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Updated: June 5th, 2011 3:35pm
Twins Daily: With help from depleted offense, Brian Duensing spins gem

Twins Daily: With help from depleted offense, Brian Duensing spins gem

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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A depleted offense jumped out to an early lead, and Brian Duensing held the Kansas City Royals scoreless for eight innings on Sunday, giving the Minnesota Twins a 6-0 win and their first four-game winning streak of the season.

The skinny

With several key starters sidelined Sunday due to injury, a patchwork offense scored six runs on nine hits and three walks, led by the three-RBI performance of Repko.

Starter Duensing held up his end of the bargain as well, throwing seven scoreless innings while allowing only seven baserunners. The left-hander struck out four and threw a career-high 113 pitches, lowering his season ERA to 4.72.

The victory gives the Twins (21-37) their longest winning streak of the season (four), and it pulls them within 12.5 games of the Cleveland Indians for the first time since May 20.

Turning point

Capitalizing on a mental mistake by Royals rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer, Repko delivered the first big blow on Sunday.

Ben Revere led off the top of the first inning with a single to right field off Royals left-hander Jeff Francis, and Alexi Casilla followed by dropping down a bunt in hopes of advancing the runner and perhaps even reaching base.

Casilla accomplished both, and then some, when Hosmer fielded and fired an ill-advised throw toward second base. The throw -- which likely would have arrived too late regardless of proper aim -- skipped into left field, allowing Revere to reach third base and Casilla second base.

Five batters later, with the Twins up 1-0 and the bases loaded, Repko poked a base hit to center field to extend the lead to 3-0.

Numbers game

6: The number of opening-day regulars missing from Sunday's lineup -- Justin Morneau (wrist), Denard Span (neck), Jim Thome (quad), Jason Kubel (foot), Joe Mauer (leg weakness) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (leg).

.335: The highest on-base percentage, courtesy of Casilla, of any hitter in the Twins starting lineup Sunday.

1: The number of times the Twins have won a three- or four-game series this season.

16: The Twins have now played 16 more games on the road than at home this season. That number will grow to 19 following a three-game series in Cleveland to end the current road trip. The Twins have played just 21 home games. They have 22 road losses.

Who's hot?

Over the last two weeks, Casilla has quietly emerged as one of the Twins' hottest hitters, posting a .409/.491/.545 batting line with five extra-base hits since May 24. He improved on those numbers by going 2-for-3 with a single, a double and a walk on Sunday, raising his season batting line to .262/.335/.352. Casilla credits a mechanical adjustment for his recent success at the plate.

Who's not?

Since coming off the disabled list on May 13, Delmon Young was hitting just .217/.233/.253 with 24 strikeouts and one extra-base hit in 86 plate appearances heading into Sunday -- this despite tallying at least one hit in seven of his last eight games. Considering the injuries to Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel, Young's drop-off -- just one year after turning in one of the most productive and clutch performances in the American League -- is especially detrimental to the team.

Health report

• Morneau (left wrist) and Span (neck) both sat out once again on Sunday. Both are considered day-to-day.

• In a rehab game for the Single-A Fort Myers Miracle on Sunday, Mauer (leg weakness, general soreness) went 1-for-4 with an RBI single and a walk as a designated hitter. Manager Ron Gardenhire told 1500 ESPN on Sunday that Mauer's sore shoulder is "not an issue anymore." Gardenhire also said Mauer will not play any other defensive position for the Twins in 2011 besides catcher.

• RHP Nick Blackburn (back tightness) is considered day-to-day. If he is unable to make his next start on Thursday against Texas, it's likely that right-hander Anthony Swarzak would take the ball.

• Nishioka (fractured fibula) is still "guarded" when running, according to Gardenhire, but he will soon start a rehab assignment with Single-A Fort Myers and then Triple-A Rochester.

On deck

Whether it matters or not remains to be seen, but the Twins cut into Cleveland's 16.5-game lead by sweeping Kansas City while the Indians were swept at home by the Texas Rangers. It's premature to suggest the Twins have begun to completely turn things around, but taking two out of three -- or better -- against the Indians would be a good start.

Monday's pitching match-up (6:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN) features right-handers Scott Baker (2-4, 3.86) and Josh Tomlin (7-2, 3.27).

With 66 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings (8.8 Ks per nine), Baker is on pace for a career year in the punchout department. Overall he has been solid through the first two months, but since a spectacular eight-inning performance in Boston on May 6, Baker owns a 5.08 ERA with 13 walks in 28 1/3 innings over his past six starts. Only once did he pitch beyond six innings over that span.

Tomlin has been one of Cleveland's most reliable starters thus far, issuing only 11 walks in 71 2/3 innings. In his first nine starts, Tomlin pitched at least six innings in each outing while allowing three earned runs or fewer. In his last two starts, however, Tomlin has allowed 10 earned runs in 12 innings.

Coming up

• Tuesday: at Cleveland, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (3-5, 5.73) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-3, 5.18).
• Wednesday: at Cleveland, 11:05 a.m. RHP Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.83) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (5-4, 3.28).
• Thursday: vs. Texas, 7:10 p.m. Blackburn (5-4, 3.57) vs. LHP Derek Holland (5-1, 4.36).

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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