The Twins have confidence and trust in Brian Duensing, their starting pitcher for Game 3 of the American League Division Series. As if that matters. The Twins are all too aware that against the Yankees, starting is not their problem. Finishing is.
No matter how Duensing pitches at Yankee Stadium, unless the Twins reverse their long-running pattern against the Yankees, their offseason will start Saturday night.
Eight consecutive times in postseason games dating to 2004, the Twins have gone ahead of the Yankees. Each time, the Twins have lost. It turns out they know how to take a lead, they just don't know how to hold one.
"It's not fun," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We know it's out there. You have to understand that it's not the same group of players. We have had a lot of pieces change, but the results have been the same. We haven't been able to finish them off. We have to figure out a way to finish these guys off. They are a great team. They find ways to win. We have to figure that out."
As usual, the Twins are on the brink of being finished off, down 2-0 in the best-of-five. It wouldn't be so frustrating if they had been awful. But as Duensing said: "I feel like we've been playing some pretty good baseball against these guys. We just can't quite get the job done when we need it in the key situation.
"It's not like we're going out there and giving up or laying down. We're playing all nine innings as hard as we can. Sometimes it takes some luck to get wins and hopefully, we can kind of switch that around."
The Twins were done talking about the latest visit of bad luck - umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's pivotal (and apparently wrong) call during Lance Berkman's at-bat Thursday. One pitch after taking an apparent called third strike, Berkman doubled home what proved to be the winning run. "It's done," second baseman Orlando Hudson said. "Put it in the trash can and get ready for the next day."
"You're going to get some and you're going to lose some," reliever Brian Fuentes said. "The other night, there was the call in rightfield and it went our way."
Unlike Berkman and the Yankees, the Twins were unable to take advantage of the apparently mistaken call on a ninth-inning fly ball that was ruled a hit Wednesday.
Fuentes also pointed out that he and many other Twins are comparatively new to the team, so they don't see the eight losses as a trend.
To get an idea of how things have changed, note that the winning pitcher in the first of those eight games was Paul Quantrill. The one constant has been the result.Delmon Young believes most of the trouble is that the Twins' lead usually has been no greater than 1-0. "They're in scoring position every time they walk up to home plate. We've got to go out there and put up three or four," he said.
For now, all they can do is what they've always done: put the ball in the hand of a capable starter and try to look ahead.
"We can't look at those past games and say, once they get a guy on, 'Oh, God, here they go again!' " said Michael Cuddyer, a Twin since 2001. "They've obviously had our number over the years and hopefully, Saturday will be the start of us getting over the hump."