Duensing looks to continue his excellent second half with a third straight win in Monday’s opener against the Indians at Target Field, where the first-place Twins may have to survive a day or two without Joe Mauer(notes).
Minnesota (89-60) has all but wrapped up the AL Central with a torrid September, but it lost a home series Sunday for the first time since the All-Star break. Oakland jumped on Francisco Liriano(notes) for three first-inning runs during a 6-2 win in the decisive series final.
Cleveland had been the last team to win a series at Minnesota from July 19-21.
With a comfortable lead over Chicago in the division, the Twins’ bigger concern was Mauer’s early exit. The reigning AL MVP tweaked his left knee swinging in the sixth inning, and though it’s not believed to be serious, manager Ron Gardenhire may give his star some time to heal.
“It’s one of these day-to-day things,” Gardenhire said. “It’s not a big deal. At least that’s what they’re telling me today. There’s no fluid, there’s no any of that in there. Maybe just a little of inflammation. So we’ll how it goes.”
The left-hander was outstanding out of the bullpen in the first half (2-1, 1.62) and he’s been almost as good in the rotation since the All-Star break. Duensing improved to 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 10 starts by holding the White Sox to two runs over six innings in a 9-3 win Wednesday.
“I don’t think he’s going to end up in the bullpen anymore,” Gardenhire told the Twins’ official website. “I think he’s probably solidified himself as a starter at least in our eyes. He’s in the rotation, he’s going to be in the rotation and I think our future is pretty bright with him in it.”
Duensing held the Indians (62-87) without a hit in three relief appearances this season before limiting them to four runs - three earned - over 7 1-3 innings in a 5-4 road win Aug. 8.
Cleveland lost 6-4 in Kansas City on Sunday, missing a chance for its first road sweep since July 24-26, 2009.
Bouncing back Monday will be especially tough if Jeanmar Gomez(notes) (3-4, 4.02) looks anything like he did Wednesday against the Angels. The rookie right-hander gave up seven runs over just three innings in a 7-0 loss, his fourth in a row.
“We know he needs work on his secondary pitches, so when he doesn’t have his sinker working, it’s not good for him,” manager Manny Acta told the Indians’ official website. “We’ll look at him again in five days. All he has to do is throw the ball over the plate, because he has that good sinker.”
Gomez held the Twins to a run over 5 1-3 innings Aug. 6 but didn’t earn a decision in the Indians’ 7-6 win.