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Span spanks Brewers

McClatchy News Services

MILWAUKEE — It’s one thing to go on the disabled list. It’s another to land there after getting dizzy.

After a series of dizzy spells, Denard Span was diagnosed with an inner-ear infection, but his Minnesota Twins teammates teased him mercilessly.

Manager Ron Gardenhire recently updated Span’s progress saying, "I gave him a couple of signs, and he missed them, so I know he’s getting closer."

Span returned from a rehab stint with Class AAA Rochester this week and went to Miller Park, only to leave his equipment at the hotel.

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"He forgot you have to carry your own bag in the minors," Gardenhire said.

By Thursday afternoon, the jokes had finally subsided. Span put the word lead back in leadoff for the Twins, opening three innings with walks, hitting a triple and scoring three runs in a 6-4 victory over the Brewers.

With Span back atop their lineup, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey stepping into a bigger relief role, the Twins overcame Wednesday’s stunning 4-3 loss to take the rubber game of the series.

Scott Baker (5-6) pitched six innings, and Gardenhire turned to Dickey for the seventh, handing him a lead of fewer than four runs for the first time this season.

Dickey retired all three batters he faced, extending an impressive streak. In his past 12 appearances, spanning 28 innings, Dickey has posted a 0.64 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .165 average.

"As I told him today, ’Son, we’re going to probably be using you quite a bit, if you keep throwing like this,’ " Gardenhire said. "He can go out there and throw just about every day. Because he throws a knuckleball, he’s got a rubber arm, and that could really be big for us."

In Miller Park’s hot, sticky air, with almost no wind to help his knuckleball dance, Dickey also pitched two scoreless innings in Tuesday’s 7-3 victory.

"There hasn’t really been a formal conversation (about a bigger role), but you kind of get a pulse of how things are moving," Dickey said. "Whether I’m getting outs in the seventh or the third, I’ve still gotta get outs. I don’t put any more added pressure on that situation."

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Matt Guerrier, who quietly opened June with 10 scoreless appearances, gave up a home run to Ryan Braun this time but finished the eighth, and Joe Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save, extending his scoreless streak to 14 innings.

After going 2-for-4, to raise his average to .395, catcher Joe Mauer spoke glowingly of Span and Dickey.

Span "changes the game," Mauer said. "He gets on base, he’s a threat to steal and he can do a lot of things."

Asked if the catchers are comfortable enough handling Dickey’s knuckleball to welcome him in a late-inning role, Mauer said, "It’s uncomfortable when he’s throwing because it’s nasty. He’s a guy who’s been getting a lot of outs, and I’m sure he’ll probably be getting into some closer situations."

The Twins also hope they can break a few games open with Span back in the leadoff spot. They seemed more confident leaving Milwaukee, even though Thursday’s early success came against Brewers righthander Mike Burns, in his first major league start.

"I’m just pumped up to finally get back on the field," Span said after his first game since June 9. "My teammates have been riding me for the last two weeks for being dizzy, and it just felt good in my first game back to help us win."

TWINS 6, BREWERS 4

MINNESOTA MILWAUKEE

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ab r h bi ab r h bi

Span cf-lf 2 3 1 0 Counsell 2b 3 1 1 0

B.Harris ss 4 2 2 1 McGehee 3b 4 1 1 2

Mauer c 5 0 2 1 Braun lf 4 1 1 1

Morneau 1b 4 0 1 1 Fielder 1b 3 1 2 1

Kubel lf 4 0 1 0 C.Hart rf 4 0 0 0

Dickey p 0 0 0 0 M.Cameron cf 3 0 0 0

Guerrier p 0 0 0 0 Hardy ss 4 0 0 0

Buscher ph 1 0 0 0 Kendall c 3 0 0 0

Nathan p 0 0 0 0 Burns p 2 0 0 0

Cuddyer rf 3 0 0 1 Narveson p 0 0 0 0

Crede 3b 4 1 1 1 Stetter p 0 0 0 0

Tolbert 2b 4 0 2 0 DiFelice p 0 0 0 0

S.Baker p 3 0 0 0 Gerut ph 1 0 0 0

Gomez cf 1 0 0 0 C.Smith p 0 0 0 0

Totals 35 6 10 5 Totals 31 4 5 4

Minnesota 000 211 200 — 6

Milwaukee 000 003 010 — 4

DP—Minnesota 1, Milwaukee 1. LOB—Minnesota 9, Milwaukee 3. 2B—Mauer (12), Counsell (10), Fielder (17). 3B—Span (3). HR—Crede (11), McGehee (3), Braun (16), Fielder (18). SF—B.Harris.

IP H R ER BB SO

Minnesota

S.Baker W,5-6 6 4 3 3 3 5

Dickey H,1 1 0 0 0 0 0

Guerrier H,13 1 1 1 1 0 1

Nathan S,17-19 1 0 0 0 0 2

Milwaukee

Burns L,0-1 5 2-3 6 4 4 3 3

Narveson 1-3 2 2 2 1 0

Stetter 2-3 1 0 0 1 1

DiFelice 1-3 0 0 0 0 1

C.Smith 2 1 0 0 1 2

Narveson pitched to 2 batters in the 7th.

PB—Kendall.

T—2:50. A—40,524 (41,900).

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