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Updated: June 8th, 2012 10:52pm
Twins, 'playing with confidence,' use late clutch hitting to beat Cubs

Twins, 'playing with confidence,' use late clutch hitting to beat Cubs

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A sharp single down the left-field line by Josh Willingham scored Darin Mastroianni from third base in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Minnesota Twins a walk-off, 8-7 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Target Field on Friday night.

The skinny

Mastroianni opened the bottom of the 10th inning by drawing a five-pitch walk against Cubs closer-du-jour Shawn Camp, who was in his second inning of work. Ben Revere bunted Mastroianni over to second, and Jamey Carroll beat out an infield dribbler to put men on the corners with one out.

Willingham ended the game with a base hit to left.

The Twins have now won four straight games at Target Field and eight out of 10 overall.

"The guys are playing with confidence, whether you're up or down they feel like they can score some runs now," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "If our pitching gives us a chance we always feel like we can compete with people. We're finding ways to win games late."

Trailing by one to start the ninth, Willingham started a rally off Camp with a line drive off the base of the fence in left field. The ball was hit so hard Willingham had to settle for a single, but his hit set the table for Justin Morneau, who drove a 1-2 changeup off the bottom of the scoreboard in right-center.

Morneau legged out a triple and gave way to pinch runner Denard Span, who did not start due to a bout with the flu. Despite having the winning run on third base with nobody out the Twins were unable to cash in. Ryan Doumit struck out swinging, Alexi Casilla bounced into a fielder's choice, and Brian Dozier popped out.

"I thought we were going to do it there in the ninth. It looked really good," Willingham said.

"I don't think we ever get down or feel like we're out of a game when we get down a few runs early."

P.J. Walters struggled for the third consecutive outing, allowing five earned runs on eight hits and a walk in just five innings. In his previous two outings he allowed six earned runs on 15 hits and eight walks in just 10 1/3 innings.

The Cubs jumped out to an early lead when David DeJesus' sac fly drove in Starlin Castro, who tripled. Alfonso Soriano made it 2-0 with a drive off the batter's eye in center field.

Trevor Plouffe's solo homer off the facing of the second deck in left field tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth inning.

In the fifth, Reed Johnson singled home Ian Stewart, who also tripled, to put the Cubs up 3-2. Castro delivered a two-run homer shortly after to make it 5-2.

Both of the Cubs' triples likely could have been prevented, or at least limited to doubles. The first one bounced off the tip of Ben Revere's glove and behind him to the fence. Stewart's triple grazed off the glove of a leaping Mastroianni near the right-field fence.

The Twins cut Chicago's lead to 5-3 on an RBI triple by Carroll in the bottom of the fifth inning, then tied it in the sixth on a two-out, RBI single by Brian Dozier and a two-out triple by Mastroianni.

Doumit's solo blast off left-hander James Russell in the bottom of the seventh inning put the Twins in front after falling behind by three runs early, but a two-run bomb by Alfonso Soriano into the third deck in left field off left-hander Glen Perkins in the eighth inning put the Cubs back in front 7-6.

Cubs lefty Travis Wood was on the ropes several times, but he kept the damage to just three runs in five innings. Wood allowed six hits, walked three and struck out three.

Friday marked the first time the Cubs had stepped foot inside Target Field. The Twins and Cubs last met in 2009 at Wrigley Field, where the Twins took two out of three.

Turning point

Morneau came up empty on two massive hacks to start his at-bat in the ninth inning -- one on a changeup by Camp and the other on a slider in the dirt.

He was clearly trying to end the game with one swing, but wound up settling down and staying back on the 1-2 changeup.

"I just tried to eliminate everything that happened," Morneau said. "Just got to stay aggressive in that situation. If I go up there and all's I'm trying to do is make contact, then I'm rolling into a double play. If I'm staying aggressive -- it's better to strike out being aggressive than it is to hit something soft to the second baseman. So I think that's kind of the mindset there. ...

"That was a huge win for us."

Numbers game

24: Baserunners for the Twins.

1: Walk for Morneau against left-handed pitching this year -- a walk he coaxed off Wood in the first inning.

29: Career multi-homer games for Soriano.

3: Twins runners thrown out on the base paths.

2: Draft picks signed by the Twins on Friday -- second-round pick LHP Mason Melotakis and fourth-round pick RHP Zack Jones. Both will be assigned to Elizabethton.

Health report

Joe Mauer was out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game, but he did take batting practice and his thumb is said to be feeling better. Mauer was available to pinch hit and could return to the lineup Saturday.

Overheard

"There you go. There's your Twitter World. You can tell them that's why."
-- Gardenhire after explaining why Mauer didn't pinch hit in the ninth inning for Casilla or Dozier. Gardenhire said it was likely the Cubs would walk Mauer, figuring they wouldn't let Mauer be the one to win the game. Gardenhire also said using Mauer in that spot would have forced Mastroianni to play second base.

On deck

Saturday: vs. Cubs, 1:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (4-1, 1.86) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-3, 3.13)
Sunday: vs. Cubs, 1:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-6, 6.46) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (1-3, 2.59)

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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