Justin Morneau hit a two-run homer, Brian Duensing threw six smooth innings as a late fill-in for Francisco Liriano and the Minnesota Twins finished a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 5-1 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Duensing (2-6) lost all four of his previous starts this year, but he needed only 70 pitches to finish six frames and yield to the bullpen after scattering five singles without a walk, giving up one run and striking out two. Ben Revere had two hits, two steals and two RBIs for the Twins.
Ubaldo Jimenez (8-10) worked into the seventh and struck out six, but the Indians lost for the eighth time in their last 11 games. They were a season-high 5½ games out of first place in the AL Central when the game began, behind the Chicago White Sox. They haven't been two games under .500 since mid-April.
Duensing found out late the night before of this assignment, after the Twins finalized their trade of Liriano to the Chicago White Sox for a pair of prospects. Manager Ron Gardenhire only committed to this game for Duensing, with the vacated spot in the rotation yet to be determined for the remainder of the season.
As effective as Duensing has been in middle relief, with a 3.12 ERA in 33 appearances in 2012, he's struggled in the starter's role, allowing 15 runs, 23 hits and five homers over 13 1-3 innings in his prior turns. For his career, the left-hander has an ERA of well more than a run higher as a starter than a reliever. Entering this game, opponents were batting .285 against him in starts and just .246 when he comes out of the bullpen.
But the Twins have refused to give up on him as a starter, believing his array of pitches is deep enough to work through several innings rather than just popping in and out to face a handful of batters. With Liriano gone and the starting staff ERA at a league-worst 5.61 when the day began, the 29-year-old Duensing still has ample room to carve out a permanent place for him in Minnesota's starting five.
This was a solid audition.
Duensing gave up consecutive two-out singles in the fourth inning, but the second one by Shelley Duncan was a bloop that barely carried over shortstop Brian Dozier's head. That put the Indians in front, but their lead was brief. Morneau's soaring shot over the 23-foot wall in right-center field came in the bottom of that frame to make the score 2-1 Twins.
Revere doubled in the fifth, moved up on a balk and score on a wild pitch by Jimenez to stretch the lead to two in the fifth.
Jimenez walked Denard Span, his last batter. After a double steal by Dozier and Span, Tony Sipp gave up a two-run, one-out single to Revere to make it 5-1. Jimenez just hasn't pitched the way the Indians envisioned when they acquired him right before the trade deadline last summer from the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander fell to 1-5 in his last seven starts after allowing six hits and three walks.
NOTES: Dozier also had two of Minnesota's five steals. ... This was the third series sweep by the Twins this year. They outscored the Indians 28-6. ... Morneau, who homered at Target Field for just the eighth time in 115 games here over three seasons, moved within one RBI of matching Gary Gaetti for fifth place on the team's all-time list with 756. ... Acta said he's still not sure when or where RH Roberto Fernandez, who played as Fausto Carmona until his false identity was revealed this spring, will pitch in his next minor league game. Hernandez is serving an suspension issued by Major League Baseball and is eligible to rejoin the Indians Aug. 11. ... The Indians are off Monday and start a three-game series in Kansas City on Tuesday. RH Derek Lowe (8-9, 5.09 ERA), who has won only two of his last 12 starts, takes the mound. He'll face RH Luke Hochevar (6-9, 5.26 ERA) of the Royals. ... The Twins host Liriano's new team, the White Sox, for three games starting Monday. LH Jose Quintana (4-1, 2.58 ERA) is scheduled to start for Chicago, and RH Cole De Vries (2-2, 3.64 ERA) will pitch for the Twins.