Twins 6, Orioles 3
BALTIMORE (AP)—The Minnesota Twins headed home, eager to clinch a spot in the playoffs so they can enjoy themselves a bit before again experiencing the pressure associated with postseason baseball.
Any combination of Minnesota wins or losses by the Chicago White Sox totaling two will ensure the Twins a trip to the postseason.
“We still haven’t got ourselves into the playoffs yet, but we’re pretty close. Guys are getting excited,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The ballgames all feel like playoff games right now. That’s not a bad thing, because it prepares you if you get into the postseason.”
Then again, Gardenhire wouldn’t mind a chance to relax for a bit. The Twins just completed an exhausting 10-game trip, but they can’t let up until their quest to reach the playoffs is completed.
“We’d like to try and get that thing done and at least clinch a wild card so a couple of guys here could at least get a breath,” Gardenhire said. “You’ve got to keep plugging and you got to keep playing. Going home now is huge.”
Minnesota has a chance to get in as the AL Central champs. The Twins are 1 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit, which clinched no worse than the wild-card berth Sunday with an 11-4 win at Kansas City.
Mauer and Luis Castillo had three hits for the Twins, and Nevin finished with three RBIs. Nevin’s homer, which made it 6-3 in the eighth, was his first since coming to the Twins from the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 31.
“I can honestly say this is the most fun I’ve had playing baseball at this level anywhere,” said Nevin, who has never been to the playoffs. “I can’t wait to have somebody dump champagne over my head and something like that.”
What better place for that to happen than at home? The Twins went 42-39 on the road, but at home they’re an AL-best 50-24.
“We’ve obviously played good at home. We like being there,” Nevin said. “I know coming in as a visiting player it’s a tough place to play, and you would think the crowd is going to be into it pretty good this last week.”
Miguel Tejada hit two solo homers for the Orioles, upping his total to a team-high 24. The first home run was his first since Aug. 20, and it ended a career-high run of 120 at-bats without a homer.
“I don’t really look for home runs, but today I got two,” he said. “I always say I’m not a home run hitter. The most important thing for me is to be on the field every day and be consistent at the plate.”
Corey Patterson also homered for Baltimore, which dropped two of three to the Twins and closed its home schedule at 40-41.
“We were kind of hoping we could have given the fans a little bit better to look at, but we’ll just have to do it on the road,” manager Sam Perlozzo said.
Twins starter Matt Garza (3-5) allowed three runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. He yielded three homers—matching the total he surrendered over 41 2-3 innings before Sunday.
Joe Nathan, the seventh Minnesota pitcher, worked the ninth for his 35th save.
“That’s the first time we’ve had a 35-save guy three years in a row with the Minnesota Twins organization. That’s pretty impressive,” Gardenhire said. “That tells you a little about the guy at the end of the ball game for us.”
Baltimore rookie Adam Loewen (6-6) gave up four runs, three earned, in six innings. The left-hander had eight strikeouts, matching his career high.
Mauer staked the Twins to a 2-0 lead in the first when he homered after Castillo opened the game with a double. An RBI single by Torii Hunter and Nevin’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0 in the third.
Tejada homered in the fourth and again leading off the sixth. After Patterson homered with two outs in the sixth to bring Baltimore to 4-3, Garza was lifted after walking Jeff Fiorentino.
The game was delayed by rain for 29 minutes after the sixth inning. … The Orioles drew 2,153,139 fans this season, the lowest total in the 15-year history of Camden Yards. … Minnesota won the season series 6-3. … The Twins outhit Baltimore 13-9 and improved to 77-3 when outhitting the opposition. … Baltimore’s Chris Gomez extended his career-high hitting streak to 16 games.