Game 9: Valencia powers Twins to victory

BRADENTON, Fla. — Danny Valencia helped the Twins get out of their offensive slump with a three-run homer to lead the Twins to a 4-2 win over the Pirates on Saturday at McKechnie Field.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Twins, who improved to 4-5 in Grapefruit League play.

What went right: Valencia looked good at the plate, hitting an opposite-field double in the fifth inning off Jo-Jo Reyes before crushing a three-run shot off Reyes in the sixth.

The homer was set up by a two-out walk from Josh Willingham and a single from Justin Morneau. Morneau, who served as designated hitter, went 1-for-4 at the plate, including a deep fly ball to center field in the first. Willingham went 1-for-2 with a walk.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of right-hander Terry Doyle, who struggled. Jared Burton, Matt Maloney, Kyle Waldrop, Lester Oliveros and P.J. Walters each tossed a scoreless inning.

“They’re doing fine,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the relievers in camp. “We’re just looking at different guys. We see some guys we like a little bit. We like their arms. We see the ball coming out, but still, they’ve only been out once or twice. I think, let’s give them a couple more times out and see where we’re at.”

What went wrong: Doyle didn’t have his best stuff, as he allowed two runs on seven hits — including three doubles — and a walk over 2 2/3 innings.

Doyle, a Rule 5 Draft pick who must remain on the active roster all season or be offered back to the White Sox, didn’t exactly help his case to make the club. It was also Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s first time seeing him pitch.

And while Valencia certainly had a good day offensively, the rest of the Twins combined for just four hits — singles from Willingham, Morneau, Rene Rivera and Alexi Casilla.

Also, despite 14 hits, including a homer from Oswaldo Arcia and two doubles from Chris Parmelee, the Twins also lost 8-2 in a “B” game to the Pirates earlier in the day. Scott Baker pitched in two innings, but recorded just four outs, surrendering six runs (five earned) on six hits, including a two-run homer by Matt Hague.

“Baker was not very good at all,” Gardenhire said. “He got beat around pretty good. He threw the ball. We’ll see how he does from there. Maybe that “B” game format, he might need a little more preparation than that riding the bus and all that trying to pitch. He didn’t react well to that.”

What they said: “We had two good ballgames today,” Gardenhire said. “We had 13 or 14 hits in the first one, then out here today we came up with some big hits too. A better day.”

What’s next: Right-hander Nick Blackburn is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday against the split-squad Yankees at 12:05 p.m. CT at Hammond Stadium. Blackburn has tossed three scoreless innings in two “B” games against the Red Sox this spring. Brian Duensing, Liam Hendriks, Jeff Manship, Tyler Robertson, Brendan Wise and Deolis Guerra are also scheduled to pitch for the Twins. Right-hander Phil Hughes is slated to start for the Yankees.

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