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Updated: July 23rd, 2011 6:10pm
Twins Daily: Successful return by Baker snaps skid against Tigers

Twins Daily: Successful return by Baker snaps skid against Tigers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Thanks in large part to Scott Baker's successful return from the disabled list, the Minnesota Twins snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Detroit Tigers with a 4-1 win at Target Field on Saturday.

The skinny

Baker's return from the disabled list was brief -- five innings and 82 pitches, by design -- but extremely effective, as the right-hander allowed zero runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five.

"They asked how I was after four innings and I felt pretty good," Baker said. "On a limited pitch count you want to throw as many innings as you can with a limited amount of pitches. ...

"In the bullpen, I wasn't real sharp. I didn't feel like I was real sharp today. They're a good hitting lineup -- they foul a lot of pitches off and make you work. I fell behind a couple of guys, but was able to come up with a couple of pitches when I needed them. I guess that's kind of to be expected."

Baker has now given up zero runs in four of his last five starts, albeit two of them were five-inning outings. In the start prior to that stretch, Baker pitched a complete game against the Texas Rangers, allowing only one run on five hits.

Saturday's effort, which helped snap an 11-game losing streak to the Tigers, lowered Baker's ERA to 2.88 on the season. Most importantly, he appears to be healthy once again.

"I felt like maybe I could have gone in either direction (arm-wise), but as the game went on it was great," Baker said. "It was exactly what I wanted to happen. But you can do whatever you want to do in between starts to duplicate that intensity, it's just not going to happen until you get a game satiation. Those first few pitches were obviously more effort than I can create in a bullpen setting, but it was great. I can't complain. I felt good."

Offensively, the Twins put nine men on base in five innings against right-hander Brad Penny, including a solo home run by Danny Valencia in the second inning and a two-run double by Delmon Young in the fourth.

"I like to beat these guys," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We needed a win today. It was big. They've played better than us up to this point, and we're still trying to catch them. But today would have really made it a lot tougher on us if we would have lost again."

Turning point

Much like they did against Kansas City's Bruce Chen earlier in the homestand, the Twins offense missed a couple chances early on to post crooked numbers against Penny on Saturday.

That is, until Delmon Young drove a ringing double off the wall in right-center, scoring Valencia and Jason Kubel.

"That was nice," Gardenhire said. "He shot the ball the other way, a big at-bat. (Penny) was spinning some balls on him then tried to go away with a fastball it looked like,and Delmon drove it the other way, which was big for Delmon. We need him. We need him to drive in runs."

Young's knock gave the Twins a 4-0 advantage, which was plenty for Baker and company.

Numbers game

39-18: The Twins' record this season when scoring first.

14: Stolen bases for Ben Revere.

2: Groundball double plays hit into by Revere, nearly matching his season total of three heading into the game. "That doesn't happen," Gardenhire said. "I'll bet your money, not mine -- I'll bet your money that he wouldn't do that again."

1.11: Baker's ERA in his last six outings, while also recording a 0.84 WHIP in that time period.

12: Home runs this season for Valencia -- all to left field. He trails Michael Cuddyer by two for the team lead.

7: Saves for Joe Nathan, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Overheard

"Um, I'm batting eighth?"
-- Young, when asked what the big differences are with Kubel back in the lineup.

Health report

• Baker (right elbow discomfort) came off the disabled list to make his first start since July 5. "I think today, more than anything, felt like a good workout," he said. "I'm sure I'll be a little sore (Sunday), but as long as it's not that hurting type soreness then I'll be perfectly fine because I'll have plenty of time to get that out before my next start."

• OF Denard Span (concussion) had a scheduled day off on Friday. He is set to play seven innings in center field for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday.

On deck

When Francisco Liriano last pitched against the Tigers on May 10, he was chased from the game in three innings, surrendering four earned runs in a deflating 10-2 defeat. The Twins are in desperate need for that not to happen again as Liriano takes the mound Sunday (3:10 p.m. 1500 ESPN) with a chance to split the four-game series with the Tigers and draw back within five games of the AL Central lead. Liriano (6-7, 4.56) was solid in his last appearance, allowing one run off four hits in six innings of work versus the Indians on Tuesday.

Countering Liriano for the Tigers will be right-hander Rick Porcello, who has allowed three runs or more in six of his last seven outings. The Twins have struggled in the past with Porcello (9-6, 4.76). Owning a career 2.67 ERA against the Twins -- his lowest versus American League opponents -- Porcello has held them to a combined three runs and nine hits in two games this season.

Coming up

• Monday: @ Texas, 7:05 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.87) vs. LHP Derek Holland (8-4, 4.65)
• Tuesday: @ Texas, 7:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.24) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (10-4, 2.94)
• Wednesday: @ Texas, 7:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (7-8, 4.53) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (10-7, 3.93)

Nate Sandell contributed to this report

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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