Duensing puts Twins into early hole as struggles continue for starters

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2012 - 10:09 AM

He put the Twins in an early 4-0 hole as his overall record fell to 2-8.

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The Twins wish the main theme from Tuesday night's game would have been Josh Willingham's career-high 30th home run, or perhaps their offense's ability to capitalize on Detroit's woeful defense.

But as has been the case so many times this season, little could overshadow Minnesota's substandard starting pitching.

Brian Duensing had the Twins in a four-run hole by the second inning. Willingham tied it with his three-run homer in the third inning, a memorable blast into the bullpens at Target Field, but the Tigers eventually regained the lead against Duensing and pulled away for an 8-4 victory.

The Twins are 1-4 on this homestand against Tampa Bay and Detroit, and the story has been Minnesota's starters, who are 1-3 with a 7.24 ERA in these five games.

"It's frustrating to come out and put your team down right away," Duensing said. "It's tough to win when you do that."

Duensing (2-8) settled into a groove after the second inning, keeping the Tigers scoreless for the next three frames. But with one out in the sixth, he hung a first-pitch slider to Andy Dirks, who broke a 4-4 tie with a home run just beyond the right-field wall.

Detroit did the rest of its damage against the Twins bullpen, as Miguel Cabrera added two run-scoring hits, giving him 101 RBI.

In eight starts this year, Duensing is 1-6 with a 6.34 ERA, though he gets some credit for not letting this game get out of hand.

"He was overthrowing early," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When his velocity's up there 93-94 [miles per hour] -- that's really not him. He should settle in there somewhere around 90 and let movement take over. Once he did that, he was better. The one slider to Dirks was about it after the first couple innings."

Tigers starter Doug Fister (7-7) showed his own resilience, holding the Twins to four runs (all unearned) on five hits over eight innings. The Twins erased the early 4-0 deficit with four runs in the third inning, capitalizing on two Tigers errors. With two outs, Willingham drilled a two-strike slider from Fister well beyond the left-center-field wall, tying the score 4-4.

It's the 24th time the Twins have had a player hit 30 home runs, and the first since Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau eclipsed that mark in 2009.

"It felt good," Willingham said. "It was good to get us back in the ballgame, too. I wish we would've won the game, but it feels good to do something I've never done before."

At the time of Willingham's homer, the only players in the majors with more home runs were Adam Dunn (33) and Josh Hamilton (32).

"[Willingham's] been there all year for us -- 30 homers and [88] RBI," Gardenhire said.

Last year, Willingham established career highs with 29 home runs and 98 RBI for Oakland. Now, with 46 games left to play, he's on pace to hit 42 homers, which would make him the first Twins player to reach 40 since Harmon Killebrew in 1970.

"I've got 30 right now; I'll talk to you when I hit 31, I guess," Willingham said. "Hopefully, I will. I think being a corner outfielder, it's something you need to do, hit for power and drive in runs, and that's what I try to do."

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