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Updated: September 18th, 2010 2:40pm
Valencia continues hot streak with three-run blast to sink A's, 4-2

Valencia continues hot streak with three-run blast to sink A's, 4-2

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Valencia's three-run homer was the deciding factor in a 4-2 victory by the Minnesota Twins over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday afternoon.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, following a walk by Joe Mauer and a single by Michael Cuddyer, Valencia -- now hitting .450/.500/.800 with two home runs and four RBIs over his last six games -- roped a 3-1 fastball by Dallas Braden into the seats in left field for his fourth home run of the season to break a 1-1 tie.

"He gave me a good pitch," said Valencia, who now has four home runs, 17 doubles and a .467 slugging percentage in 265 plate appearances, after tallying zero homers, 15 doubles and a .373 slugging percentage in 202 Triple-A plate appearances.

"I had the same type of situation in the at bat before, and knew maybe he was going to try to do something different this time. I was lucky he threw me a fastball in, and that's what I was looking for."

As evidenced by his two towering blasts on Friday and Saturday, and the mammoth shots he hits in batting practice, Valencia still has room to build on the power he has already shown.

Valencia has spent a considerable amount of time in the batting cage this season with Joe Vavra, and he frequently taps the brain of Jim Thome as well.

"I just pick his brain and get his mindset, what he thinks in certain at bats, certain situations," Valencia said about Thome. "Just come away with something from home. Obviously he has 580-plus reasons to listen, so whatever he tells me I try to take in and see if I can translate it into my game."

Valencia's blast was all the offense Twins starting pitcher Kevin Slowey needed on Saturday. Slowey went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Those runs came on a solo homer by Landon Powell in the top of the second inning, and on an RBI double by Akinori Iwamura in the top of the seventh.

Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes and Matt Capps mopped up the rest, with Capps converting his 40th save of the season.

For the A's, Braden allowed four earned runs on eight hits and four walks in six innings, while striking out two.

Jason Kubel (wrist) and Denard Span (shoulder) both sat out, and both are considered day-to-day.

Drew Butera snapped an 0-for-20 stretch with a one-out double in the bottom of the fifth inning.

LHP Francisco Liriano (14-7, 3.28) is scheduled to face LHP Bobby Cramer (1-0, 1.69) in Sunday's series finale.

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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