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10/08/10 12:42 AM ET

Spin Forward: Twins leaning on Duensing

MINNESOTA -- When Brian Duensing took the Yankee Stadium mound for Game 1 of the American League Division Series last year, it was a direct consequence of the Twins burning their top three starters in a late-season race just to reach the playoffs.

On Saturday, the Twins not cashing in with their top two starters on the mound means the second-year starter will face a team he's never really figured out while serving as his club's last hope.

"We've got nothing to lose now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after falling behind, 0-2, in the ALDS at Target Field on Thursday. "We're in the hole. We put ourselves in the hole, and the Yankees have put us in the hole. And we have to try to dig ourselves out of it, and we'll do the best we possibly can. And Duensing on the mound, we kind of like that."

The Yankees, on the other hand -- who will counter with Phil Hughes in Game 3 -- have put themselves in a position to take a load off their Achilles' heel -- their starting rotation.

That's easy to say, of course, because they're coming off a 5-2 win, are one win away from advancing and will play their next two games at home. But the situation is favorable.

And if they do indeed get to Duensing in the Bronx and sweep the Twins, the man they are destined to rely heavily upon this postseason -- staff ace CC Sabathia -- won't have to pitch on short rest in this series.

Still, the Yankees aren't jumping ahead.

Within hours of each other, the Rangers and Yankees became the 17th and 18th teams, respectively, to win the first two games of a Division Series on the road. Of them, only the 2001 A's won two away games only to lose the series. There were Division Series played in 1981 due to a split season resulting from a players' strike.
Year Series Road Home Winner
2008 NLDS LAD CHC LAD, 3-0
2008 ALDS BOS LAA BOS, 3-1
2007 NLDS COL PHI COL, 3-0
2006 NLDS STL SD STL, 3-1
2006 ALDS OAK MIN OAK, 3-0
2004 ALDS BOS ANA BOS, 3-0
2002 NLDS STL ARI STL, 3-0
2001 NLDS ATL HOU ATL, 3-0
2001 ALDS OAK NYY NYY, 3-2
2000 ALDS SEA CWS SEA, 3-0
1997 ALDS BAL SEA BAL, 3-1
1996 NLDS ATL LAD ATL, 3-0
1995 NLDS CIN LAD CIN, 3-0
1995 NLDS ATL COL ATL, 3-1
1981 ALDS NYY MIL NYY, 3-2
1981 ALDS OAK KC OAK, 3-0

"They're a very good ballclub, and we understand that," Yankees skipper Joe Girardi said. "And we still have a lot of work to do."

The Twins have a lot more work to do, and it will start on Saturday with Duensing, whose only career start against the Bronx Bombers came in that dreadful ALDS Game 1 last year.

Besides that, Duensing has had four relief appearances against the Yankees, putting up an 8.10 ERA in 6 2/3 innings during that span. But the 27-year-old left-hander is 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts this year.

And when Duensing takes the mound on Saturday -- for a game that will start at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TBS -- good friend Nick Blackburn feels the Yankees will see a guy unlike the one they beat up in last year's playoffs.

"I think he's a lot different pitcher this year than he was last year," said Blackburn, who lost a rotation spot to Duensing and has a locker next to him. "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."

The Twins certainly hope so. In ALDS history, teams that have fallen behind 0-2 have come back to win the series just four out of 19 times.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.