Cubs

Plouffe, Mauer Power Twins Over Cubs, 11-3

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Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija #29 of the Chicago Cubs throws the ball against the Minnesota Twins during interleague play at Target Field on June 9, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija #29 of the Chicago Cubs throws the ball against the Minnesota Twins during interleague play at Target Field on June 9, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Trevor Plouffe had a double, a homer and four RBIs and Scott Diamond pitched six scoreless innings to lead the Minnesota Twins to an 11-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

Diamond (5-1) allowed seven hits and struck out five and Joe Mauer added three hits and two RBIs in his return from a sprained right thumb for the Twins, who have won nine of their past 11 games.

Jeff Samardzija (5-4) gave up eight runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings, tying his shortest outing of the season for the Cubs, who have lost 20 of their past 24 games.

Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer in the eighth for the Cubs, his 12th long ball in the past 24 games.

For the first six weeks of the season, the Twins and Cubs were vying for the title of the worst team in baseball. But after starting the season 15-32, the Twins have shown some signs of life thanks in large part to the surprising emergence of Diamond in their starting rotation.

The former Rule 5 draft choice struggled mightily in the minors last season and was called up this season almost out of desperation to try and help the Twins’ rotation. The left-hander has been nothing short of superb, allowing eight earned runs in his seven starts for a 1.61 ERA.

He had plenty of breathing room to work with against the flailing Cubs, thanks to an uncharacteristic off day from Samardzija.

Samardzija has had an impressive season for the Cubs, entering the game having allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight straight starts. His fastball was again humming around 97 mph, but the former Notre Dame receiver was pummeled in the fourth.

The Twins had six runs and seven hits in that inning alone, getting four doubles and two hits from Mauer, the last an RBI-double off the wall in left field that made it 8-0.

Plouffe hit a solo homer in the fifth and Mauer and Josh Willingham had RBI singles in the sixth to make it 11-0.

Samardzija didn’t make it out of the inning, giving up a two-run double to Plouffe, an RBI double to Denard Span and another run on an infield single from Ben Revere before yielding to Casey Coleman. The right-hander also lasted on 3 2-3 innings in a start against Miami on April 19.

Diamond was able to keep Soriano, who hit two towering home runs in a 10-inning loss on Friday night, in the yard, yielding only a single to the slugger in the sixth inning.

By the time Soriano did go deep, a second-decker to left field off Jeff Gray that made it 11-3, the game was already out of reach.

NOTES: Span had two hits and an RBI after not starting on Friday night because of an illness. … Willingham extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the first inning. … The Twins send LHP Francisco Liriano (1-6, 6.46 ERA) to the mound on Sunday for the series finale against RHP Ryan Dempster (1-3, 2.59). Liriano has pitched well since rejoining the rotation two starts ago, going 1-1 with a 0.75 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. Dempster has probably been Chicago’s most reliable starter, holding opponents to a .212 batting average. He pitched seven shutout innings in a win over Milwaukee in his last start.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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