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Updated: April 21st, 2011 9:01pm
Twins Daily: Two homer, Scott Baker stellar again in road-trip finale

Twins Daily: Two homer, Scott Baker stellar again in road-trip finale

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Scott Baker figured out how to solve the Minnesota Twins' problem scoring runs: don't give any up. The right-hander struck out nine over seven shutout innings on Thursday night, helping home runs by Jim Thome and Michael Cuddyer hold up in a 3-1 win at Baltimore.

The skinny

Baker was effective and efficient, allowing four hits, walking one and throwing 75 strikes in 106 pitches (70.8%).

The Orioles stranded two runners in the third and fifth but never advanced anyone past second base until the eighth, when relievers Jose Mijares and Jim Hoey scuffled before Glen Perkins escaped the jam with only one run in.

Baker retired the last seven hitters he faced and remained unbeaten (6-0) with a 2.17 earned-run average and 38 strikeouts in eight career starts against the Orioles. He allowed only one run in 14 innings over two starts on the eight-game road trip the Twins finished 3-5.

An impotent Twins offense showed signs of life, too, despite failing to score five runs for the 28th consecutive game. Thome had a solo home run to center field in the second inning and an RBI single in the sixth, and Cuddyer capped their scoring by launching a hanging curve into the left-field seats in the eighth.

Turning point

The bullpen came dangerously close to squandering Baker's start during a messy eighth that required manager Ron Gardenhire to burn three arms.

Working with a 3-0 lead, Mijares retired two but walked Brian Roberts in between. So, Gardenhire brought on the right-hander Hoey to face Derrek Lee, who promptly doubled off the base of the left-field wall.

The next hitter, Vladimir Guerrero, hit a grounder past the mound that forced shortstop Alexi Casilla to dive, allowing Guerrero to reach and Roberts to score. But then Perkins came on and got Luke Scott to swing at his first pitch -- a low fastball Scott tapped weakly to second base for the third out.

Matt Capps worked around a two-out single by Matt Wieters in the ninth to secure his third save in four chances, blowing a high fastball past Robert Andino to end it.

Numbers game

591: Career home runs for Thome, who hammered a 3-2 changeup into the center-field seats with one out in the second.

18: Home runs Thome needs to tie Sammy Sosa for seventh on the all-time list.

Health watch

• A day after taking batting practice, 1B Justin Morneau (flu) missed a fifth consecutive game, staying at the team hotel to rest and receive fluids.

• LF Delmon Young (ribs/flu) missed a third consecutive game and is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday. The flu he was battling apparently is no longer an issue.

• C Joe Mauer (bilateral leg weakness/viral infection), 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) and RHP Kevin Slowey (right shoulder strain) remain on the 15-day disabled list.

On deck

The Cleveland Indians come to Target Field as one of baseball's hottest -- and most surprising -- teams. They entered Thursday with 13 wins in their past 16 games, including sweeps of Boston and Seattle, and have outscored opponents 97-61.

Brian Duensing (1-0, 3.60 earned-run average) gets the first shot to shut them down in the opener of a three-game series on Friday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN). The left-hander is coming off his best outing (seven innings, two runs, five strikeouts on Sunday at Tampa Bay) and won both his starts against the Indians last season, allowing six runs on 15 hits and striking out nine in 13 1/3 innings.

The Indians will start right-hander Fausto Carmona (1-2, 4.74), who was rocked for 10 earned runs on Opening Day but since has allowed only three in 21 2/3 innings over three starts. The 27-year-old Dominican has spent his entire career with Cleveland since signing as an amateur free agent in 2000. He's made 18 appearances (14 starts) against the Twins with mediocre results, going 4-8 with a 4.82 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 36 walks.

Coming up

• Saturday: vs. Cleveland, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-3, 7.40) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 4.85).
• Sunday: vs. Cleveland, 1:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (1-2, 5.47) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (0-1, 10.38).
• Monday: 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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