Brian Duensing pitched six strong innings and was backed by some early offense.
Updated: August 21, 2012 - 6:56 AM
OAKLAND, CALIF. — If the Twins need motivation through the dog days, they can embrace the spoiler role. Their game on Monday night was the first of seven this week against playoff contenders.
But they also entered with a five-game losing streak and having lost nine of their previous 10 games. So manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't in a role-playing mood.
"It's not even about the other team," Gardenhire said. "It's about us getting back to winning ballgames, playing a better brand of baseball ourselves. Pitching, get our offense going again because we are scuffling enough. We can't really worry about the other guys. That's spoiler role, you start watching and it irritates people more when you play well."
It's amazing what a team can do when it's not playing from behind early, when it's not creating hair-raising situations with walks or when it's not committing costly errors. Brian Duensing was sharp on the mound, the Twins executed all over the field and everyone seemed to have a hand in a 7-2 victory over Oakland that ended their losing streak.
The Twins clubhouse, which Gardenhire fretted about before the game, was in a much better mood after this one.
"We were due," Gardenhire said.
Josh Willingham was 3-for-5 with two RBI. Joe Mauer was 3-for-5 with two RBI. Shortstop Pedro Florimon, whose bat is not supposed to be anywhere as good as his glovework, was 3-for-3 with three runs scored and is 6-for-12 with two walks in four games since being called up from Class AAA Rochester.
"He's been running around real nice, giving us good at-bats, some nice swings," Gardenhire said. "I'm kind of fond of the defense. I like to see the defense."
Duensing (3-8) struck out seven in six innings to earn only his second win as a starter this season. He had pitched at least six innings in each of his past four starts but was sharper on Monday.
Righthanded hitters have had their way with Duensing, batting .320 off him with five homers and a .837 on base-plus-slugging percentage coming in. They collected five hits off him Monday, but Duensing limited the damage by spinning more curveballs at them. He got the strike calls on the outside corner and at the knees all night.
"Our gameplan for myself with [Mauer] was that we had to keep them honest going in, and we had to use the curveball and get ahead, get me over and try to get ahead in the count,'' Duensing said. "I don't know if ever I was able to have such success with it, especially late in the count. Try to keep them off balance and I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight."
Willingham got the Twins off to a fast start with an RBI double in the first inning then scored on a bases-loaded walk by Trevor Plouffe, who had fallen behind the count 0-2 to A's starter Brandon McCarthy.
The Twins made it 4-0 in the second inning when Darin Mastroianni's RBI single drove in Pedro Florimon and Willingham's two-out infield single scored Mastroianni.
Oakland scored single runs in the second and third innings to make it 4-2. But Florimon and Ben Revere led off the fourth with singles, Mastroianni bunted them over and Mauer drove both home with a single to right to give the Twins a 6-2 lead.
Mastroianni added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
When the Twins aren't playing from behind -- a frequent occurrence lately -- they can employ their running game and move runners over. And the whole group wore down McCarthy (6-5), who needed 86 pitches to get through 3 1/3 innings before being removed from the game.
"We put some nice swings out there," Gardenhire said.
Things weren't perfect. Plouffe double-clutched on Yoenis Cespedes' grounder in the second. Florimon -- gasp -- committed a throwing error in the third on Coco Crisp's grounder, then second baseman Jamey Carroll was charged with an error when he couldn't hold on to a throw as Crisp stole second, then advanced to third.
Funny, both runners ended up scoring for Oakland. But Duensing was in form for most of the night, and offense stringed together good at-bats.
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