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Updated: August 23rd, 2011 9:50pm
Twins Daily: Duensing allows 10 of 13 right-handers to reach base

Twins Daily: Duensing allows 10 of 13 right-handers to reach base

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins bats went silent again on Tuesday night, and Brian Duensing was unable to record an out in the third inning as the Baltimore Orioles cruised to an 8-1 win at Target Field.

The skinny

A rough summer for Duensing didn't get any better on Tuesday night, as the left-hander recorded only six outs before being lifted.

Duensing gave up seven earned runs on nine hits and a walk in just two-plus innings, and he was pulled after four straight Orioles hitters reached base to start the third inning -- a stretch that culminated with a two-RBI triple by Mark Reynolds and an RBI single by Robert Andino.

Facing right-hander Alfredo Simon, the Twins were only able to score one run on three hits and a walk. Simon pitched eight innings and struck out eight in what was easily his most impressive start of the season.

Danny Valencia accounted for the team's only run with a solo homer in the third inning.

"He had us guessing pretty much all night long," manager Ron Gardenhire said about Simon. "Danny put one good swing out there early, and we really had to battle the rest of the night."

Not exactly an inspiring offensive performance, considering Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer were penciled into the same lineup for the first time since April 12.

After homering against his former team on Monday night, Orioles' shortstop J.J. Hardy went 3-for-5 with three singles on Tuesday, raising his batting line to .273/.315/.513.

"More than anything else, you get behind 7-0 and it puts you in a deep hole and takes you away from really anything you can do offensively," Gardenhire said, "other than swing and go base to base."

Turning point

What looked like an innocent comebacker wound up derailing Duensing's entire night.

Leading off the top of the second, Vladimir Guerrero hit a bouncer back toward the mound. Duensing reached to his left with his bare pitching hand and knocked the ball down. The left-hander fielded the ball about 20 feet from first baseman Mauer, but he spiked his throw into the dirt and toward the camera well, allowing Guerrero to reach second base.

"I couldn't even really feel the ball in my hand, to be honest," Duensing said. "I mean, I still should have made the play, but I really couldn't even feel it."

Gardenhire came out to the mound with trainer Dave Pruemer to check on Duensing, who waved everyone off after throwing a couple warm-up pitches. But the second pitch he threw to the next batter, Matt Wieters, skipped to the backstop for a wild pitch, moving Guerrero to third.

The inning only got worse from there.

Wieters doubled home Guerrero to put the Orioles on the board. Mark Reynolds then reached on an infield single down the third-base line, and two batters later Nolan Reimold blasted a home run into the left-field seats to give Baltimore a 4-0 advantage.

Duensing went on to give up three more runs in the third inning,but he said his hand "didn't really affect me too much, to be honest. Maybe like the first three or four pitches after that.

"It was just kind of numb. ... But that wasn't realy the issue today. I was up in the zone again, and I wasn't executing again. You can't pitch like that at this level. I've got to find a way to fix it."

Numbers game

10: Baserunners allowed by Duensing in only two-plus innings.

10-of-13: Right-handed batters who reached base against Duensing on Tuesday night, including five extra-base hits and a walk. Against Duensing, right-handed batters are now hitting .335/.388/.573 with 61 extra-base hits in 479 plate appearances. To put that into context, the .961 OPS allowed by Duensing against righties is roughly equivalent to him facing Prince Fielder (.962 OPS) every time up -- if Fielder wasn't left-handed. Asked why he struggles so much against righties, Duensing was left searching for answers. "I don't know. I really don't know. Maybe they're seeing it better or something. I mean, I don't know. I'm going to try and figure that out though."

14: Home runs for Valencia.

38: Pitches thrown by right-hander Lester Oliveros in his Twins debut. Coming on in relief of Duensing, Oliveros retired the first five batters he faced, striking out two, but he allowed two hits, a walk and a run to start the top of the fifth and was taken out for Alex Burnett. "He threw the ball great," Gardenhire said. "The ball came out of his hand real well. As usual, when you're going to your bullpen that early in a ballgame you have to force the issue. We didn't want him to have to throw that many pitches, but he actually handled it very well. A nice arm slot, and the ball jumps out of his hand."


"I think the big one with him is he gets a little fastball-happy on them. With the lefties he'll spin it, and he'll cut the ball, and with the righties he gets trying to pump fastballs. And when you miss out and over the plate, they kill it."
-- Gardenhire, before the game, talking about Duensing's struggles against right-handed hitters.

Health report

• Orioles outfielder Adam Jones left in the third inning with mild chest pains and shortness of breath. The team was concerned enough to place a 911 call from the visitors' dugout.

• An MRI on right-hander Nick Blackburn's right forearm showed inflammation, which was pushing on a nerve, likely causing the sharp pain he experienced on Sunday. Blackburn will rest for a week or two, but the injury is not considered season-ending.

• RHP Scott Baker (elbow) began a throwing program Tuesday, and he could pitch again this season "if he's ready," according to head athletic trainer Rick McWane. "There's no timetable set."

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (back) took batting practice in the cage Tuesday and fielded groundballs without any soreness. He was available if needed, but Plouffe started at shortstop in his place.

• 2B Alexi Casilla (hamstring) went through full running drills with no problems. He's eligible to come off the disabled list on August 28.

On deck

When the series continues Wednesday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) right-hander Kevin Slowey (0-1, 6.20) will face right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (5-16, 4.55).

In his first official start of the season last week, Slowey was pounded by the Yankees for six earned runs on nine hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings. These last five weeks are somewhat of an audition for Slowey -- to make his case for a spot in the Twins' rotation, or for a spot in another team's rotation, should the Twins elect to trade the right-hander.

Despite taking a loss, Guthrie pitched well against the Twins on April 21, allowing only two earned runs on seven hits and no walks in seven innings. In three starts this month, Guthrie owns a 7.32 ERA with five strikeouts, five walks and four home runs allowed in 19 2/3 innings.

Coming up

• Thursday: vs. Orioles, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (9-9, 4.85) vs. RHP Jo-Jo Reyes (6-10, 5.44)
• Friday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (3-3, 3.12) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (11-8, 5.17)
• Saturday: vs. Tigers, 3:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-10, 4.54) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (19-5, 2.28)

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