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Updated: August 17th, 2011 9:42pm
Twins Daily: Justin Morneau delivers decisive blow in win over Tigers

Twins Daily: Justin Morneau delivers decisive blow in win over Tigers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Just when it looked as if Jose Valverde was set to pitch out of a massive jam in the top of the ninth inning, Justin Morneau delivered the decisive blow for the Minnesota Twins in a 6-5 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.

The skinny

Matt Capps' ability to minimize damage in a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the bottom of the eighth inning kept the game tied 4-4, and Valverde's inability to do the same in the top of the ninth swung things in favor of the Twins.

After the Twins put three men on base against the Tigers' closer before an out was recorded, Valverde retook control of the inning by striking out Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer.

But the right-hander was unable to finish off Morneau, who delivered a two-run single up the middle to give the Twins a 6-4 lead. Joe Nathan came in and gave up an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera, but he eventually locked down his 11th save of the season.

Jim Thome's solo home run off Tigers' starter Brad Penny put the Twins up 1-0 in the top of the second inning, and his RBI single up the middle off Duane Below made it 4-3 in the top of the eighth.

The Tigers tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Wilson Betemit, but that was the only run Detroit would score in the inning after Glen Perkins loaded the bases with nobody out. Capps came in and induced three fly outs to pour water on the fire.

Twins starter Carl Pavano pitched seven innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits, striking out four and walking two.

Penny allowed three earned runs on five hits in six innings, striking out three and walking three.

Turning point

The Twins entered the seventh inning trailing 2-1 and looking stagnant against Penny, who has been one of the more hittable pitchers in baseball this season.

Danny Valencia led off the frame with a double to the gap in right-center, setting the table for Rene Tosoni, who was asked to bunt on the first two pitches he saw. Tosoni took ball one then bunted a fastball foul for strike one.

Instead of squaring up again, Tosoni turned on an inside fastball and belted it 10 rows up into the right-field seats to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.

The two sides exchanged blows in the final two innings, but Tosoni's blast was a jolt the Twins needed.

Numbers game

601: Career home runs for Thome, whose opposite-field solo blast in the second inning gave the Twins a 1-0 lead.

17: Home runs by Thome at Comerica Park, which is the most by any visiting player in the ballpark's history.

2: Hits taken away from Delmon Young by Ben Revere, who made a Willie Mays-style, over-the-shoulder catch in the first inning, and a diving catch in the right-center gap in the third inning.

2: Batters who reached base via bunt for the Twins in the ninth before Morneau's game-winner -- Nishioka, who bunted with two strikes and reached when Valverde bobbled, and Revere, who reached after Betemit's throw pulled Cabrera off first base.

2.39: Perkins' ERA on the season, which is still a solid mark, but inflated considering it dipped as low as 1.45 on August 5. The left-hander has allowed at least one run in five of his last six appearances.

Health report

• OF Michael Cuddyer missed his fifth straight game with a sore neck that actually felt worse Wednesday than it had in previous days, manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters. It's possible Cuddyer could land on the disabled list if he's unable to play Thursday.

• OF Denard Span missed his fourth consecutive game with some lingering concussion symptoms. He remains day-to-day, but like Cuddyer, Span runs the risk of landing back on the disabled list if he is unable to play Thursday.

• INF Matt Tolbert (sprained wrist) came on to pinch-run for Thome in the eighth inning, but was forced to grab a bat when his spot in the batting order came up in the ninth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Tolbert -- likely unable to swing -- dropped down a bunt and was thrown out at first base.

On deck

The Twins return to Target Field for an 11-game homestand beginning Thursday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when the New York Yankees come to town for a four-game series. But considering the Twins are buried deep in the standings, this series will likely feel mostly anticlimactic.

Including the postseason, the Twins are 3-19 against the Yankees over the last three seasons, and 19-59 under Gardenhire.

Thursday's pitching matchup features left-handers Brian Duensing (8-11, 4.53) and C.C. Sabathia (16-7, 2.93). Sabathia has been somewhat vulnerable in his last two outings, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits to the Tampa Bay Rays, and seven earned runs on nine hits to the Boston Red Sox. In his lone start against the Twins this season, Sabathia pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out six.

Duensing gave up a three-run homer before recording an out at Yankee Stadium on April 5, but he settled down to allow only four earned runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings, striking out seven in the process.

Coming up

• Friday: vs. Yankees, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.91) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (3-4, 6.55)
• Saturday: vs. Yankees, 6:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (8-9, 5.12) vs. RHP A.J. Burnett (9-9, 4.61)
• Sunday: vs. Yankees, 1:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (7-10, 4.53) vs. RHP Ivan Nova (12-4, 4.12)

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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