson, then he induced Will Rhymes to pop out on a bunt attempt for the first out. After Randy Flores came on to retire pinch hitter Ryan Raburn, Guerrier issued a walk to Miguel Cabrera and an RBI single to Jhonny Peralta, tying the game at 1-1.
The run was charged to Crain -- just his second earned run allowed over his last 32 innings.
Scherzer held the Twins hitless through the first four innings, but Delmon Young led off the fifth with a double and advanced to third on a single by Valencia. Jose Morales then roped a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score Young from third base, putting the Twins up 1-0 at the time.
Jackson made an incredible, over-the-shoulder catch on the play with his back to the infield, doubling off Valencia at first base in the process.
The fifth inning was Scherzer's only hiccup. He completed nine, allowing only one earned run on four hits and a walk while striking out nine.
The Tigers were doubled off twice on the basepaths -- Brennan Boesch at first base with one out in the fifth inning on a liner to shortstop J.J. Hardy, and Will Rhymes at first base with two outs in the first inning on a fly ball to Young in left.
Jim Thome, who was scratched from the lineup when his back stiffened up before the game, slapped a pinch-hit single to left field in the bottom of the ninth.
RHP Scott Baker (12-9, 4.55) will face RHP Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.58) in Thursday's series finale as the Twins look for a three-game sweep.