With Saturday's trade sending Liriano to the White Sox, Minnesota nixed its original schedule of pitching Liriano in Sunday's finale against Cleveland. Duensing had been stretched out from a four-inning relief appearance earlier in the week. Despite the late notice, the left-hander provided his best outing of the season, throwing six strong innings.
And while the Twins bats cooled slightly after scorching 11- and 12-run outputs the previous two days, they mustered enough offense -- primarily a Justin Morneau two-run homer -- for a 5-1 sweep-clinching victory over Cleveland in front of 34,720 at Target Field.
Though Duensing had been effective in relief duty this year -- he owns a 3.12 ERA in 33 relief appearances -- he struggled in his four previous starts, going 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA. Sunday's victory was his first as a starter since Aug. 28, 2011, against Detroit.
"It's better when I don't know when I'm going to pitch, I guess," he said with a slight grin. "I like starting and I like knowing when I'm going to throw, but I didn't have time to psych myself out or anything like that. I went out there and did what I could. I tried to keep us in the game and it worked out."
Duensing held Cleveland to its lone run on five hits and no walks in his season-best six frames. Asdrubal Cabrera scored the Indians' only run in the fourth on Shelley Duncan's two-out single.
"He really threw the ball good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Duensing. "We got six big innings out of him. ... We thought it was fantastic."
Morneau crushed his 13th home run of the year to right in the fourth, driving in Josh Willingham to give Minnesota 2-1 lead. The first baseman is hitting .333 with seven doubles, 12 RBIs and 13 runs over his last 22 games.
He finished the three-game series 5-for-11 with two home runs and five RBIs.
"I think it's been kind of building for a while," Morneau said. "I don't like to go back to last year too much, but I think I got into a lot of bad habits. I kind of battled my way through the winter, and now I think the more repetitions I've had, the more comfortable I am with the more work I've been able to put in. Some of it's starting to show a little bit, and hopefully it continues to improve."
Ben Revere also continues to swing well. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games in the fifth with a double before scoring on a wild pitch from Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Revere's single in the seventh knocked in Denard Span and Brian Dozier.
Revere is 18-for-53 during his streak, which dates back to July 16. It is his longest streak since he collected hits in a career-high 13 consecutive games last September. He also recorded his sixth-career multi-steal game with two stolen bases, helping Minnesota tie a season-high with five thefts on the day.
"We were not even a challenge to the Twins in this series," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "You can't take anything away from them, either. They went out there and scored 28 runs in three days against us and we couldn't match any of that stuff. Today was just another game where they just out-played us. We just didn't do anything right, especially giving up five stolen bases."
Minnesota also benefited from its starting pitchers posting quality starts in all three games -- a rarity for a team whose rotation has scuffled all season. The Twins' bullpen also pitched well to limit Cleveland to a .140 team average with only one extra-base hit in the series.
"Overall a really good series by us," Gardenhire said. "Hard played and well played by our baseball team. A good way to go."