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Twins buried by early struggles against Rangers

June 10, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — In the clubhouse, Brian Duensing sat facing his locker with his head down. After yet another tough outing and a 9-3 loss to the Rangers on Friday night, the Twins’ lefty was not in a hurry to talk about it.

When he did, Duensing was asked if it was the most frustrated he had been after a start this season.

“I’ve had so many,” Duensing said. “Yeah. This is real frustrating. The baseball team, we’re playing well now. To go out and basically not give us a chance right away is very frustrating. I don’t know, I’ve got to find a way to get it done. I’m not getting it done right now, and I know that.”

It was a cold, rainy night at Target Field, and sloppy playing conditions were accompanied by a sloppy second inning that was too much for the Twins to overcome. Bad weather is nothing new for Duensing.

After a strong first month of the season, Duensing’s struggles started May 7, when he had his start cut short after two innings due to a rain delay. He gave up just one run on three hits, but took the loss as the Twins were shut out, 4-0.

Three days later, Duensing pitched two innings in relief of Francisco Liriano after a 64-minute hail delay. Duensing allowed two runs on three hits as the Twins lost, 10-2. Things really got bad in his next four starts, though.

Over 20 2/3 innings of work, Duensing allowed 21 runs on 28 hits, going 0-3 with a 9.15 ERA in his last four May starts. He finally appeared to have turned the corner in his last start, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Royals.

“Last outing was good, I felt confident, threw everything for a strike, every pitch was sharp,” Duensing said. “Then I came out today and didn’t have it at all, it was the complete opposite. It’s frustrating.”

As the rain started to come down in the top of the second, the Rangers started to pile up runs. Duensing surrendered six hits in the inning, which led to seven runs, three of which were earned.

After opening the inning with a walk and a strikeout, Duensing gave up a single to Mike Napoli that was followed by a Jason Repko error in center field that plated the first run of the game. Another single scored the second run before an Alexi Casilla error allowed another runner to reach base.

“Tonight it was just, here he is out there in another mess, trying to pitch through it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I don’t want to make excuses for him, [but] the mound was terrible, the ball was up. Their guy was going through the same thing, we just couldn’t put any hits together on him.”

Duensing then surrendered another pair of singles, struck out Josh Hamilton and gave up a single and double before getting out of the inning with a flyout. Over his last six starts, even including the brilliant outing in Kansas City, Duensing has gone 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA.

Gardenhire replaced Duensing after two innings, bringing in right-hander Anthony Swarzak. In six innings of relief, Swarzak gave up two runs on six hits.

Swarzak tossed 101 pitches, providing a bright spot for the Twins on the night as he saved Gardenhire from having to use up the bullpen.

“That’s a phenomenal lineup over there,” Swarzak said. “You have Hamilton, Cruz, you can go top to bottom with that lineup. They can get to about anything near the plate. So you just try to go in effectively and pitch out when you need to and throw some offspeed out there and hope for the best.”

Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson was effective against the Twins, allowing just three runs on eight hits over seven innings.

After battling through the same tough conditions, Wilson sympathized with Duensing’s tough night.

“That was rough,” Wilson said. “I’m sure he’s a good dude. I hope he has some good karma against the rest of the AL West. It was like the Twilight Zone. Guys were falling over trying to catch the ball. It was like the Bad News Bears on both sides.”

Michael Cuddyer swung the bat well, driving in Drew Butera with a single in the fifth, while also collecting a double and a pair of walks.

But it was the bottom of the order did most of the damage for Minnesota, as Repko doubled and scored in the second on a Matt Tolbert single, and Butera went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Three hits marked a career high for Butera.

“It was nice,” Butera said. “I wish we could’ve won. It’s never fun to lose. It’s nice to get the hits but it’s better to go 0-for and get the win.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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