Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Posts about Twins game coverage

Willingham's season could be over; one less obstacle for Tigers

Posted by: Phil Miller Updated: September 28, 2012 - 7:18 PM

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged that Josh Willingham could be finished for the season with a sprained left shoulder.

"We’re going to be very careful about this," Gardenhire said. "I have to go by what he says, and right now he can’t play. And I don’t plan on putting him out there until he can do it. If he could play, he'd play, I know that."

Willingham injured the shoulder when he jumped into the left-field wall, trying to catch a home run from Eric Chavez on Monday. Willingham is batting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI.

DEDUNO WON'T MAKE NEXT START

Samuel Deduno won't make Tuesday's start in Toronto because of left eye irritation, GM Terry Ryan said.

"He wants to pitch; we all know that, but you can’t have a guy on the mound who can’t see the ball and has blurry vision," Gardenhire said. "So we’ll go day-to-day with him until they tell me everything’s cleared up and OK."

It sounds like the Twins will pick between Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak to make Tuesday's start.

TONIGHT'S GAME

The Tigers are 13-3 in their past 16 games at Target Field, including 5-1 this year, and with another big weekend here, Detroit has a chance to put a stranglehold on a second consecutive division title.

Detroit leads the White Sox by two games with six to play. Max Scherzer has a shoulder injury, so lefthander Drew Smyly will start in his place tonight against the Twins, opposite Scott Diamond.

Meanwhile, the Rays will be trying to extend their eight-game winning streak in Chicago, with Jeremy Hellickson opposing White Sox righthander Gavin Floyd.

NISHIOKA RELEASED

Tsuyoshi Nishioka asked for his release, saving the Twins $3.25 million, as La Velle reports here.

AL BATTING RACE

1. Miguel Cabrera .326
2. Joe Mauer .323
3. Mike Trout .320
4. Derek Jeter .318
5. Adrian Beltre .318

TIGERS (84-72)

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Omar Infante, 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, LF
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Andy Dirks, LF
8. Avisail Garcia, RF
9. Gerald Laird, C

Starting pitcher: LH Drew Smyly (4-3, 4.24 ERA)

TWINS (65-91)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Ryan Doumit, DH
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Matt Carson, LF
8. Eduardo Escobar, 2B
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Starting pitcher: LH Scott Diamond (12-8, 3.64 ERA)

Target Field. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

Postgame: Mauer tightens batting race and shows he can still throw, too

Posted by: Phil Miller Updated: September 26, 2012 - 12:05 AM

Miguel Cabrera is trying to become baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, but Joe Mauer is breathing down his neck in the batting race.

Mauer went 3-for-4 Tuesday, raising his average to .326, while Cabrera went 0-for-3 with a walk, lowering his average to .329.

Cabrera leads the league with 133 RBI and has 42 home runs, trailing Josh Hamilton, who has 43. Cabrera’s Tigers open a three-game series at Target Field on Friday, so the batting race and the Triple Crown possibilities will play out all weekend.

“Mauer just continues on his pace,” Manager Ron Gardenhire said. “This guy, he’s totally incredible. He can flat out hit. It’s amazing to see. He sets such a high standard that when he gets down there close to .300, people think he’s struggling. That’s a way you make a lot of money in this game, just hitting .300. He goes way above that.”

STOP, THIEF!

Mauer also threw out two potential base stealers Tuesday -- Ichiro Suzuki in the third inning and Russell Martin in the fourth. This was notable because Mauer had thrown out just 11 percent (7-of-63) opposing base stealers this year.

Manager Ron Gardenhire says the bulk of the problem has been Twins pitchers being so slow to home plate that they don’t give Mauer a chance. Vasquez showed what a difference the pitcher can make, and Mauer made the kind of strong throws fans were used to seeing when he won his Gold Glove Awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

“[Vasquez] did a great job holding the ball, changing his delivery times, his looks over, throwing over on his own,” Mauer said. “He really did a good job tonight.”

Twins playing worse at home than the road

Posted by: Phil Miller Updated: September 25, 2012 - 7:21 PM

After opening Target Field in 2010, the Twins went 53-28 in their new ballpark en route to a division title. They went 33-48 at home last year on their way to 99 losses.

This year, the Twins are 29-47 at Target field, and their five remaining home games come against the Yankees and Tigers. The Twins aren’t good enough anywhere right now, but it’s interesting to see them playing worse at home than the road, where they’ve gone 35-43.

Tonight, Esmerling Vasquez will make his fifth start for the Twins, opposite Yankees righthander Phil Hughes. We’ll get an update on Josh Willingham, who had an MRI exam on his left shoulder after injuring himself going back for Eric Chavez’s home run in the seventh inning of Monday’s 6-2 loss.

Note: Derek Jeter is riding an 18-game hitting streak for the Yankees.

Update: Josh Willingham said his left shoulder is sore but doesn't think the injury is too serious. He had an MRI exam today, but still no word on the results.

Update: Willingham was diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder. He’s day-to-day, General Manager Terry Ryan said, but with an off day coming Thursday, Willingham likely won’t play until at least Friday.

YANKEES (89-64)

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
4. Robinson Cano, DH
5. Nick Swisher, 1B
6. Curtis Granderson, CF
7. Russell Martin, C
8. Raul Ibanez, LF
9. Jayson Nix, 2B

Starting pitcher: RH Phil Hughes (16-12, 4.05 ERA)

TWINS (64-90)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, LF
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Ryan Doumit, DH
6. Chris Parmelee, RF
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Jamey Carroll, 2B
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA)

Target Field. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

Postgame: Twins bullpen shined all weekend

Posted by: Phil Miller Updated: September 23, 2012 - 11:06 PM

DETROIT -- The Twins just went 2-1 at Comerica Park in a span of about 30 hours, and the bullpen played a big role.

Things were looking pretty bleak when Samuel Deduno lasted just 2 1/3 innings Saturday. But Anthony Swarzak (3 2/3 innings, one run) and Luis Perdomo (two scoreless innings) kept things from getting too out of hand in that 8-0 defeat.

In Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader, Scott Diamond gave the Twins a strong seven-inning start. With a 10-2 lead, Casey Fien pitched a 1-2-3 eighth (lowering his ERA to 1.39), and Alex Burnett would have had a scoreless ninth were it not for an error by Justin Morneau. Burnett allowed two runs, both unearned.

Game 2 was the bigger test. P.J. Walters held Detroit to one run over six innings. Brian Duensing pitched two scoreless innings (giving him a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings since moving back to the bullpen).

Jared Burton dazzled in the eighth, retiring Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young (lowering his ERA to 2.01). And Glen Perkins pitched a 1-2-3 ninth (making him 14-for-15 in save chances since replacing Matt Capps as closer).

Burton just oozes confidence.

“It was one of those nights where I was pretty locked in,” he said. “All my stuff was working; it’s some of the best stuff I’ve had all year. And that energy with that crowd going helped a little bit, too.”

There's plenty of talent in the Twins bullpen. If only the team has more leads to protect.

Game 2: Walters vs. Smyly; Mauer says catching Cabrera will be tough

Posted by: Phil Miller Updated: September 23, 2012 - 4:28 PM

DETROIT -- The Twins will try to continue playing spoiler in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Tigers after posting a 10-4 victory in Game 1.

Joe Mauer, who went 3-for-4 with four RBI as the DH in Game 1, will be catching P.J. Walters in Game 2.

Miguel Cabrera, who leads all three Triple Crown categories, went 1-for-4 with an RBI in Game 1, keeping his batting average at .332. Mauer is batting .326.

“There’s 10 games left, and the way he’s swinging the bat, it’d be pretty tough to catch him,” said Mauer, a three-time batting champ. “But I’m still going to go out there and do what I can do.”

Stat of the night: The Twins went 0-8 in four doubleheaders last year. They are 5-0 through 2 1/2 doubleheaders this year.

Update: The Game 1 victory assures the Twins of not finishing with 100 losses. They finished 63-99 last year.

TWINS (63-89)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jamey Carroll, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Ryan Doumit, DH
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Matt Carson, RF
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Starting pitcher: RH P.J. Walters (2-4, 6.39 ERA)

TIGERS (80-71)

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Quintin Berry, LF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Brennan Boesch, RF
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

Starting pitcher: LH Drew Smyly (4-3, 4.45 ERA)

Comerica Park. First pitch: 6:05 p.m. (Central). TV: FSN.

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

Game 1: Diamond vs. Scherzer; Arcia, Hermsen receive Twins minor-league honors

Posted by: Phil Miller Updated: September 23, 2012 - 11:15 AM

DETROIT -- The first-place White Sox lost to the Angels again Saturday night, leaving the Tigers a half-game back heading into Sunday’s doubleheader against the Twins.

Scott Diamond opposes Max Scherzer in Game 1, and P.J. Walters opposes Drew Smyly in Game 2.

Diamond is 0-2 with a 3.26 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers. Scherzer left Tuesday’s start against Oakland with right shoulder fatigue, and it was touch and go, whether he’d be able to make this start. Before the injury, Scherzer was on fire. He’s 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his past eight starts.

MINOR LEAGUE AWARDS

The Twins named Oswaldo Arcia their Minor League Player of the Year and B.J. Hermsen their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Each started the year at Class A Fort Myers and ended the year at Class AA New Britain.

Arcia, 21, batted a combined .320 with 17 home runs, 98 RBI and a .928 OPS.

Hermsen, 22, went a combined 12-6 with a 2.88 ERA in 26 starts. The 6-5 righthander isn’t overpowering, but as they say, he knows how to pitch.

Update: The Twins say Samuel Deduno will return to face the Yankees on Wednesday, on three day's rest. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings on Saturday, so he wasn't overtaxed. Deciding this now allows Brian Duensing to pitch in today's doubleheader, if needed.

Pitching matchups for the Yankees series: Hendriks/Pettitte (Mon); Vaszuez/Hughes (Tues); Deduno/Sabathia (Wed).

TWINS (62-89)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Ryan Doumit, C
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Eduardo Escobar, 2B
9. Pedro Florimon, SS

Starting pitcher: LH Scott Diamond (11-8, 3.69 ERA)

TIGERS (80-70)

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Omar Infante, 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
7. Andy Dirks, LF
8. Avisail Garcia, RF
9. Gerald Laird, C

Starting pitcher: RH Max Scherzer (16-6, 3.78 ERA)

Comerica Park. First pitch: 1:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

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