MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Though a fourth straight AL Central title still looks unlikely, the Minnesota Twins are not ready to concede.
Matthew LeCroy drove in two runs with two hits, Joe Mauer reached base five times and Shannon Stewart had three hits for Minnesota, which won for the ninth time in 11 games and remained 10 1/2 games behind Chicago in the division. The Cleveland Indians are in second place, 8 1/2 games back.
But the Twins and White Sox play 10 more times this season, beginning Tuesday with a three-game series at the Metrodome.
“Hopefully we can play like we did in Chicago—sweep ‘em,” LeCroy said. “We’ve got to win every game.”
Greg Dobbs and Raul Ibanez each homered for the Mariners, who staked starter Joel Pineiro to a 3-1 lead that he quickly lost during a six-run fifth inning. Pineiro (5-8) gave up 13 hits and eight runs with one walk while striking out two in 5 2-3 innings.
Minnesota’s Brad Radke (8-10) surrendered only four hits in seven solid innings. After Jeremy Reed walked with two outs in the fourth, Dobbs hit an upper-deck shot to right that made it 3-1. But Radke yielded only one baserunner after that.
The Twins have scored 36 runs in four starts this month by Radke, who gave up three runs and walked two with four strikeouts.
“You knew it had to turn around some time,” said Radke, one of several Twins starters who voiced their frustration last month with the lack of offense. “It’s a virus. Go out there and get a couple hits—it just funnels through the other guys.”
Since Chicago’s lead is so large, the wild-card is a better bet for Minnesota—which began the afternoon in fourth place in that race, 3 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics. To maintain a reasonable chance, the hitters will have to keep it up through September.
“Other guys were picking each other up,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It can’t be just one guy. It has to be up and down the lineup.”
That’s exactly what the Twins got against the Mariners, outhitting them 16-4. Each starter had at least one hit.
The game really fell apart for Seattle in the seventh, when Clint Nageotte’s first pitch sailed over Ford’s head. Umpire Larry Poncino stormed out from behind the plate and ejected a stunned Nageotte, prompting a futile argument from Mariners manager Mike Hargrove.
Nageotte was called up from Triple-A to take the injured Gil Meche’s spot on the staff, and he didn’t arrive in Minneapolis until around midnight.
“The umpire absolutely, totally overreacted,” Hargrove said. “He’s not throwing at anybody, least of all Lew Ford. If we throw at somebody, we’d throw at Joe Mauer.”
Ford, whose three-run homer broke a seventh-inning tie in the Twins’ 7-4 win Friday night, has had a disappointing season overall—with just seven homers and 47 RBIs as Minnesota’s primary designated hitter. Since replacing injured center fielder Torii Hunter, though, Ford has given the streaking Twins a boost this month with his glove and his bat.
“You’ve just got to try to work hard and try to make adjustments and do things,” Ford said. “At some point, it just comes around and starts working.”
Ford’s homer capped the rally against Pineiro and gave his team a 7-3 lead.
“My slider and curveball weren’t that good today,” Pineiro said.
Pineiro won 30 games for the Mariners over two years—going 14-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 2002 and 16-11 with a 3.78 ERA in 2003. He was just 6-11, though, when he hurt his elbow last July and ended his season early. The 26-year-old is still struggling—he spent 10 days in Triple-A in May to work on his mechanics and has failed to sustain much success for more than a few consecutive starts since he was recalled.
“Just all of a sudden, everything he threw up there he hung,” Hargrove said.
Minnesota’s Jacque Jones broke an 0-for-16 slide with a single to start the second inning. Jones was held out of the lineup six straight games starting last weekend because of a strained oblique muscle around his right ribcage, but he has told Gardenhire he can play through the injury. In four games this series, he struck out eight times and went 1-for-15. He is 7-for-55 in August with 23 strikeouts. … Ibanez and Suzuki have not missed a game this season for Seattle.