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LAD@MIN: Baker fans nine in shutdown performance

MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite starting the season as the fourth starter in the Twins' rotation, right-hander Scott Baker is making a legitimate case that he's become the staff ace.

Baker was at again on Wednesday, outdueling hard-throwing rookie Rubby De La Rosa to help lead the Twins to a 1-0 win over the Dodgers at Target Field.

Baker was sharp, scattering six hits and a walk over 7 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out nine to reach the 100-strikeout plateau on the season. He also threw a career-high 119 pitches, with 87 going for strikes.

Baker improved to 3-1 with a miniscule 0.29 ERA over his last four home starts, and he currently ranks sixth in the American League in strikeouts (101) and eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.48).

"I've really felt good the last four or five outings," Baker said. "I just think I'm making good two-strike pitches right now, and [I've] been able to finish off hitters. So if I can do that, I feel pretty good about it."

Baker allowed just three Dodgers to reach second base, and only Matt Kemp advanced to third, after swiping the base following a two-out double in the sixth that popped out of the glove of Ben Revere in deep center field. But James Loney grounded out to end the inning, and Los Angeles went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position on the afternoon.

"I know he kind of likes to play with that fastball up in the zone," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "That's not necessarily a surprise, but it obviously looks good to hit. He's able to pitch up there. He kind of changes planes, he's got a good breaking ball it looks like, and for the most part, [he] throws strikes."

Baker came out for the eighth inning despite having already thrown 108 pitches, and he struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. to open the frame before issuing his first walk of the day to Casey Blake. Baker was then removed for left-hander Glen Perkins.

"I felt fine, I felt strong," said Baker, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was relieved by Perkins. "Looking ahead, I have the extra day [of rest] and so I told them I felt fine. I left it up to them to send me back out -- it's always their decision -- but at that time, I told them I felt pretty good."

Perkins was similarly impressive, striking two of the top hitters in the National League in Andre Ethier and Kemp on just six pitches to end the inning. Perkins said the key with Ethier was staying away with two sliders before freezing him with an 0-2 slider, while with Kemp, the southpaw started out with two fastballs before getting him to chase a slider.

"I think it was about making sure I made my pitches and getting ahead," Perkins said. "You put them in a pretty tough spot when you're up 0-2 on them."

Matt Capps pitched a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the victory, which was keyed by Revere's speed early in the game.

The fleet-footed center fielder hit his first big league triple off De La Rosa and scored on an RBI groundout from Tsuyoshi Nishioka for the lone run of the game, which proved to be more than enough given Baker's performance.

"I was trying to get three, but my legs were hurting me the whole time," Revere said with a smile. "But luckily I put a good swing on it and drove it right there. It was my first one, so it was really nice."

De La Rosa settled down after that inning and turned in one of his best performances, allowing just that one run and six hits over seven innings, but it wasn't enough, as the Dodgers were shut out for the eighth time this year.

"For the most part, he attacked the strike zone today and made them swing the bats," Mattingly said. "More than anything else, we just talked about attacking the strike zone today and not walking anybody."

On an afternoon when offense was at a premium, the Twins won their three-game set against the Dodgers to notch their sixth series victory over the last eight.

"It was a nice win for us -- winning two out of three after getting blown out in the first one," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So it was a nice way to come back. I'm proud of the guys, and we'll go from there." Comments