Posts Tagged ‘Brian Duensing’

Missed chances hurt Rays against Twins

July 4, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Early in Monday’s game, the Rays were hitting the ball hard, and it looked as though they would have their way with Twins lefty Brian Duensing.

But in the fifth, Duensing took control and cruised for his second career shutout. He shut down the Rays throughout the game but was especially impressive late in the Rays’ 7-0 loss to the Twins at Target Field.

“We had chances, and I really thought we were swinging the bats well early,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we got to about the fifth inning, I think it was, we stopped hitting anything well. But we had our moments.”

One of those moments came in the first inning.

Johnny Damon led off the game with a single, and Sean Rodriguez followed with another. After Evan Longoria flied out to left, B.J. Upton walked to load the bases with one out.

The Rays were in position to take an early lead, but Duensing got Justin Ruggiano to ground into an inning-ending double play instead.

An inning later, Casey Kotchman singled to lead off the inning, but Duensing quickly got two outs on another double-play ball from Kelly Shoppach.

The last of the Rays’ chances came in the fourth. Upton led off with a single but was called out as he attempted to steal second base. Replays showed that he may have beaten the tag.

“If that play had been called differently, it could’ve been a different moment for us right there,” Maddon said.

Kotchman followed with a single that would likely have scored Upton, and Shoppach then walked, setting up an opportunity for All-Star right fielder Matt Joyce to deliver a two-out RBI. Joyce hit the ball hard toward the hole on the right side, but Alexi Casilla made a diving stop at second base to save a run.

Had Joyce hit the ball a foot or two in either direction, it could have been the start of a rally.

“Yeah, absolutely, I think it might have got us going,” Joyce said. “Obviously, it would have put a run on the board. I don’t know if it would have scored two, but you know what? We hit a lot of balls hard today, [we] just hit them right at ’em.”

Whereas the Rays were unable to take advantage of their early opportunities, the Twins jumped on lefty David Price in the second.

With a runner on and one out in the second, Price gave up a single, a walk and a double to the bottom third of the Twins’ order, putting three runs on the board. In the fourth, he surrendered a solo home run to fellow All-Star Michael Cuddyer, a 443-foot blast into the second deck in left.

Price finished the afternoon with four runs allowed on five hits, six strikeouts and one walk. After Cuddyer’s home run, he settled in nicely, retiring nine in a row and 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.

“It’s disappointing,” Price said. “I got outpitched. … I felt like I threw the ball fine, [but] it’s not good enough. I gave up four runs in six innings.”

As did Price, Duensing looked much better in the second half of his outing than in the first.

After walking Elliot Johnson to lead off the fifth, Duensing retired 10 batters in a row and 15 of the last 16 Rays to come to the plate. Over the last five innings, the Rays had just two baserunners, one on Johnson’s walk and the other on an eighth-inning single by Rodriguez.

“It’s frustrating,” Joyce said. “It’s frustrating to keep going and keep grinding through it.

“For me it’s been a frustrating month. You hit hard balls right at people, and they don’t fall, and then your next at-bat, they make a perfect pitch or something, or you miss your pitch. It’s just one of those things. You really have to grind it out.”

While the Rays were struggling to even reach base late in the game, Twins third baseman Danny Valencia connected for a three-run blast off right-hander Adam Russell in the eighth, giving Duensing even more wiggle room when as he returned for the ninth.

Duensing, who beat the Rays in April at Tropicana Field, delivered his best outing of the season, giving up just six hits over nine shutout innings, walking four and recording seven. Against the Rays this season, hw is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, having allowed just two runs in 16 innings.

It was his second career shutout, with the other coming on Aug. 14, 2010, when he tossed a three-hitter against the A’s.

“I was real excited [with] how it turned out,” Duensing said. “It didn’t start as well as I wanted it to. But the defense made great plays behind me to keep me in it. And the next thing you know, the offense started scoring runs against David Price, who has pretty good stuff.”

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

Twins notebook, 6/18

June 18, 2011 Comments off

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.”

Twins buried by early struggles against Rangers

June 10, 2011 Comments off

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 This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Duensing’s solid start wasted as Twins fall

May 25, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — In the early innings Wednesday, Twins lefty Brian Duensing struggled to get comfortable. Whether it was the cold or the wind, something was not quite right.

After he made a small adjustment with his “rocker step,” Duensing settled in nicely and delivered his best start since April 30. But the Twins’ offense couldn’t figure out Mariners lefty Erik Bedard as they lost, 3-0, Wednesday at Target Field.

Each of the first three hits Duensing allowed, along with a second-inning walk, came back to cost him in the end. After putting Franklin Gutierrez on to lead off the second, Adam Kennedy doubled and Brendan Ryan singled to put Seattle up, 2-0.

Two innings later, Gutierrez led off with a solo home run, his first of the season.

“There was only one that I’d want back, and that was the homer I gave up to Gutierrez, which was a changeup up,” Duensing said. “Other than that, I thought I threw the ball pretty well and walked a couple guys I didn’t really want to walk but at the same time made some good pitches when I needed to.”

Tossing seven innings while giving up three runs on four hits, Duensing kept Minnesota in the ballgame. It was the second consecutive outing of seven or more innings by a Twins starter, keeping the burden off the bullpen.

Duensing went seven innings for the first time in five outings this month after four of his five April starts went seven innings. The three runs he allowed were the fewest for Duensing since May 10.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was especially happy with the way the left-hander was able to finish by striking out Ichiro Suzuki with runners on the corners and two out.

“He wants to be out there, he needs to make a big pitch [and] he did,” Gardenhire said. “That last hitter is as good as they get in the league and it was a good matchup for us. We wanted him to get out of that inning without giving something up and he did.

“That’s important for him on down the road. He came out of it feeling pretty good about himself. Although he got a loss, he knew he found something out there on the mound and he finished that inning off, which was huge.”

But as much as Duensing kept them in the ballgame, the Twins could not get much going at the plate against Bedard, who pitched six shutout innings, scattering six hits with four strikeouts for the win.

At the plate, the Twins had at least one runner on base in each of the first five innings but could not bring any of them around to score. Overall, the Twins went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

“[Bedard] was pretty filthy,” Gardenhire said. “Sometimes, you tip your hat to the other guy and Bedard’s one of those guys that we’ve had to do that before. He had great stuff today. One of those situations you could see guys swinging and missing balls by a foot, and that’s that breaking ball, that was diving down along with a 92-mph fastball.”

The Twins’ best chance to put runs on the board came in the fifth, when their Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, catcher Drew Butera and second baseman Alexi Casilla, led off with a pair of singles.

But those hits were followed by three consecutive outs from the top of the order.

“That fifth was a big inning,” Bedard said. “We were up, 3-0, and if I give up a hit there, the game gets closer. You just battle out there. Try to keep the ball down and get out of the inning.”

One of those outs looked like it could score a run, though, when Matt Tolbert flew out to right field for the second out of the inning. But with Butera on third and Ichiro’s strong arm in right, it was not deep enough to bring the Twins’ catcher home.

Gardenhire was not sure if Butera could have scored on the play, but said he would have have liked to see him try with the way Bedard was keeping the Twins hitters off balance throughout the game.

“It was kind of more of a respect thing for [Ichiro’s] arm,” Butera said. “I’m not a very fast runner, I know that, and he has probably one of the best arms in the game. And I felt at the time we had one of our hottest hitters coming up. I probably could’ve taken a chance, I probably should’ve taken a chance.”

The top five hitters in the Twins’ lineup combined to go 2-for-20 on the day, with two singles and four strikeouts. None of the Twins’ seven hits went for extra bases as they lost for the fifth time in six games.

With the Indians also losing Wednesday, the Twins remained 14 1/2 games out. While they’ve been playing better of late, the losses continue to come, making it tougher for the Twins to remain positive.

“You obviously pay attention because you want to win. That’s ultimately what this is about,” said designated hitter Jim Thome, who went 1-for-3 with a walk and a single. “It’s always about winning your division and trying to gain ground. Cleveland has played well, so give them credit. So I always look every day and see what Cleveland is doing because I want to gain ground on them.

“You want to try to do the best you can to gain ground but you can’t do it overnight. It takes a long process. … Baseball is a weird thing. I’ve seen crazy things happen.”

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

Twins beat 5/25

May 25, 2011 Comments off

Capps unavailable Wednesday due to sore arm

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins closer Matt Capps was unavailable for a second consecutive game Wednesday due to soreness in his forearm.

Capps pitched Monday against the Mariners, tossing 31 pitches over 1 2/3 innings, giving up one run on two hits for his fourth blown save of the season. It was the second-highest pitch total of the season for Capps and his sixth outing of more than three outs this year.

“Capps is a no-go. We’re backing off him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re not going to mess with him.”

Capps’ injury will not require an MRI as of yet. The Twins are just being cautious to allow him to rest after a couple tough outings.

While Capps is the Twins’ closer, Gardenhire would prefer not to use him outside of the ninth inning, but the Twins have been forced to bring him in during the eighth for his past two outings.

The results in those appearances have been an 0-1 mark for Capps with a pair of blown saves. He’s allowed five runs on six hits and two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings.

“I know a lot of teams have done that with their closers and everything,” Gardenhire said. “We really like the idea of bringing him in the ninth inning and letting him have a clean inning.”

Twins will hold fundraiser for tornado victims

MINNEAPOLIS — An autograph session will be held before Saturday’s game at Target Field to raise funds for victims of the recent tornadoes, the Twins announced Wednesday.

The session will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CT outside Gate 29 on Target Plaza, and all donations will benefit the Red Cross tornado relief efforts. For $10, fans will be able to get a variety of autographs, with a limit of one from each player.

Among the players scheduled to take part in the autograph session are pitchers Matt Capps and Brian Duensing and catcher Drew Butera.

Carmona, Durbin hit hard in loss to Twins

April 23, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — When talking with reporters Friday afternoon, Indians manager Manny Acta said he did not think the Twins were on top of their game yet, but he fully expected them to get there at some point this season.

They took a step in that direction Saturday, but Acta still didn’t think they had gotten there yet. The problem was, according to Acta, that the Indians didn’t take advantage of the Twins’ early season struggles in their 10-3 loss at Target Field.

“Right now, a couple of those guys, I don’t feel that they’re still on top of their game, and we were pitching them like they’re in midseason form when they’re hot,” Acta said. “I just felt like we didn’t attack them properly.”

Indians ace Fausto Carmona got the start after being pushed back from Friday due to the inclement weather. The extra day did not work out too well for Carmona.

After three straight strong starts in which he pitched at least seven innings and gave up no more than two runs, Carmona’s outing against the Twins got ugly in the third inning.

Carmona (1-3) went five innings, giving up six runs on seven hits with four walks and one strikeout. After holding the Twins hitless through 2 1/3 innings, Carmona surrendered all six runs and seven hits between the third and fifth innings.

According to his manager, Carmona was not aggressive enough with some of the Twins hitters, especially Alexi Casilla and Denard Span, who combined for four singles and five runs scored in the game.

“More aggressive with the guys? No, I think I couldn’t throw the first-pitch strike,” Carmona said. “I think I was aggressive enough. But I missed a lot of first-pitch strikes. My slider was not working today.”

In the third, Carmona allowed four straight hits, beginning with three consecutive singles and capped by a two-run Jason Kubel double.

“He’s just one guy I don’t try to do too much with,” Kubel said of Carmona. “I know that if I try to pull it, it’s an out. So I try to go with it because his ball sinks and runs away. He’s a guy you have to bear down against.”

Two innings later, an intentional walk issued to Kubel came back to hurt Carmona and the Indians.

With one run already on the board in the bottom of the inning, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau followed Kubel with a bases loaded single, plating a pair of runs. In that situation, Acta and the Indians saw Morneau as a clear double-play candidate, especially after the first baseman had missed the Twins’ last five games.

Unfortunately for Carmona, he couldn’t keep the ball down in the zone.

“The Morneau situation, he hadn’t played in a few days with the flu, and getting IVs for four days,” Acta said. “[Carmona]’s a sinker ball pitcher, so that’s a double-play situation, we want a sinker there.

“If I’m in bed for four days, I think I’d rather see an 86-mph changeup than a 92-mph sinker.”

For the Twins, the 10 runs marked a season-high and the first time they had plated six or more runs in their last 28 games, including three playoff contests and dating back to Sept. 27, 2010. Twins lefty Brian Duensing, who also was pushed back from Friday’s game, dealt much better with the extra time off.

Duensing (2-0) tossed seven strong innings, allowing just one run on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Cleveland’s only run off him came in the fourth when Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a double and later scored on a Carlos Santana grounder to third.

“I got behind today in a lot of counts and wasn’t throwing first-pitch strikes,” Duensing said. “But I threw a lot of sinkers to try to get them to roll over. I’m not a power guy so that’s what I have to do — just let them get themselves out.”

Right-hander Chad Durbin, who relieved Carmona in the sixth, did not fare too much better than the Indians starter. Durbin was not able to shut down the Twins’ suddenly red-hot bats, giving up two runs on two hits in both the sixth and seventh innings.

With one out in the seventh, a 2-0 fastball to Danny Valencia was crushed for a two-run home run, putting the exclamation point on the Twins’ blowout victory.

“He pitched behind in the count,” Acta said of Durbin, who fell behind six of 11 batters faced over two innings of work. “When you don’t have overpowering stuff, you need to pitch ahead in the count. It’s as simple as it sounds.”

The lone bright spots for the Indians offense came in the fourth and eighth innings. In the fourth, Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a double and came around to score on a fielder’s choice by Santana. Cleveland had three hits in the inning but could not string them together for more than the one run.

Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore added a two-run home run in the eighth, his second since returning Sunday from the disabled list, off Twins reliever Dusty Hughes. Acta credited Duensing for shutting down the Indians offense.

“He used both sides of the plate and changed speeds to both sides,” Acta said. “He was good, man. He pitched good. Can’t take that away from him, he threw the ball very well. He did that against us last year too.”

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