Twins 2, Tigers 1(10)

Danny Valencia is a rookie who doesn’t lack confidence. Consider

the T-shirt the proud University of Miami product was wearing after

the game, blaring ”The ‘U’ invented swagger” on the front.

Minnesota’s up-and-coming third baseman couldn’t have expected

to do this well, though.

Valencia’s one-out single in the 10th inning drove in Michael

Cuddyer from second base and gave the Twins a 2-1 victory over the

Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.

Valencia is batting .332 with 16 doubles, two homers and 24 RBIs

in 208 at-bats, one of a handful of first-year players thrust into

action this season.

”We need ’em. That’s for sure. Especially now, with all the

injuries we’ve had to endure in the past two months,” Cuddyer

said. ”For him to come up and fill in nicely is huge.”

The Twins kept their four-game lead over Chicago in the AL

Central, improving to 7-1 against the Tigers at Target Field,

despite nine strikeouts and only four hits allowed in a career-high

nine innings by Detroit starter Max Scherzer.

With the hard-throwing Ryan Perry (2-5) pitching, Cuddyer

singled to start the inning and stole second base while Delmon

Young struck out. Then Valencia, whose single in the fifth helped

the Twins score their first run against Scherzer, smacked a single

to center on a 3-2 count that was deep enough for Cuddyer to score

standing up just before the throw from Austin Jackson.

”I knew I’d be able to play up here obviously, but to do this

well it’s pretty surreal,” Valencia said. ”I’m just happy the way

it’s going right now.”

Jon Rauch (3-1) pitched a perfect 10th for the victory that

should’ve gone to Francisco Liriano, who kept up his strong second

half with seven shutout innings by powerfully and masterfully

working his way out of men-on situations in the first, third,

fourth, fifth and seventh.

He’s 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA in nine starts after the All-Star

break. Extra rest he’s been given between turns recently has

clearly helped.

”I feel way better,” Liriano said.

The second half hasn’t been as much fun for Tigers manager Jim

Leyland, who hasn’t had a winning record in games after the

All-Star break since his World Series championship season with

Florida in 1997. Leyland lamented some of the mistakes by a handful

of youngsters playing more because of various injuries.

”They press a little bit,” he said. ”We’ve got them

throughout the lineup and that’s going to happen, but we have to

just keep grinding it. They’ll learn at some point in their

careers.”

Lately at least, the pitching staff has picked it up for the

Tigers.

In their last 12 games, the starters have a 1.81 ERA and a 7-1

record with 11 quality starts of six innings or more and three

earned runs or less. The Tigers are 7-5 in that stretch.

Young doubled for the Twins’ first hit and scored on a sacrifice

fly by Jose Morales in the fifth inning against Scherzer, who has

allowed one run or less in six of his last seven starts with just

two given up in the other one.

”He’s got a tremendous mound presence right now,” Leyland

said. ”He’s one of the better pitchers in the league.”

Scherzer finished strong, getting Valencia on a weak pop out to

second and striking out Morales and Jason Repko in the perfect

eighth. In the ninth, after pinch-hitter Jim Thome’s sharp single,

Scherzer retired Joe Mauer on a fly to left with nobody warming up

in the bullpen until Perry readied for the 10th.

”It was one of the best games I’ve thrown in the big leagues,

and it doesn’t feel right,” Scherzer said. ”We didn’t win. I’m so

tied to how this team does.”

Liriano was just as impressive, striking out Gerald Laird, with

the fans on their feet, to finish the seventh with one on.

Jackson started the eighth with a single against Jesse Crain,

but Will Rhymes popped up his bunt attempt and Randy Flores came in

to strike out pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn. Matt Guerrier walked

Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta’s single to left field tied the

game.

That was only the second earned run charged to Crain in his last

35 appearances. Guerrier, however, had a 5.27 ERA in August.

NOTES: Scherzer is 1-6 with a 5.46 ERA in 11 starts against

division opponents. He’s 9-3 with a 2.13 ERA in 15 starts against

other teams. … The Twins finished August with 18 wins, most in

the league and their highest total in one month since Sept. 2006.

… Tigers reliever Bobby Seay, on the DL all season, will have

surgery on his left shoulder in two weeks. … Valencia is batting

.432 with nine doubles in 88 at-bats at Target Field.