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Updated: May 22nd, 2011 6:35pm
Twins Daily: Sweep at Arizona extends division deficit to 14.5 games

Twins Daily: Sweep at Arizona extends division deficit to 14.5 games

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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For all of the positive signs the Minnesota Twins showed on their West Coast road swing, they couldn't keep momentum from drying up in the desert. Ryan Roberts' sacrifice fly in the seventh inning lifted the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-2 win on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep at Chase Field.

The skinny

On Friday and Saturday, Twins pitchers blew leads in the late innings. On Sunday, the offense never gave them one.

Francisco Liriano kept the Twins (15-30) in the game with six solid innings on the mound and an RBI single in the fifth that cut the Diamondbacks' lead to 2-1. Delmon Young pounded a breaking ball into the left-center field seats -- his first homer of the season -- to knot the score in the top of the seventh.

But Willie Bloomquist led off the bottom half with a double into the left-center field gap against reliever Alex Burnett, and Ben Revere's bobble allowed Bloomquist to take third, then score on Roberts' flyout to deep center.

That was enough to finish off the Twins, who came to Arizona with a three-game winning streak and left on the wrong end of a sweep for the fifth time since late April. Within 11½ games of Cleveland in the American League Central three days earlier, the Twins headed home a season-high 14½ games back.

Turning point

Revere singled to lead off the eighth inning, turning the Twins' fastest player into the potential tying run. But Roberts fielded Trevor Plouffe's hard bunt and gunned out Revere at second.

Arizona starter Daniel Hudson took it from there, fanning Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau to end the threat and complete eight innings with six strikeouts. Closer J.J. Putz worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 12th save.

Who's hot

• Liriano's awful April (1-4, 9.13 ERA, 18 strikeouts, 18 walks) has given way to a solid May, although walks remain an issue. Even with one start short-circuited by an illness, Liriano has allowed only seven earned runs over 25 innings (2.52 ERA) in four outings, striking out 16 and walking 14.

• Misadventures in left field notwithstanding, Young finally is showing signs of life. Since a two-day absence from the lineup last week -- at a time he had 10 strikeouts and only one hit in 16 at-bats since coming off the disabled list -- Young has hit safely in five consecutive games. He's 7-for-18 (.389) in that stretch with a home run and five runs scored.

Who's not

• The Twins' bullpen was brutal in Arizona, even without considering the injury that knocked out its most consistent performer. Relievers combined to throw seven innings and take two losses over three games, allowing 10 earned runs (12.86 ERA) on 13 hits with three walks and only two strikeouts.

• C Drew Butera continues to contend for the worst batting average in baseball. His 0-for-4 performance on Saturday lowered his average to .083 (2-for-24) since May 8 and .110 for the season. He's hit safely in only eight of 28 games (28.6%) he's played in this season.

Numbers game

102, 55: Pitches and strikes thrown by Liriano, who was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh inning.

1: Bad inning for Liriano. Juan Miranda led off the fourth inning with a long home run to center field, and Hudson's flare over second base drove in another run with two away.

2: Consecutive games in which the Twins' starting pitcher has hit safely. RHP Scott Baker doubled on Saturday, and Liriano ripped a leadoff single up the middle in the third inning on Sunday.

1: Inning pitched on Sunday by LHP Dusty Hughes, who was recalled in the early-morning hours when the Twins placed LHP Glen Perkins (strained right oblique) on the 15-day disabled list. Hughes threw 16 pitches (six strikes), hit a batter and gave up a walk but did not surrender a run.

Health watch

• OF Michael Cuddyer reportedly was out of the lineup on Sunday because of a stiff neck but did come into the on-deck circle for a pinch-hitting appearance in the ninth inning. C Rene Rivera flew out to end the game, so Cuddyer didn't bat.

• C Joe Mauer (bilateral leg weakness) continues to battle a sore throwing arm but has been running and is scheduled to play in an extended spring training game on Monday or Tuesday.

• Perkins (strained right oblique) could miss three weeks to a month, manager Ron Gardenhire said.

• Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) is "still limping around a little bit," but he could he could play in an extended spring game late this week as well. "It's all going to depend on how he does early in the week and if he starts progressing," Gardenhire said. "They believe the leg has healed, other than just general soreness now. So, we go from there. If it works out, it does."

• DH Jim Thome (left oblique) and OF Jason Repko (right quadriceps) were reinstated to the roster after Sunday's game, replacing infielder Luke Hughes and outfielder Ben Revere.

• RHP Kevin Slowey, who is a candidate for demotion, will have an MRI on his abdomen on Monday or Tuesday, according to Fox Sports North.

On deck

The Seattle Mariners (22-24) come to Target Field as winners of five consecutive games and have climbed within 1½ games of Texas in the AL West.

They'll open the series with left-hander Jason Vargas (3-2, 3.39), who missed the Twins last week in Seattle. The 28-year-old former second-round pick has been outstanding in his past three starts, allowing only one run in 23 2/3 innings (0.38 ERA) with 16 strikeouts and five walks. In three career appearances against the Twins, Vargas is 1-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 14 1/3 innings.

The Twins will go with right-hander Carl Pavano (2-4, 5.30), who is coming off his best outing this season (seven innings, one earned run, two strikeouts, no walks on Wednesday at Oakland). In four career starts against Seattle, Pavano is 1-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings.

Coming up

• Tuesday: vs. Seattle, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (3-4, 3.40) vs. RHP Doug Fister (2-4, 2.93).
• Wednesday: vs. Seattle, 12:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-4, 4.98) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (2-4, 3.94).
• Thursday: Off.

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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