MINNEAPOLIS – As Danny Valencia's three-run homer barely reached the seats in left field to give the Minnesota Twins a 7-0 lead in the eighth inning, Brian Duensing was worried his chances for a second career shutout left the ballpark with it.
He lobbied briefly to stay in the game, and that was enough for Ron Gardenhire.
Duensing overcame a shaky start to throw a six-hitter and Valencia had three hits and three RBIs to help the Twins beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-0 on Monday.
"He said, 'I'm going back out there,'" Gardenhire said. "There was no question about it. He was going back out, which was kind of neat. And we were going to let him."
Duensing (6-7) struck out seven and walked four for his second career shutout, throwing a career-high 119 pitches to give struggling closer Matt Capps the day off.
David Price (8-7) gave up four runs on five hits with six strikeouts in six innings for the Rays.
Duensing walked a tightrope early in the game, getting hit hard by the Rays but taking advantage of some good defense keep Tampa Bay off the board.
"Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good," he said.
Tampa loaded the bases in the first inning before Justin Ruggiano bounced into an inning-ending double play. Kelly Shoppach did the same after a leadoff single from Kotchman in the second and Cuddyer and Alexi Casilla both made nifty plays in the fourth inning.
Cuddyer, who is headed to his first All-Star game, made a leaping catch at the right field wall to take away an extra-base hit from Ruggiano and Casilla made a diving stop to get Matt Joyce and strand two runners on base. Duensing pumped his fist and slapped Casilla on the rear as they headed to the dugout, and he cruised from there.
The lefty retired 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced.
"It didn't start as well as I wanted it to," Duensing said. "But the defense made some unbelievable plays that kept me in it. Next thing you know we're putting across runs against David Price."
It was the kind of outing many expected to see from Price against the injury plagued Twins lineup manager Ron Gardenhire trotted out there. Only two hitters started the day with a batting average better than .244, and the bottom third featured lightweights Jason Repko (.230), Matt Tolbert (.186) and Nishioka (.189).
The trio proved to be a lot more formidable than expected the first time through the order. Repko singled, Tolbert walked and Nishioka hit a two-run double to right field to open the scoring.
A scary moment occurred in the third inning, when Joe Mauer's bat splintered on a dribbler back to Price. The barrel slammed into home plate umpire Paul Emmel's right leg on the follow through, causing Mauer to turn and look as he trotted down the first base line.
Trainers rushed to Emmel's aid, but after a few minutes the umpire remained in the game without missing a pitch.
Cuddyer hit the next offering from Price an estimated 443 feet into the second deck in left field, giving the Twins a 4-0 lead.
"It's a pretty big confidence booster," said Duensing, who had given up 14 earned runs in his previous four starts. "I haven't been doing very well lately and I know that. My numbers haven't been good and I haven't gone real deep in a game, really. This is a real positive."
Valencia took all suspense out of the game when he hit a three-run homer off Adam Russell in the eighth inning. He also had a double and is 6 for 7 with two walks in his career against Price.
"I thought we hit some balls well, then by about the fifth or the sixth inning he settled in," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought we were swinging the bats good. I thought we had a legitimate shot. It just went away."
NOTES: Rays OF Ben Zobrist missed the game because of illness. ... The Twins said OF Jason Kubel (sprained foot) was still having discomfort while running so he was going to return to the Twin Cities for further examination on Tuesday.