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Updated: April 23rd, 2011 2:36pm
Twins Daily: Struggling offense explodes for 10 runs in win over Tribe

Twins Daily: Struggling offense explodes for 10 runs in win over Tribe

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau's return helped spark the Minnesota Twins offense, which snapped a 28-game streak of scoring five runs or less and backed a strong start from Brian Duensing in Saturday's 10-3 win over the Cleveland Indians at Target Field.

The skinny

The Twins hadn't exceeded the five-run barrier since Sept. 27. They doubled it on Saturday -- and nearly doubled the margin in their previous seven wins, which were decided by 10 runs combined.

Five players had two hits each, seven players scored, Jason Kubel drove in three runs and four other players -- including Morneau, who had missed five games with the flu -- drove in two.

"We haven't been able to fill our lineup out very much lately, and that's the way it goes," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "No one's going to cry for you, and other teams are going to hopefully get a chance to play you when you're beat up, and that's just the way the game is. So, we have to go out and do what we did (Saturday), and that's attack."

Jason Repko provided the last of three straight singles in the third inning, scoring the game's first run, and Kubel followed with a two-run double that made it 3-0. Morneau's bases-loaded single extended the lead to 5-1 in the fifth, when another run came home on Michael Cuddyer's fielder's choice grounder before Indians starter Fausto Carmona departed -- and the Twins weren't done.

They added two in the sixth on Repko's second RBI single and Kubel's sacrifice fly. Then, in the seventh, Jim Thome singled and Danny Valencia launched a two-run homer to left.

That was plenty of support for Duensing, who allowed one run on five hits over seven innings in which he struck out three, walked one and threw 90 pitches (59 strikes) before the score dictated his depature. The Indians' only other offense came in the eighth, when Grady Sizemore lined a two-run homer to right field off of reliever Dusty Hughes, and Joe Nathan threw a 1-2-3 ninth to end it.

Dating to last September, the Twins' previous nine wins had come by two runs or less.

"It was a little more fun (Saturday)," Kubel said. "Not to go up there, not every at-bat's a big pressure situation. I'd just rather go out and have a good time and relax a little bit."

Turning point

After Repko sacrificed runners to second and third in the fifth inning, the Indians opted to walk Kubel and pitch to Morneau, who entered the game hitting .208 with only three RBIs in 56 plate appearances.

"I haven't hit as well as I have in the past yet this year," Morneau said, "but there's no reason I don't believe I'm going to get a hit there."

And that's what Morneau did, ripping Carmona's first pitch -- a changeup -- into right-center field for a two-run single that extended the lead to 5-1 and sent a charge through Target Field.

Morneau added a single in the eighth on Saturday to finish 2-for-5 and raise his average to .224. His only apparent hiccup was a fourth-inning throw he appeared to short-arm at first base, rather than extending for a possible double play.

"I was surprised with actually how comfortable I felt," Morneau said. "First at-bat, I saw some pitches, hit a ball pretty good and flew out to the track (in left field). I said, 'All right, I guess I'm going to be all right,' because I didn't feel -- I wasn't sure what I was going to feel going up there, but I saw the ball all right and had a good day."

Numbers game

3.00: Earned-run average -- the best among Twins starters -- for Duensing, who improved to 2-0 in four starts this season. "I got behind a lot (Saturday) in the count, wasn't throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes," Duensing said. "But I just threw a lot of sinkers and tried to get them to roll over. I'm not a power guy, so that's what I have to do, is just try to let them put it in play and hopefully they get themselves out."

2: Strikeouts in the ninth inning for Nathan, who posted his first scoreless outing in his past four appearances -- a stretch in which he lost the closer's role.

39,459: Attendance for Saturday's game, the Twins' fourth sellout in six home games this season.

21: Major-league games rained out in all of 2010.

15: Major-league games rained out in the first three weeks of the 2011 season.

2: Rainouts involving the Twins -- neither of which has been rescheduled. Friday's game likely will be made up as part of a doubleheader during the teams' series July 18 to 20 at Target Field, Gardenhire said. The Twins want to make up an April 6 rainout against the New York Yankees on their off day Sept. 8. But the Yankees have objected, Gardenhire said, instead preferring the Twins fly to New York on an off day between two home games.

Health watch

• LF Delmon Young (sore ribs) missed a third consecutive game and won't play on Sunday, but he is expected to rejoin the lineup on Tuesday after the off day.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (right shoulder bursitis) threw 27 pitches (16 strikes) in one inning of a rehab outing with Class-A Fort Myers on Saturday night. He allowed a leadoff triple that came around to score, walked another batter and topped out at 93 mph on the radar gun.

Overheard

"Wow. Seems like an awful lot of baseball to go to a one-game shootout, I can tell you that. That'd be all good and fine, but we've played Game 163 and there's definitely a finality to it. But if you're going to add people, I don't know about one-game shootouts. I think you have a playoff round, another round, and as long as we don't start playing Christmas music when the season's still going on, I think we'll all be happy."
-- Gardenhire, on the possibility of baseball expanding to a 10-team playoff with multiple play-in games

On deck

The Twins used Friday's rainout to shuffle their rotation and separate their left-handers, bumping Francisco Liriano to Tuesday. So, Carl Pavano (1-2, 5.47 ERA) will start Sunday's shortened-series finale (1:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN Twin Cities), five days after getting rocked for eight runs -- all with two outs -- in 4 2/3 innings of a loss at Baltimore. He'll oppose fellow right-hander Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 4.85), who originally was scheduled to start on Saturday. The 24-year-old Venezuelan has made 16 big-league starts over parts of three seasons -- including two starts against the Twins, who have scored three runs on 11 hits against Carrasco in 13 1/3 innings.

Coming up

• Monday: Off.
• Tuesday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-3, 7.40) vs. RHP Wade Davis (2-2, 2.73).
• Wednesday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m. TBD vs. RHP Jeff Niemann (0-3, 7.08).

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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