The Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels were both in the market for a starting pitcher as the trade deadline approached.
Both teams were interested in Arizona’s Dan Haren, and the Angels were the team that landed him in a move they hoped would help them catch the Texas Rangers in the AL West.
The Twins settled on moving Brian Duensing from the bullpen to the starting rotation, and that’s worked out pretty well so far.
Duensing struck out six in eight innings and Jason Kubel hit a three-run homer to get Minnesota rolling in a 7-2 victory over the Angels on Friday night.
Duensing (7-1) allowed one run and seven hits to improve to 4-0 since moving into the rotation July 23. His ERA dropped to 1.92 as the Twins bounced back from an 11-0 loss to the White Sox on Thursday night.
“It’s always nice to be able to fill from within your organization and not have to give up a lot of prospects to go get someone,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “When you have a guy like Duensing, we know he’s out in the bullpen and does a good job out there … but we also know he’s someone we can go to if something happens, and that’s very important.”
The Angels haven’t had as much luck with Haren (1-4), who got knocked around in his sixth start for Los Angeles. He gave up seven runs and 11 hits in seven innings with three strikeouts.
“I feel bad,” Haren said. “I’m embarrassed. The way I’ve thrown the ball, it’s just unacceptable. I feel bad for the guys. I’m supposed to be better than this. I am better than this.”
Howie Kendrick had three hits for the Angels (61-62), who fell back below .500 and are 6-18 in their last 24 road games.
Duensing lost out to Francisco Liriano in the preseason competition for the final spot in the rotation. Undaunted, he was one of the team’s best relievers for the first 3{ months before being called upon to take the place of a struggling Nick Blackburn.
Duensing has been superb since and was coming off a shutout in his previous start. He heard all the talk about Haren, Roy Oswalt and other veteran starters near the deadline, and quietly remained confident that he was the man for the job.
“You kind of pay attention, it’s all over,” Duensing said. “I kind of thought, worst-case scenario, I’ll do it. Things are working out so far. Hopefully they keep going on.”
With J.J. Hardy on second and two outs in the third, Angels manager Mike Scioscia intentionally walked Joe Mauer, who was 6 for 16 (.375) lifetime against Haren, to get to Kubel.
“I’d do the same thing,” Kubel said.
The surging Kubel responded with a 429-foot homer into the second deck in right-center that gave Minnesota a 4-0 lead.
The 40-year-old Jim Thome led off the three-run fourth with a triple and Delmon Young and Orlando Hudson had RBI singles in the inning.
The game marked Torii Hunter’s first trip to Target Field. He spent 11 years playing for the Twins in the Metrodome before signing a $96 million contract with the Angels before the 2008 season.
Hunter raved about the Twins’ new home before the game and said he got a little emotional while Gardenhire gave him a tour of the place.
“This is better than Yankee Stadium!” he said.
Hunter went 1 for 4 and even saw that Target Field can still play like the old Dome on occasion. Angels left fielder Juan Rivera lost a pop fly from Danny Valencia in the twilight sky in the fourth inning, a common occurrence at the old place with the baseball-colored roof.
It fell in for a double and Valencia scored on a sacrifice fly by Hardy to make it 7-1.
With that, a disappointing season continued for the Angels, and Haren. The durable righty was acquired from the Diamondbacks on July 25, with the Angels hoping he could help them dig out of a seven-game hole in the AL West.
But Haren has received just 14 runs of support and the Angels are now eight games behind the Rangers.
“For everybody, not just Haren,” Hunter said. “It’s been rough. We’ve been scuffling with runners in scoring position and we all know that. It’s just not working out for us so far.”
NOTES: Scioscia said INF Maicer Izturis was “a little sore” after making a diving play in the field on Thursday night and needed a day off. With the lefty Duensing on the mound, Brandon Wood got his first start at 1B this season. … The Twins placed INF Nick Punto (hamstring) on the disabled list before the game and recalled INF Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester. Gardenhire said Punto is expected to miss two to three weeks.


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