ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Brian Duensing gave the Minnesota bullpen another chance, and this time the result was a victory.
Duensing allowed two runs over seven innings, Matt Tolbert had an RBI triple and the Twins stopped a four-game skid with a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
“We needed a big start,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s about time we won a ballgame. We actually played well enough in this series to win three ballgames (out of four) and we only come out of here with one. We’ll take the one today.”
Duensing (1-0) scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out five.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit lately,” Duensing said. “We got that win today and hopefully we’ll start rolling.”
Jason Repko had an RBI single and Tolbert drove in a run with triple during a three-run fifth against Jeremy Hellickson (1-2) as Minnesota took a 4-2 lead.
After Glen Perkins worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth by getting a double-play grounder from Ben Zobrist, Matt Capps got the final three outs for his first save.
Capps is replacing Joe Nathan as the Twins’ closer. Nathan, who missed all of last season after having right elbow ligament replacement surgery, has been inconsistent and will work in non-save situations.
Nathan had blown saves Thursday and Saturday in games that the Rays eventually won.
“There’s anxiety towards the end of the game right now,” Gardenhire said. “I think that’s always the case with most teams. Our team lost a couple of them. You definitely felt your heart pumping a little bit more. Some good things happened out there.”
Tampa Bay left fielder Johnny Damon left with a bruise on the tip of his left ring finger. He was hurt while attempting to bunt during the third, and was replaced defensively by Matt Joyce in the fifth.
The Rays said X-rays were negative and that Damon’s status is day to day.
“It’s very sore,” Damon said. “Really tough to squeeze anything. It’s pretty bruised. It’s just very unfortunate. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”
Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau was scratched from the lineup due to the flu. Centerfielder Denard Span, who had played in the Twins’ first 14 games this season, was rested.
Hellickson gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings for the Rays, who had won five in a row.
“Anytime you win a series, that’s a good thing,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “I like the fact that we wanted to go four out of four. We wanted the fourth one and they just beat us today.”
Damon put Tampa Bay up 1-0 with a run-scoring single in the third. Damon has 2,584 career hits, which ties him for 79th place all-time with Reggie Jackson.
Damon set a career high by having at least one RBI in six consecutive games.
Jason Kubel tied it at 1 on a fourth-inning home run. He has two of Minnesota’s five homers this season, with his other coming on Saturday.
Sean Rodriguez stopped an 0-for-13 slide with an RBI triple later in the fourth that gave the Rays a 2-1 advantage.
Minnesota’s Jim Thome reached on an infield single in the eighth when Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson lost a high pop fly in the roof of the stadium. The ball landed between the mound and the infield dirt.
NOTES: A thinner-looking Minnesota C Joe Mauer (viral infection) was back at the ballpark after spending the previous two days at the team hotel. Mauer said he has lost 12 pounds. … Damon has a nine-game hitting streak. … Kubel is 3 for 5 with two homers overall against Hellickson. … Thome has 106 career infield hits. … Minnesota recalled RHP Jim Hoey from Triple-A Rochester and optioned RHP Jeff Manship to the International League club.
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