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Twins fall to Mariners

Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau fields a pick-off attempt as the Seattle Mariners’ Trayvon Robinson makes it safely back to first base in the top of the sixth inning at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Thursday, August 31, 2012. The Mariners held on for a 5-4 win.

By Joe Christensen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — Josh Willingham has been as valuable as any Twins player this season, but Thursday he took his turn adding water to their sinking ship.

Willingham had two disappointing at-bats early in the 5-4 loss to Seattle at Target Field, as the Twins missed chances to build a bigger lead against Mariners starter Blake Beavan.

Then in the sixth inning, Willingham dropped a routine fly ball, helping the Mariners move ahead by three runs.

Of course, Willingham has the ability to change things with one swing, and he lined a two-run homer in the eighth inning — his 33rd of the season — to pull the Twins within a run.

They put runners at the corners in the ninth on two walks, but Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen got Ben Revere to hit a weak roller to first base, ending the game.

“I just didn’t do a whole lot today early to help us win the game today,” Willingham said.

The Twins fell to 4-17 in their past 21 games and dropped three of four to the Mariners, finishing the season series 2-8 against the last-place team in the American League West.

“The last couple games were a lot more fun than the others — other than the big inning (Thursday) — so hopefully we can build off of that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Twins starter Brian Duensing (3-10) retired 12 consecutive batters and took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning, when Seattle’s first thee hitters reached. Kyle Seager hit a sacrifice fly, tying the score, and Gardenhire replaced Duensing with Casey Fien.

Willingham’s error came next and after Fien walked pinch hitter John Jaso, Trayvon Robinson delivered a two-out, two-run single. Duensing was charged with four runs (three earned) in 513 innings.

Duensing is 2-8 with a 6.92 ERA in 12 starts this year, and it’s unclear if his future with the team will be as a starter or reliever.

“I don’t want to take anything away from him right now and start talking about other stuff,” Gardenhire said. “He gave us a great chance to win. We’ll move forward from there and see where we’re at.”

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