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Twins complete sweep of White Sox

Twins complete sweep of White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Duensing didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare for his first Major League start.

The Twins rookie found out around 2:30 CT Wednesday afternoon in manager Ron Gardenhire's office that he would take the mound for Minnesota's series finale against Chicago. With scheduled starter Francisco Liriano scratched with inflammation in his left forearm, Gardenhire had to reach into his already thin bullpen to find a spot starter.

Duensing, a starter at the Triple-A level, was the skipper's choice, and he didn't disappoint. While he didn't factor into the decision, Duensing pitched five effective innings as Minnesota topped Chicago, 3-2, to sweep the series and take sole possession of second place in the American League Central.

"I got real nervous and got excited at the same time," Duensing said.

With the win, the Twins continued their dominance over the White Sox, having now gone 18-6 at the Metrodome against Chicago since 2007. The two teams will face off in just one more series at the Metrodome, much to Chicago skipper Ozzie Guillen's delight.

"I can't wait to see those piranhas swimming in a different lake next year," Guillen said.

Offensively, it was the pesky piranhas that again annoyed Guillen, but the story may have been different if not for an impressive outing by a former starter, turned reliever, turned starter again.

Spotted with two runs early, Duensing didn't look the part of a rookie, giving up just two runs on three hits -- two of which cleared the fence -- in his debut as a starter in the big leagues.

"Tip your hat to Duensing for stepping in, taking the ball and going out there and giving us five good innings," Gardenhire said.

Prior to Wednesday's start, Duensing made nine appearances with the Twins, all in relief and none more than 3 2/3 innings. Gardenhire wasn't ready to use him past the fifth inning, meaning the rest of the bullpen was called upon to pick him up.

When Duensing exited after the fifth, it was up to the overworked Twins bullpen to hold the game in check. Jesse Crain relieved Duensing and pitched two scoreless innings, giving up just one hit each inning.

Crain benefitted from double plays in both the sixth and seventh as he collected his third victory of the season. It was his fourth appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester, where he spent more than a month trying to fix his mechanics.

"We need that, and we're going to have to have him," Gardenhire said. "We said all along, he feels like he's righted himself. Now he showed it out there on the field. Tonight was a good start."

"That was great," Duensing said regarding Crain. "To see him throw like that, it's good to have him back up here, and to have him shut the door like that is even better."

The compliments between relievers went the other way as well, as the duo combined to keep the Twins in the game.

"Duensing picked us up great," Crain said. "To be able to throw five innings and keep us in the game, that's all we could have asked for."

On a night when Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were held hitless, the bottom of the Minnesota lineup produced the scoring, led by a pair of RBIs from second baseman Alexi Casilla.

Center fielder Carlos Gomez, hitting seventh in the lineup, reached with a single to left against White Sox starter Jose Contreras in the second. Gomez then stole second, and Nick Punto walked to put two runners on with one out.

Casilla -- hitting .161 entering the game -- drove a double to the gap in left-center that bounced over the fence and scored Gomez. Punto came around to score from third one batter later on a groundout by Denard Span.

"We're going to need a lot of that at the bottom of the order, getting it done, executing and all those things," Gardenhire said.

Locked in a 2-2 tie after a pair of solo homers by the White Sox, it was the lower third of the Twins' lineup again coming through with a run. After Joe Crede walked to start the sixth, Gomez moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Casilla's two-out single to center brought home Crede for what would prove to be the game-winning run.

"Alexi Casilla had a heck of a night at the plate, driving one in the gap and then filling one in there, knocking in some runs, running around the bases," Gardenhire said. "That's nice to see."

Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan each pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen for Minnesota. Nathan made things interesting for Minnesota in the ninth, as he gave up a hit to Gordon Beckham and walked Paul Konerko. The runners advanced on a wild pitch with two outs, but Nathan earned his 29th save of the season when Mark Kotsay lined out to right fielder Michael Cuddyer to end the game.

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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