MINNEAPOLIS -- The last time Brian Duensing made a start at Yankee Stadium, he was opening last year's American League Division Series. After two relief appearances there last May, he returns to the Big Apple looking to keep this year's ALDS from ending.
He's had a breakout season in the Twins' rotation in between, and his teammates believe he gives them a chance to finally take a game out of this series.
"I think he's a lot different pitcher this year than he was last year," teammate Nick Blackburn said. "I think as many starts as he's had this year and as good of a season as he's had so far this year, I think he's got a little more confidence, you know, and I think he'll be fine. I'm expecting him to go out there and do what he's been doing all year."
If the Twins have to play this series out as if they have nothing to lose, Duensing might well fit that approach well. After opening the season in the bullpen, Duensing took a midseason shot in the rotation and ran with it, going 8-2 as a starter and picking up two crucial wins over the White Sox to help the Twins sew up the AL Central.
Duensing gave up five runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of last year's Division Series in the Bronx. He had a Twins team behind him that made a late-night trip into town the night before following an extra-innings tiebreaker win over the Tigers to earn a postseason berth.
"Duensing has been there before," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Duensing opened the playoffs there last year. He's pitched very very well for us, another kid that handles the pressure, and there's going to be some pressure out there. But I think our ballclub, we have to kind of let it fly."