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Morneau Homers To Help Twins Sweep Indians 5-1

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Maybe the Minnesota Twins should wait until the night before to tell Brian Duensing he’s starting.

This short-notice outing sure went well.

Justin Morneau hit a two-run homer, Duensing threw six smooth innings as a late fill-in for Francisco Liriano and the Minnesota Twins finished a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 5-1 victory on Sunday.

Duensing’s Twitter followers started asking him if he was starting after the Liriano trade was finalized late Saturday night with the Chicago White Sox. Weird, he thought. Well, he went to the team’s website and saw the news. Then he sent a text message to pitching coach Rick Anderson to confirm it.

“He said, ‘Yeah,’ and asked if I was OK with it,” Duensing said. “I’m not going to say no.”

Duensing (2-6) lost all four of his previous starts this year, but he needed only 70 pitches to finish six frames and yield to the bullpen after scattering five singles without a walk, giving up one run and striking out two.

“I think he kind of likes that: not preparing and just going out there and throwing the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think he enjoyed that part of it. He did a really nice job.”

Ubaldo Jimenez (8-10) worked into the seventh and struck out six, but the Indians lost for the eighth time in their last 11 games. They were a season-high 5½ games out of first place in the AL Central when the game began, behind the Chicago White Sox. They haven’t been two games under .500 since mid-April.

“We came in here with high hopes to keep it going, and it wasn’t that way. We couldn’t do anything,” Jimenez said.

Duensing has a 3.12 ERA in 33 relief appearances in 2012, but he had struggled in the starter’s role, allowing 15 runs, 23 hits and five homers over 13 1-3 innings in his prior turns. But the Twins have refused to give up on him, believing his array of pitches is deep enough to work through several innings rather than just facing a handful of batters.

With Liriano gone and the starters a collective last in the league in ERA, the 29-year-old Duensing still has ample room to carve out a permanent place for him in Minnesota’s starting five.

“I’d like to be a starter, but I don’t feel like I’m in a spot to go in there and demand it or anything,” Duensing said.

This was a solid audition.

Shelley Duncan’s bloop single that barely carried over shortstop Brian Dozier’s head to put the Indians in front in the fourth, but Morneau’s soaring shot into the flower bed over the 23-foot wall in right-center field came in the bottom of that inning. Ben Revere had two hits, two steals and two RBIs for the Twins. He doubled in the fifth, moved up on a balk and score on a wild pitch by Jimenez to stretch the lead to two in the fifth.

“Everything that could go wrong went wrong,” Indians manager Manny Acta said.

Jimenez walked Denard Span, his last batter. After a double steal by Dozier and Span, Tony Sipp gave up a two-run, one-out single to Revere to make it 5-1.

“The first two games were awful,” Duncan said. “We needed to pull today out, and we just didn’t get it done.”

This was the third series sweep this year by the Twins, who outscored the Indians 28-6 and are batting .325 with 18 homers in their last 13 home games.

“Definitely a good feeling, coming out of Chicago where we just got swept,” Span said, adding: “It starts with starting pitching. They give us an opportunity offensively to do some things. We can be aggressive on the base paths.”

NOTES: Dozier also had two of Minnesota’s season-high-tying five steals. … Morneau, who homered at Target Field for just the eighth time in 115 games over three seasons, moved within one RBI of matching Gary Gaetti for fifth place on the team’s all-time list with 756. … The Indians are off Monday and start a three-game series in Kansas City on Tuesday. RHP Derek Lowe (8-9, 5.09 ERA), who has won only two of his last 12 starts, takes the mound. He’ll face RHP Luke Hochevar (6-9, 5.26 ERA) of the Royals. … The Twins host Liriano’s new team, the White Sox, for three games starting Monday. LHP Jose Quintana (4-1, 2.58 ERA) is scheduled to start for Chicago, and RHP Cole De Vries (2-2, 3.64 ERA) will pitch for the Twins.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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