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CHC@MIN: Diamond shuts out Cubs over six frames

MINNEAPOLIS -- One day after winning a back-and-forth thriller in 10 innings, the Twins used Saturday's fourth inning to blow away the Cubs.

Minnesota's lineup batted around and scored six runs on seven hits in the fourth, paving the way for an 11-3 win over Chicago at Target Field. The ninth win in the club's last 11 games also clinched the Twins' fourth consecutive series victory.

Minnesota is averaging 6.4 runs over those nine wins.

"You can tell they're really relaxed," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We feel like we're going to score some runs. We feel like we're going to win games. It's just how and who's going to come up with the big hit. That's kind of how you have to go here. It's got to be somebody different every day."

The big inning started with Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija allowing singles to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau around a Josh Willingham flyout. Then the Twins blasted the wheels off Samardzija's outing entirely.

Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe both hit doubles, driving in three runs total. Jamey Carroll walked after Brian Dozier's groundout, and Denard Span doubled to right to score Plouffe. Darwin Barney couldn't throw out Ben Revere on a slow roller to second, letting the inning continue as Carroll scored.

That was enough to knock Samardzija out.

"He couldn't command anything, couldn't keep the ball down," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said of his starter. "He went out there without his split. He couldn't put anybody away with any pitch at all today. You hope you have a guy out there to overpower them and put them away and give us a chance, and obviously it got out of hand."

Still, Chicago's switch to reliever Casey Coleman didn't immediately end Minnesota's scoring. Mauer came up again, doubling off the left-center wall for his second hit of the inning, scoring Span. Willingham struck out in the ensuing at-bat to finally end the fourth, but the Twins had expanded their lead from 2-0 to 8-0.

Plouffe added his ninth homer of the year in the fifth to give Minnesota another run. Mauer and Willingham recorded RBI singles in the sixth to tack on two more runs.

Plouffe is hitting .370 through his seven games in June, with four home runs and nine RBIs. He hit .163 before this month.

"I'm just getting myself in better counts and swinging at strikes," Plouffe said. "It's a big part of hitting in general. Just getting into good counts and not chasing pitches. It's the pitcher's job to get you to chase those, and early in the season I was doing that. I've been able to work the count a little more and getting into those hitter's counts."

Scott Diamond threw six scoreless innings to cruise to his team-leading fifth win of the season. The left-hander allowed seven hits and struck out five in his fourth consecutive quality start.

Pitching with a big lead didn't hurt Diamond's cause, either.

"It's a lot easier, that's for sure," he said with a grin. "You can attack early and you don't have to locate as well. I was still trying to just keep the game moving because those innings were pretty long."

Diamond encountered little trouble, but pitched his way out of his biggest jam in the third. He allowed singles to two of Chicago's first three batters, but struck out Starlin Castro and David DeJesus, stranding Reed Johnson and Barney.

Barney scored Chicago's first run in the seventh, crossing home on a groundout after reaching on a single against reliever Jeff Gray. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer off Gray in the eighth.

Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the second. Willingham and Morneau opened up the inning with back-to-back singles to left. Samardzija dispatched Doumit via flyout to left, but he threw a wild pitch to Plouffe, letting both runners advance. Willingham scored on Plouffe's groundout to third. Dozier's lined single to right scored Morneau. Dozier was caught stealing second on a strong throw from Steve Clevenger to end the inning.

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