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05/31/10 1:43 AM ET
Twins bust out brooms with convincing win
Minnesota limits potent Rangers offense to seven runs in series
By Jocelyn Syrstad / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- For only the second time this season, the Twins could pull their brooms out of the closet.
In a three-game battle that featured two division leaders when the series began, the Twins certainly felt like they got a momentum boost by completing the sweep of the Rangers on Sunday in a 6-3 victory.
For as much of a threat the Twins have been to their opponents this season, Sunday's win marked only the second series sweep for Minnesota, the first coming in a three-game series against the Tigers from May 3-5.
The finale against the Rangers displayed hot bats -- Michael Cuddyer and J.J. Hardy were the only Twins in the lineup not to get a hit, but they got on base by drawing a combined four walks throughout the game.
The Twins closed their nine-game homestand with a record of 6-3 and had all facets of their team working together to finish on a four-game win streak.
"It's always good to sweep a first-place club," said left fielder Delmon Young. "You never know when you get that chance again. It's really exciting."
The Twins garnered an early 5-2 lead Sunday after producing runs in each of the first three innings. Joe Mauer crushed a ball to center field in the first inning, drawing the 39,873 fans in attendance to their feet. However, in a ballpark where a batter needs to work extra hard to trot around the bases, the ball landed just in front of the wall, nearly brushing it on the way down. Mauer settled with an RBI double, bringing in Orlando Hudson from first base to put the first run on the board.
The ensuing two innings added to the Twins' steadily-growing lead. The Twins produced two runs in both the second and third frames, with the RBIs coming from four different players.
After the early pounding, the Twins didn't score again until the seventh inning, when Jason Kubel's double to right-center brought Cuddyer in from first base for his second RBI of the game. Kubel drove in a run in five separate games during the Twins' homestand, a total of 13 driven in through nine games -- three of those were multiple-RBI affairs.
"That's something that I lacked probably the first month and a half, but now I'm starting to feel a lot better about myself," Kubel said. "I have a lot more confidence, and that what it's all about. We're also winning, so it's all good now."
Scott Baker improved his record to 5-4 on the year, though he admitted it wasn't his best performance. The right-hander gave up three runs on eight hits through six innings. He walked three batters, which tied his season-high.
Baker said his challenges came on his inability to keep the ball down throughout the game, but said he made enough quality pitches to get outs.
"You're going to have some really good starts and some really bad starts, and it's the ones in the middle that you really have to bear down in and fight through a little bit," Baker said. "Out of the starts I've had this season, that was probably one of the toughest, if not the toughest, mechanically that I've had."
Baker, along with Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey and the Twins' bullpen, held a hot-hitting Rangers team -- a team in which only one player in Sunday's starting lineup entered the game batting below .200 -- to only seven runs in the series.
The Twins scored 16 runs in that three-game span.
"They're dangerous," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "I think you see it all the way up and down the lineup. They've really got some guys that can swing it. There at the end, you never feel comfortable because they keep rounding them up there and taking big swings. You have to be careful and pitch in good situations. I thought we did a very good job with that."
Rangers third baseman Michael Young gave a simple solution to the sweep: the Twins played well, and the Rangers did not. He said his team wasn't consistent in any aspect of the game, resulting in the team's four-game losing streak.
The Twins managed to silence their opponents' bats and got key hits when it mattered most, something the Rangers couldn't do.
"That's a good team," Span said. "Look at what our pitching did to their offense. You have to tip your hat off to our pitching, because the offense over there is pretty potent.
"We didn't take them lightly coming in, and we just played good baseball."