Minnesota (91-63) at Baltimore (68-87)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Baltimore, MD
Temp: 36° F
  • Game info: 1:35 pm EDT Sun Sep 24, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Minnesota Twins can take a step closer to clinching their fourth playoff berth in five seasons when they meet the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

After losing the opener of this three-game series, the Twins posted an 8-5 win on Saturday. Trailing 2-1 in the third inning, Minnesota scored two runs after Michael Cuddyer struck out but reached on a throwing error by Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez.

“That was the best strikeout I’ve ever had. It ended up that way, at least,” Cuddyer said.

Rondell White added four hits and Torii Hunter hit his 29th homer in the win, which reduced Minnesota’s magic number for clinching the AL wild card to three.

Following this series, the Twins play their final seven games of the season at home against AL Central rivals—four against last-place Kansas City and three versus the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox.

Minnesota (91-63) also retained its 5 1/2 -game lead over the Chicago for the wild card. Earlier on Saturday, the White Sox rallied from a five-run deficit for an 11-7 win over Seattle.

The Twins still have a chance to win the AL Central, as they stayed 1 1/2 games behind Detroit. On Saturday night, the Tigers scored 10 first-inning runs en route to a 15-4 rout of the Royals.

“We had lost a couple in a row, and didn’t want to get into a rut,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. It was a big win for us.”

On Aug. 7, the Twins were 65-46 and in third place in the AL Central, 10 1/2 games behind the Tigers. They’ve since gone 26-17 and taken advantage of a late-season swoon by Detroit to shave nine games off that lead.

Justin Morneau recorded his 126th RBI Saturday, tying Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew for the second-highest single-season total in Twins history. Morneau needs 15 RBIs in the final eight games to break Killebrew’s record set in 1961— the Twins’ first year in Minnesota after moving from Washington.

Rookie Matt Garza (2-5, 5.40 ERA) will try to win back-to-back starts for the first time in his brief career for Minnesota. Facing Boston on Tuesday, the right-hander earned his first win since Aug. 23, yielding three runs, five hits and three walks in a 7-3 victory.

Garza was 0-3 with a 4.84 ERA in four appearances—three starts—between his two career wins. He beat Baltimore on Aug. 23 for his first career victory.

Fellow rookie Adam Loewen (6-5, 5.35) will also try to string together wins in consecutive starts for the first time. The left-hander got the win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday despite allowing four runs and six hits over six innings as the Orioles won 5-4.

“He struggled with his command of his fastball most of the night,” Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. “The one good thing about Adam, he’s smart enough to know what pitches to go to when his fastball is not there.”

He had the longest outing of his career against Minnesota on Aug. 22, allowing a run and four hits over eight innings of a 6-3 home victory. Loewen, who’s looking for his first win in his last four starts at Camden Yards, is 2-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 10 starts at home.

Corey Patterson had three hits, and Miguel Tejada and Chris Gomez extended hitting streaks in Saturday’s loss.

Tejada is hitting .375 (18-for-48) during an 11-game streak, but has just five runs and only two RBIs in that span. Gomez, a third baseman who missed nearly two months of the season with a broken hand, is batting .426 (26-for-61) during a a career-high 15-game run.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Garza Mil vs. A. Loewen NYM
3-6 Record 6-6
5.76 ERA 5.37
38 K 98
23 BB 62
1.70 WHIP 1.54

Scoreboard

Sunday, Sep 24