Now it’s on to Chicago for a wild-card showdown against the White Sox.
Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter homered for the Twins, who remained a half-game behind the White Sox in the AL wild-card race. Minnesota begins a three-game series against their AL Central rivals on Friday in Chicago.
“It’s the team ahead of us. You go in there and you want to win a series against them,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve been playing very good baseball. They’re a tough team at home. It’s tough to beat them.”
As a tuneup the Twins outscored Baltimore 15-3 over the final two games of the series after losing the opener 6-3.
“We came in here and did what we had to do, win two out of three,” Gardenhire said.
Boof Bonser (3-4) was solid in his 11th big league start for Minnesota. The rookie right-hander took a four-hit shutout into the seventh. Although he didn’t make it out of the inning, Bonser earned his first win in five starts since June 24. He gave up two runs, seven hits and a walk in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out four.
It was the second straight night in which a Twins rookie pitcher shut down the Orioles. On Wednesday night, Matt Garza did not allow an earned run in six innings.
“These pitchers are feeding off each other. It’s a good learning experience for young pitchers, pitching in a pennant race like this,” Gardenhire said. “These are pick-‘em-ups for the team.”
“We were on a roll, playing well, and we missed their best two starters,” Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. “After winning the first one, I thought we were going to at least win the series.”
Radke will pitch Friday night, followed by Santana against a Chicago team that beat Detroit 10-0 on Thursday.
“We’ve got some momentum going. They have momentum going as well,” Cuddyer said. “So it should make out for a fun weekend.”
“I’ve never seen him up in the zone as much as he was tonight,” Perlozzo said. “He didn’t command anything. It was not the usual Kris Benson outing.”
But it was a familiar result: Benson is 1-5 in his last eight starts.
“I looked at the videotape and they hit some pretty good pitches, to tell you the truth,” Benson said. “There’s not much I can do with balls that are hit opposite field, two feet fair down the line.
“Right now, I think they’re pretty hot. They hit some good pitches, they hit some bad pitches,” Benson said. “They’re in the position where they’re at because they can hit the ball.”
Three of the first four batters to face Benson got hits, staking Minnesota to a 2-0 lead. After Luis Castillo led off with a single, Mauer hit an RBI double and scored on a single by Cuddyer.
The Twins made it 5-0 in the third. Nick Punto singled and scored on a double by Mauer. After Cuddyer hit a sacrifice fly, Morneau hit his 32nd homer.
Castillo doubled and scored on a single by Mauer in the fourth, and Hunter led off the fifth with his 19th home run. The drive came off Bruce Chen, who has allowed 26 homers in 33 appearances.
Hernandez homered in the seventh off a tiring Bonser, who was pulled after allowing a two-out double to Brandon Fahey.
Minnesota added four runs in the eighth. After Mauer hit a sacrifice fly, Cuddyer tripled in two runs and scored on a fly ball by Morneau.
Cuddyer went 7-for-13 with seven RBIs in the series and is batting .425 (17-for-40) in his last 10 games.
Baltimore’s Miguel Tejada extended his hitting streak to 12 games, but grounded into his league-leading 25th double play. … Hunter is 8-for-20 with four homers and five RBIs in his last seven games. … In his first game after being activated from the 15-day disabled list, Minnesota’s Rondell White went 1-for-5.