MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Minnesota Twins have been in dire need of a “smell ‘em” game.
The M&M Boys delivered just that on Friday night, moving the Twins one step closer to Detroit in the AL Central.
Torii Hunter added two hits and two RBIs and Mauer raised his league-leading average to .348 for the Twins, who entered the night having scored more than two runs just twice in their last 11 games.
“That was a ‘smell ‘em’ game if there ever was one,” Twins cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer said.
“Smell ‘em” has become the team motto this season. Backup catcher Mike Redmond coined the phrase, saying they have to “smell those RBIs” when they see runners in scoring position in key situations. They playfully tap their noses when they come through, and there was plenty of nose-tapping on Friday night.
“The ‘smell ‘ems’ were out again tonight,” hitting coach Joe Vavra said. “That’s the good feeling we were missing.”
Magglio Ordonez had three hits and four RBIs for Detroit, which took the series opener on Thursday night, but then watched the Twins score seven runs on six hits and four walks in the fifth and sixth innings to break Game 2 open.
Mauer’s third single of the game started a three-run fifth inning that included a two-run double by Morneau. Mauer came into the game just 6-for-37 to drop into a virtual tie with New York’s Derek Jeter for the AL batting lead.
Hunter started the scoring when he beat out an infield single with the bases loaded, allowing Mauer to score from third.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland vehemently argued the close play at first, and Rondell White followed with a line drive off Inge’s glove. The error allowed two more runs to score and Phil Nevin finished off the rally with an RBI-double that gave the Twins a 9-4 lead.
“It would’ve been nice to win tonight, but I certainly didn’t do my part,” Miller said.
Pat Neshek (4-1) threw 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief to back rookie starter Matt Garza and give the Twins a much-needed win in a hotly contested AL playoff race. The Twins lead the White Sox by a half-game in the AL wild-card race.
The Tigers left 10 runners on base, including four in scoring position, and let two leads slip away.
“We had a little something going there but the kiss of death is we get two, we give up two,” Leyland said. “We get two more, we give up three. That usually spells a loss, and that’s what happened.”
Detroit jumped ahead 2-0 in the third on a two-run double by Ordonez off Twins starter Matt Garza.
Cuddyer and Morneau had run-scoring singles in the bottom of the inning to tie the game, and the Tigers again took the lead in the fifth.
With his pitch count climbing thanks to four walks, the Tigers started to hit a tiring Garza hard in the fifth. Craig Monroe doubled home Ivan Rodriguez and scored on a sharp single by Ordonez for a 4-2 lead.
That was it for Garza, who gave up four runs and five hits while striking out six and walking four in 4 1-3 innings.
Once again, the Twins had an answer. Morneau’s two-run double off Tigers starter Wilfredo Ledezma tied the game and Hunter’s single scooted past a drawn-in infield to make it 5-4.
Ledezma (2-3) lasted just 4 1-3 innings, giving up five runs and nine hits.
Morneau and Mauer were both unavailable for comment after the game.
“You’ve got to be able to at least contain them,” Leyland said. “You’re not going to control them totally, but you’ve got to be able to control them a little bit. They showed tonight why they’re both great hitters.”
After INF Don Kelly cleared waivers on Friday, the Tigers sent him outright to Double-A Erie. … Nevin entered the game 1-for-10 in a Twins uniform. He was generously awarded a single in the fourth inning when a hard-hit grounder got past Inge.