Opportunity lost during homestand

The Twins went 6-6 in the 12 games, losing ground to the Central-leading Tigers.

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Tigers closer Jose Valverde rocked and fired to the plate. The Twins' Delmon Young swung and missed for the final out of the game. Valverde, as he is known to do, went into his victory dance, spinning in a circle on one leg.

That was just one version. Valverde has several moves, and the Twins have seen too many of them this season.

Detroit won 5-2 Sunday, taking three of four games in this series and improving to 8-1 against the Twins this season. This 12-game homestand the Twins had counted on to continue their uphill climb in the AL Central standings turned out to be a 6-6 clunker. They gave ground to the Tigers and failed to gain on the second-place Indians by splitting four games. The Twins now trail Detroit by seven games in the division.

"Kind of a bummer to the homestand here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had a chance to get within five game [back] here and just didn't get it done."

Now they have to be worried that the Tigers will dance away with the division. Detroit owns the Twins, having won 12 of 13 games going back to last season. The teams have nine games remaining against each other, six at Comerica Park.

"Good pitching, good bullpen, good lineup," Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer said. "Obviously, we would have liked to have played better, won more games and put ourselves in a better situation."

The Tigers did everything a little better than the Twins in this series. But the biggest difference was starting pitching. Tigers starters posted a 2.57 ERA. Twins starters posted an 8.00 ERA and had only one starter -- Carl Pavano on Thursday -- pitch at least six innings.

Lefthander Brian Duensing was rocked for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings Friday, then posted an apology on his Twitter account. Scott Baker threw five shutout innings Saturday but was limited to 82 pitches in his first start since coming off the disabled list.

Then there was Sunday, when Francisco Liriano was knocked out with one out in the third inning after giving up four runs on six hits and four walks.

"Your pitcher has to give you an opportunity," Gardenhire said. "You look at our last starts, we haven't had anyone go past five [innings]. We have to go back to our starters going deep in the game and give us an opportunity to work our way into some games.

"You can't continue to play baseball that way. It takes the heat right out of you."

It could also lead to roster changes. The July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline is approaching, and the Twins are looking for bullpen help and, perhaps, a bat off the bench. Going 15-15 over their past 30 games isn't helping the decision-making, because they are a losing streak away from possibly forcing a change in approach.

"They know what's going on," Gardenhire said. "They know what's at stake. People could be leaving and that doesn't go unnoticed in the clubhouse. You don't get it done, they could move people here. We want to bring some more people in to help us. That's what we're trying for.

"The desire is here and these guys want to get after it."

They boarded a plane after the game for Texas and a four-game series against the Rangers. Texas is 33-19 at home, the best record in the majors.

A tough series awaits them as they try to shake off a disappointing series against the Tigers to end a disappointing homestand.

"I feel that every game from here on out is make or break," Twins third baseman Danny Valencia said. "We're seven games out."


    Up next: at Texas, 7:05 p.m. Monday • Rangers Ballpark • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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