Duensing battles control, stiffness, but Casilla plays hero in walkoff win
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Finally, some positive vibes.
Alexi Casilla delivered a two-out, two-RBI single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning off Toronto Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg, lifting the Minnesota Twins to a 5-4 win on Saturday afternoon.
The Twins (94-67) were in danger of losing their eighth game in nine tries, but Casilla -- who also delivered a two-RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning to cut the lead to 4-3 -- provided some much-needed good vibes.
With the Twins trailing by one to start the ninth, Delmon Young led off with a double to the gap in right-center. Joe Mauer pinch hit for Matt Tolbert, but he flied out to center, and Danny Valencia followed with a pop-out to first base.
Jason Kubel and Jose Morales then drew back-to-back full-count walks to load the bases for Casilla, who quickly fell behind 0-2. He wound up working the count full and fouling off two pitches before slapping a fastball back up the middle for the game-winning hit.
"In those situations, where the pressure is up, I don't know, I just kind of laugh a little bit," said Casilla, who now has four career walk-off hits in his career. "I take the pressure off me, and just be ready."
The other three walk-offs came on October 6, 2009 against the Tigers in Game 163; April 7, 2009 against the Mariners; and September 25, 2008 in a critical game against the White Sox.
Brian Duensing's recent struggles continued on Saturday afternoon. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits in five innings while also walking four batters for the third consecutive start, and manager Ron Gardenhire said the lefty exited early in part because of some soreness and stiffness in his shoulder muscles.
Duensing downplayed the soreness angle after the game.
"It's not necessarily sore," he said. "It's tight. I think the cold weather had a little bit to do with it. It just took me a little longer to warm up before the game.
"The first inning, it (was) just kind of tight. It didn't hurt, didn't bother me at all. Just the fact that I felt like I needed to stretch or something. After the first inning it got better."
When asked if he expected the issue to linger, Duensing said, "No, no, no. I'm 100% fine."
In his first 10 starts this season, Duensing (10-3, 2.62) posted a 2.25 ERA with 39 strikeouts, 10 walks, 65 hits allowed and five home runs given up in 68 innings.
In his last three starts, however, Duensing has lost his way, posting a 6.11 ERA with 12 strikeouts, 12 walks, 20 hits allowed and three home runs given up in 17 2/3 innings.
"I don't know if it's me not being aggressive enough, or not trusting my stuff, I don't know," Duensing said about the walks. "Mechanically, I think I'm fine. I'm just not performing very well right now. I think my next bullpen, I'll just be all nothing but throwing strikes and not trying to get too much of the corners -- trying to get more of the plate and allow the ball to run a little bit more."
Vernon Wells put the Blue Jays up 1-0 in the top of the first inning with a two-out RBI double, scoring Yunel Escobar from second. Jose Bautista was thrown out at home trying to score from first.
The Blue Jays answered immediately, with Edwin Encarnacion blasting a two-run homer off Duensing in the top of the second inning to make it 3-1.
In the top of the fourth inning, Aaron Hill and John Buck began the inning with back-to-back singles, and Encarnacion drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Duensing then induced Jose Molina to ground into a run-scoring double play, putting the Blue Jays up 4-1.
Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum allowed three earned runs on five hits in seven innings while striking out four.
The Twins and Blue Jays will wrap up the regular season on Sunday, with RHP Nick Blackburn (10-11, 5.55) scheduled to face LHP Marc Rzepczynski (3-4, 5.56).