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Twins defeat Brewers in 11 innings

By La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MILWAUKEE — The Minnesota Twins’ offense has performed better of late. And manager Ron Gardenhire has sensed a more relaxed team in the clubhouse.

“The players are taking better at bats, there’s a little more confidence,” Gardenhire said. “They have won a few ballgames and are little more upbeat. Right now things are dropping for us.”

It happened again Saturday, although it took a few runners left on base and for the game to creep into extra innings before they came through for good. Trevor Plouffe’s solo homer in the 11th inning led the Twins to a 5-4 victory over the Brewers.

The Twins have won their first three-game series since their opening home set against the Angels, and they have won four consecutive games for  the first time since June 17-21 of last season. Plouffe’s blast took Jared Burton off the hook, as the righthander gave up a two-run homer to Aramis Ramirez in the eighth inning to tie the score at 4-4.

Plouffe, still hitting only .147, batted with two outs in the 11th and drove a 2-0 pitch from Manny Parra over the wall in left-center for his third homer in four games during this road trip.

Righthander Carl Pavano, trying to pitch through soreness in his shoulder, is looking more and more like his old self. In six innings, Pavano gave up two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out six.

That’s three consecutive solid outings by the Twins rotation, a big relief for a club whose starters have been, statistically, the worst in baseball.

Pavano’s only problem on Saturday was Nyjer Morgan — or is it Tony Plush? Morgan singled three times and eventually scored each time.

The Twins broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh when Ben Revere was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded and got an RBI single by Jamey Carroll in the eighth to make it 4-2.

The Twins have scored 31 runs over their past four games, but Saturday was not a stellar day for their offense. They loaded the bases three times and could have broken the game open each time. They got a pair of sacrifice flies and a RBI single, but their boxscore was left wanting for more.

The Twins bullpen has excelled during the early part of the season but let them down in a big moment Saturday.

Brian Duensing replaced Pavano and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Burton took over for the eighth.  He struck out Corey Hart, but Morgan lobbed a single to right. Burton struck out 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun on three pitches but fell behind 2-0 to Aramis Ramirez. The former Cubs star then teed off on a fastball down the middle, driving a tying homer to left.

But Glen Perkins and Jeff Gray followed Burton with scoreless innings, and Matt Capps pitched the 11th to earn his ninth save.

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