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Twins notebook, 6/18

June 18, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — When two runs allowed over six innings marks your team’s worst start in nearly a week, you know you must be doing something right.

One of the biggest keys to the Twins winning 12 of 14 games has been starting pitching. Since June 2, Twins starters entered Saturday having posted a 1.87 ERA, while allowing 20 earned runs in 96 1/3 innings with 61 strikeouts against 16 walks.

In the last time through the rotation, Twins starters averaged eight innings per start, including a pair of complete games by Scott Baker and Carl Pavano.

“Any time you have that working for you, it means you’re still in the games if your starter’s still in there late,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “You want to see your starters going deep into games, and that means you’re having those opportunities to win things. Normally when they’re out there the game’s a pretty good one.”

In the month of June, the Twins had a Major League-best 2.01 ERA through Friday night. Not only is their ERA the best, it’s a half-run better than the Phillies’ second-best mark of 2.52 and nearly 1 1/2 runs better than the Mariners (3.45), who rank second in the American League.

On their current homestand, Twins starters have gone 5-1 in the first seven games, with a 1.82 ERA over 63 innings pitched. The only disappointing start came against the Rangers last Saturday when lefty Brian Duensing gave up seven runs (three earned) on seven hits in two innings.

Duensing made up for it by holding the Padres to two runs over six innings Friday night.

“Our starters have all kind of adjusted to what they need to do,” Gardenhire said. “They’re throwing the ball very well. Hopefully it’ll continue.”

Not surprisingly, the starters’ success has coincided with much better performances out of the Twins’ bullpen this month as well. Before right-hander Alex Burnett gave up a three-run homer Friday night, the bullpen had allowed just three runs in 28 2/3 innings in June.

Even with those three runs added, the Twins bullpen has posted a 1.71 ERA in June. A common theme with both the rotation and bullpen has been a significant reduction in the number of walks issued lately compared with early in the season.

“More so than anything else, I think it’s just a concerted effort to throw the ball over the plate,” Gardenhire said. “They all know that working ahead in the count, and not walking people, it’s been proven that it’s been successful here, and pretty much everywhere else in baseball.”

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